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Hypertension/high blood pressure health centre


BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for people who have high blood pressure. It tells you about a group of drugs called beta-blockers, a treatment for high blood pressure. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Do they work?

Yes. If you have high blood pressure (also called hypertension), taking a beta-blocker can lower it and help keep it down.

Taking a beta-blocker may also reduce your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke, or of getting heart failure.

Beta-blockers are good at lowering blood pressure. But they don't seem to be as good at reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks as drugs called diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers. And beta-blockers may increase your risk of getting diabetes if you take them with a diuretic. Doctors are now told to try other drugs first for most people.

What are they?

Beta-blockers help to lower your blood pressure. Doctors call medicines that lower blood pressureantihypertensive drugs.

Some common beta-blockers (and their brand names) are:

If your doctor prescribes a beta-blocker, you will need to take it every day. And you will probably need to stay on it for the rest of your life. If you stop taking it your blood pressure may go up again.

If you have had a heart attack, you are more likely to be given a beta-blocker rather than other drugs to lower blood pressure. Beta-blockers can help prevent another heart attack. They can also help with angina ( chest pain) and heart failure.

You may need to take more than one medicine to bring your blood pressure down. Most people need at least two drugs. [38]

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which advises the government on which treatments work best, has written guidelines for doctors on drugs to lower blood pressure. To learn more, see Guidelines for doctors on treating high blood pressure.

How can they help?

Beta-blockers can lower your blood pressure and keep it down.

Studies show that these drugs can reduce the top number of your blood pressure reading (systolic pressure) by around 12 to 16 points, and the bottom number (diastolic pressure) by 5 to 10 points. [39]

To learn more about the numbers, see Understanding your blood pressure reading.

Reducing your blood pressure lowers your chances of having a heart attack, stroke or heart failure and dying from one of these conditions. [17] [39] [40]

You will get the most benefit from beta-blockers if you are at higher risk than normal of developing these conditions in the first place (for example, if you are aged over 70 and have had a heart attack or stroke in the past). [17]

Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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