Q. I am a 49-year-old teacher and mother. I was put on atenolol 10 weeks ago for high blood pressure. I have never been so ill in my life!
After taking the atenolol I began to feel breathless, exhausted, dizzy and weak. I fainted twice and was rushed to hospital by ambulance. It turns out that this tablet had slowed down my heart so much that it stopped! The bad thing is that the hospital stopped the atenolol immediately and put me on a blood-thinning drug.
Little did I know that you should be weaned off atenolol gradually. There were times when I thought I was going to die! Others need to know they must NOT STOP taking it without medical supervision!

A. You are right that beta blocker heart and blood pressure medications such as atenolol, carvedilol, metoprolol and propranolol should never be stopped suddenly. Abrupt discontinuation has led to chest pain, irregular heart rhythms or even heart attacks.
We are surprised that your doctor prescribed atenolol as a first-line treatment for hypertension. Many experts advise that such drugs only be used if other approaches are inadequate.
Our book Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy discusses this problem in detail and offers a range of other meds and nondrug options. It is available in libraries, bookstores and online (PeoplePharmacy.com).

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  1. s.g.
    Reply

    I am 63 and have been on atenanol for 15 years after a silent heart attack and bp that was too high. I have been taking 50g every other day for the last 4 months as I want to come off them. I had my annual check so went back on every day for the previous week. I have a terrible crawling itch. The nurse said alternate days is the wrong way to do it and the itch could be due to it. I will start cutting the pills in half in future as the doc says 132 over 79 is borderline and not enough to half my dose.

  2. jv
    Reply

    I was on atenolol. only started to get side effects the last two years. felt fat, even tho I jogged every day. swollen legs and hands, varicose veins, and extreme shortness of breath most recently. this was weird because I was in good shape. I now could only walk. I felt terrible even walking in the heat.
    I reduced my 25 mg dose by a quarter a week ago and feel more energetic, sleep thru the nite!, and can walk up a slight incline without feeling like a fat woman twenty years older.
    also, am a bit less depressed. my doctor should have realized these complaints were side effects. why didn’t he? I will keep off this med, although still may have thyroid and blood sugar issues, which apparently atenolol can cause. doctors!

  3. Linda M.
    Reply

    After shredding of LAD coronary artery in 2006 and no previous dx of hypertension or CAD, six stents were inserted in my LAD and Plavix, Atenolol, Lipitor, and Lisinopril with HCTZ were prescribed. I am still taking the same drugs except for Plavix. My question is about the Atenolol.
    About six weeks ago I ran out of the Atenolol and had to wait for refill until I saw my Dr. I have never liked the side effects of Atenolol – weight gain, fatigue, anxiety and inability to get my heart rate up while exercising. Being off the Atenolol I have not felt any better except I can get my heart rate up to the target rate. My resting pulse rate has not increased nor have I had any irregular heartbeats.
    I was wondering how long it will take to rid my body of the side effects of the Atenolol? Is there a need to start a beta blocker again? Based on my dissatisfaction with Atenolol, my Dr switched me to Bystolic but I have not started taking it yet. According to the new BP guidelines for people over 65, my BP is normal.
    Any experiences with half life of beta blockers and getting out of one’s system and need for beta blocker post 7 years of stent placement is greatly appreciated.

  4. kes
    Reply

    Hi there.
    Wonder if anyone can help me out there. My gp put me on propanolol 80 mg twice a day about 10 days ago. I was getting appalling daily headaches, and when she took my blood pressure it was sky high. 160/107 when usually I have very good BP of 120/70. I was also anxious and stressed and she thought it would help with all three things. Well I started to take it and my headaches disappeared it was marvelous
    Then around a week into it, I felt absolutely shattered, fatigued but more worryingly was struggling to breath, even up a slight incline. Normally I am a fit and healthy person.the doctor had said I could just take the meds if and when I got a headache, but for the first week I had taken it as prescribed on the packet.
    When I got so breathless it really scared me. I made an appointment at the gps for this morning and cut down and stopped it whilst I was waiting probably a stupid thing to do. Over the last couple of days whilst off them I not only have the headaches back my calves are incredibly swollen and I have had irregular heartbeats and have not been feeling at all good. My bp of course is way back up. I saw the GP this morning and she said that I did the right thing by stopping them especially with being so out of breath, but now I’m reading this I’m concerned that I should have tapered than off even though I have only been taking for just over a week.
    I think the stupid thing is I didn’t realize just how powerful these things are, they were given me for migraine relief primarily and with the message take them when and if, but still my fault for not reading around the issue before I stopped. I suppose I panicked when I couldn’t breath and that was it

  5. Bill R.
    Reply

    I have several of the side-effects attributed to Atenolol, several of which are similar to those of Atorvastatin which I also take. I was not told that Atenolol is a Beta blocker or I would have objected at the time as I know they disagree with me. The above article says that Atenolol must not be stopped abruptly but it does not recommend a weaning rate..

