Beta-blockers lower your blood pressure by slowing your heart rate and reducing the force of each beat. Alcohol can also lower your blood pressure.
When you combine the two, there’s a risk that the additive effect on your blood pressure can make your blood pressure fall to a dangerously low level, a condition called hypotension.
If you drink alcohol while taking a beta-blocker and your blood pressure drops too much, you may experience the following symptoms:
- fainting, especially if you get up too fast
- rapid heart rate
- inability to concentrate
Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of epinephrine. This causes your heart to beat more slowly and pump with less force. The result is that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard and is more efficient, which lowers your blood pressure.
Beta-blockers also relax your blood vessels through vasodilation. Pumping blood more efficiently into relaxed blood vessels helps your heart work better if it’s damaged or affected by other conditions.
For this reason, in addition to high blood pressure, beta-blockers are commonly used to treat heart problems including:
- chest pain, or angina
- congestive heart failure
- arrhythmia, or irregular heart rate
- prevention of another heart attack after you’ve had one
Beta-blockers are also used to treat other conditions, including:
- Migraine: by stabilizing blood vessels in your brain and helps prevent them from dilating too much
- Essential tremors: by interfering with nerve signals to the muscles that cause them
- Anxiety: by blocking epinephrine which reduces symptoms like sweating, shaking, and fast heart rate
- Overactive thyroid: by blocking adrenaline which reduces symptoms like skipped heart palpitations, tremor, and fast heart rate
- Glaucoma: by lowering eye pressure to reduce fluid production in your eye
Alcohol can also have negative effects on the conditions you’re treating with beta-blockers, including:
- Heart conditions. Excessive or binge drinking can lead to cardiomyopathy or an irregular heart rate.
- Migraine. Alcohol can trigger migraine attacks.
- Tremors. Although in small doses alcohol can help essential tremors, severe tremors are common in alcohol withdrawal.
- Anxiety. Alcohol can cause or worsen anxiety.
- Glaucoma. Alcohol can increase pressure in your eye over time, worsening glaucoma.
In moderation, alcohol may have a positive effect on some conditions. It may reduce your risk for Graves’ disease, the most common type of hyperthyroidism. It may also protect you from some types of heart disease.
Beta-blockers have also been used to help reduce the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
commonly prescribed beta-blockers
If you take other blood pressure medication in addition to beta-blockers, your risk of developing very low blood pressure is increased.
This is especially true for the two classes of medications that lower your blood pressure primarily by dilating your arteries.
Calcium channel blockers
Calcium channel blockers cause vasodilation by blocking calcium from entering cells in your blood vessels. Examples include:
When it’s an emergency
Call 911 or seek medical care immediately if any of the following happen when you drink alcohol while taking a beta-blocker:
- you faint and think you may have injured yourself
- you faint and hit your head
- you’re so dizzy you can’t stand up
- you develop a very fast heart rate
If you drink while taking a beta-blocker and develop any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, you should see your doctor. You can have your symptoms evaluated and discuss whether drinking is advisable.
Drinking alcohol while you’re taking a beta-blocker can cause your blood pressure to fall. A significant drop can cause you to faint and possibly injure yourself.
In addition, alcohol alone can have negative effects on the condition you’re taking a beta-blocker for. It’s best to avoid alcohol while you’re taking a beta-blocker and, if you do drink, speak to your doctor if you notice any problems.