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How Do Beta Blockers Work?

Many people taking beta blockers may wonder, "How do they work?"
As the name implies, these medications work by blocking beta receptors in the body. Beta receptors are located in a number of places within the body, including the heart and blood vessels. Stress hormones (such as adrenaline) bind to these receptors and cause certain reactions in the body, such as an increased heart rate and an increased force with which the heart pumps blood. By blocking beta receptors, beta blockers cause the reverse effect of stress hormones, lowering the heart rate and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
It is not exactly clear how beta blockers prevent migraines or improve survival after a heart attack. When using them for treating performance anxiety, it is thought that beta blockers probably work by preventing a racing heart. Beta blockers work for treating irregular and/or rapid heart rhythms by slowing down the conduction of the electrical signals in the heart. They work for glaucoma (to lower the pressure in the eye) by decreasing the amount of fluid produced by the eye.
(For more information, click Beta Blockers Uses. This article provides a closer look at how beta blockers work, including specific uses of the medications, their use in children, and possible off-label uses.)
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