  6. joshuabadillo
    Reply

    Hello,
    I have had anxiety attacks for several years. I am 29 and they started when I was 14. When I was 21, I was told by a doctor I had high blood pressure. So I went on Atenolol 25 MG at night.
    I then wanted a second opinion and had a heart monitor put on me. I went to one of the best heart doctors in my town of, Fort Worth. He told me “Son, you have had about 7 irregular heartbeats through the two day period of the monitor. You’re a healthy young man. Just exercise more and move on in life. You can stop taking the drug, whenever you’re ready. Because the drug is also prescribed for Anxiety and Migraines.”
    So I continued taking it for about 2 more years, because I always feared anxiety. I stopped taking it cold turkey. Nothing happened, nor did side effects, when I started.
    My blood pressure afterwards was about 150/90’s in anxiety mode, and would drop down afterwards. For a while I would go straight to the ER and say “MY HEART.” Just because I was scared. After bedside manner 140’s/80. I have always been about 20-30 pounds over weight. Never have watched what I’ve eaten.
    I did fine without the drug after that. Because a doctor told me once “Are you afraid of getting your blood pressure checked?” My response was “Yes.” She then told me about, White Collar Hypertension. As soon as I see that cuff coming, I FREAK OUT, inside my head. Thus, my BP goes high for a few. I went to the doctor last year, when I had the flu. She checked it, it was 150/96. I said “Come back in 10 minutes, and she did. It was than, 140/89, and she said “ohhhh I see.”
    In 2010 my shrink gave me Atenolol because of anxiety attacks again. I took it for a bit and didn’t really see a need, so I stopped. My normal cocktail for anxiety has been working and dropping through the years. If I had an attack, I would be down for days when I was 21.
    At 29, I wake from an attack at night, and have one for about 20 minutes, if not less. My current prescription is Lexapro 10 MG and 1 MG of Xanax XR, a day. Again this all has been dropped. Was higher doses. No side effects when I was taking the higher doses, with Atenolol.
    Yesterday, I started back with Atenolol cause my shrink thought I should. Lately I have been having more anxiety attacks due to A LOT OF STRESS. So I thought no biggie. I took the dosage I used to take of 25 MG at night.
    2 hours later, around where a I.V. would be put in your arm, I started feeling weird shocking sensations, My hands felt numb, and my finger tips tingling. I was slapping my arm saying WAKE UP.
    I then started to feel slightly dizzy, and my stomach turned and I had a bad bathroom experience. You know what I mean. Never again, will I take this. I still feel off and it’s 5 hours later. What I don’t understand is why would it affect me this way now??? I was on it with higher dosages of medicine, when I was younger, and literally felt nothing? I now feel like I have the flu. I never get sick, so I never really see a primary care doctor. When I do, same issue high BP, 10-20 later 140’s/80’s.
    So I am buying a BP home monitor. Starting to work out, and dropping this Atenolol. Whenever I have had anxiety attacks, and gone to the ER. Every EKG and other test’s are completely normal, and I have been many times before I learned to calm myself down.
    I’m 29. Tomorrow I am starting my first real workout and food change for good. Most doctors said to check my BP once a week and at the end of the month average it. That’s what I will be doing. If I am Pre-hypertensive, then I will knock it out with whats right for my body. I don’t know if this helps anyone, but I will posting weekly reports on this forum.
    Status and such.
    Best,
    Joshua

  7. MC
    Reply

    I just completed weaning myself off of Atenolol and this is my advice and experience. I totally agree that you should not stop it suddenly – very risky to do that. If possible, plan ahead to get off of it. While you are on it, get into a good exercise program with good cardio. Start a routine of drinking lots of water. Start a routine of good sleeps. Eat right and stay away from caffeine and alcohol if possible. I got myself into great shape and with great habits while I was taking 25 mg a day.
    I gradually reduced my dosage by a 1/4 of a pill about every 10 days until I was off. I experienced nasty side-effects trying to rid my body of the stuff: sweaty palms, terrible heart palpitations, irregular fast pulse, one or two night sweats, weird headaches, and sensations around my body along my circulatory system. I found that doing a good cardio workout helped to combat the withdrawal symptoms. I just saw a recent scientific study that confirmed this approach.
    By exercising, your body’s natural response to lower your heart rate and blood pressure kicks in. And every morning, if I woke up with symptoms – I drank a lot of water and that helped, too. Reducing the first 1/4 tablet and the last 1/4 tablet were the toughest. My body adjusted to the half-dose very easily. My blood pressure and pulse are at normal range now and I have so much more energy now compared to being on Atenolol – it’s really amazing how it put a “dragging filter” on my life. My advice: take it slow, stay calm through the withdrawal symptoms, exercise, drink lots of water, and get 8 hours sleep or rest (force yourself to stay in bed for a full 8 hour rest even if you wake up early).
    Obviously the other things are to pursue a stress-management lifestyle with breathing exercises or meditation, a good workout routine, and eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies and avoid high blood pressure triggers. Wishing everyone well – I found this forum very useful and I really wanted to give back. Hope there’s something useful in my experience.

