What Are Beta Blockers Used For?

Beta blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, according to the Mayo Clinic, are drugs that block a hormone called adrenaline (also known as epinephrine). 

Adrenaline is made by the adrenal glands and released whenever you need to respond to stress or a threat, says endocrineweb. It causes several changes in your body that prepare you to deal with the stressor, including making your heart beat faster and your blood pressure rise. When this hormone is blocked, it can help reduce your blood pressure.

Because of this, beta blockers can be used as medications to treat a variety of heart and circulatory conditions, including high blood pressure. The Mayo Clinic lists acebutolol, atenolol (Tenormin), bisoprolol (Zebeta), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), nadolol (Corgard), nebivolol (Bystolic), and propranolol (Inderal, InnoPran XL) as examples of beta blockers that you might be prescribed.

Some beta blockers affect only the heart, but others affect both the heart and blood vessels. Your doctor will select the medication that is best for your particular needs.

The conditions beta blockers can help treat

Per the Cleveland Clinic, the main use for beta blockers is to treat heart and circulatory problems. This can include conditions such as irregular heartbeat, heart failure, angina, high blood pressure, aortic dissection, and portal hypertension. They can also be used off-label for migraines, essential tremors, glaucoma, and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Healthline reports that they may also benefit from the management of anxiety disorders since they block the hormone responsible for their symptoms.

When it comes to high blood pressure, however, beta blockers are not generally used as a first-line treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic. They are usually prescribed only if other medications like diuretics (water pills) haven't worked well enough. In addition, they may be given in combination with other blood pressure medications if they are prescribed. They also state that beta blockers may not be as effective for African-Americans or older individuals.

Finally, you should notify your doctor if you have asthma, diabetes, or elevated cholesterol or triglycerides since these conditions may be affected by the use of beta blockers.