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Beta blockers are medicines that affect the body's response to certain nerve impulses. This, in turn, decreases the force and rate of the heart's contractions, which lowers blood pressure and reduces the heart's demand for oxygen.
The main use of beta blockers is to treat high blood pressure. Some also are used to relieve the type of chest pain called angina or to prevent heart attacks in people who already have had one heart attack. These drugs may also be prescribed for other conditions, such as migraine, tremors, and irregular heartbeat. In eye drop form, they are used to treat certain kinds of glaucoma.
Beta blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic blockers, are available only with a physician's prescription.
The recommended dosage depends on the type, strength, and form of beta blocker and the condition for which it is prescribed. Check with the physician who prescribed the drug or the pharmacist who filled the prescription for the correct dosage.
This medicine may take several weeks to noticeably lower blood pressure. Taking it exactly as directed is important.
Do not stop taking this medicine without checking with the physician who prescribed it. Some conditions may get worse when patients stop taking beta blockers abruptly. This may also increase the risk of heart attack in some people. Because of these possible effects, it is important to keep enough medicine on hand to get through weekends, holidays, and vacations.
Physicians may recommend that patients check their pulse before and after taking this medicine. If the pulse becomes too slow, circulation problems may result.
Author Info: Nancy Ross-Flanigan, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2002
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