  8. Kelly
    Reply

    I take 3 meds for high blood pressure, propranolol 10 Mg., verapamil 240 mg, & lisinopril. I have been on verapamil since 1994. Very slowly my calves started to swell ever so slightly throughout the years. I’m on a lot of meds for arthritis, neck & back pain. I was put on amitriptylin 25mg. My calves, legs and my angles & body started to retain water and I had edema. My ankles being the worst area of swelling. My feet hurt so bad from swelling I could hardly walk. To sum this up. Through a lot of detective work and monitoring my blood pressure at home, it seems it is the verapamil that is causing the swelling.
    I would not have thought it was that med because I had been on it so long. My telling you this is to maybe help someone else who is on it. You can be on a drug for years and everything is okay and then the swelling or side effects start for no reason…probably because I’m getting older…63 years old. I stopped taking the verapamil and guess what? My blood pressure isn’t high without it?? Strange.. Hope this info helps someone out there.

  9. Tiktak
    Reply

    The same side effects…same feeling :((…need help

  10. Kristal
    Reply

    I have been on 50 mg of atenelol since 2010, all, of a sudden I started having my heart rate go from 70’s to a scary 43-62 at best. My normal BP of around 117/72 dropped to 98/60. I called my dr and they told me to cut my 50 mg daily hours of sleep, dose to 25mg. I did this for the first night. The next day, I had symptoms again, ringing ears, pressure in my head, heavy chest, difficulty breathing, anxiety, I checked and my blood pressure and heart rate were down again.
    I went directly to the emergency room and then had to proceed to argue with them that I knew what I was telling them and was, indeed, NOT having a panic attack. ( I mean who has a low BP and low HR while having a panic attack)…..???? Seriously
    Anyhow, after calling my cardiologist, they tell me to, stop the atenelol altogether. So, I do. The next evening, I go outside to routinely weed my garden, to which I have never had any issues doing, my heart rate shoots up so badly that I have to go lay down for the rest of the evening and take a .25 Xanax just to keep myself from thinking I’m going to die. I spent the rest of the evening in bed.
    This morning, I get up, take a shower and my heart rate went up to 133!!!!!
    Needless to say, I’ve called my cardiologist and demanded to be seen TODAY!!!!

  11. Maureen
    Reply

    I was prescribed atenolol after a stress test!
    The Dr and the test found nothing wrong with my heart other than I’d been under a lot of pressure and my heart rate would jump on occasion due to anxiety!
    So he prescribes this daily for anxiety? Like an idiot I do this,only to start feeling horrible, worse than when I started!
    I was also on elavil for pain ??? (another red flag) I was told taken the 2 together was fine…..well it’s not,not for me anyway!
    The elavil caused the heart rate increase,so now I’m on one to speed it up,and one to slow it down .
    Made no sense whatsoever and in the meantime I got physically ill and weak, dizzy and muscle cramping!
    I finally figured it out and call my cardiologist office only to be told to take it at night to “sleep” through the symptoms!
    A couple of days go by and things are getting even worse,so I call AGAIN,hardly able to function at this point,whoever answered the phone blew me off and told me the Dr had clinical work that day and I couldn’t be seen.
    I got strength enough to dress and march in that office demanding to be seen!
    The nurse took and EKG and said I was fine and instructed me to just stop taken atenolol and not to worry because there is no withdraw or rebound effect!
    This is day 7 of not taken it and I sure can tell you that the withdraw and rebound so far have been awful!
    I’m mystified at how this is just openly prescribed even when nothing is wrong and then lied to that ” you can just stop without issues” .
    That’s the furthest from the truth!
    The more I delve into prescribed drugs,there side effects and what an epidemic we are in with overdosing this country is an absolute nightmare.
    I write this from my bed because I still have side effects.
    I wonder if anybody else out there has had a similar experience and how long it takes for the “rebound” to stop?
    Thank for listening…

  12. jt
    Reply

    I have been taking atenolol for a couple of years now. I am in my early 20’s and been diagnosed with high blood pressure. The medication appears to be working, the only side effect that I have been informed of is that I have developed bradycardia or a slower heart rate as a side effect of the drug. Besides that I think it has worked for me.

  13. Ms.Informed
    Reply

    I began taking aetenol years ago my new doc did the regular test every test came back normal so my doc says just stop taking em there is nothing wrong with you but I still have occasional palps and added anxiety lots of it.

  14. Ms.Informed
    Reply

    I have been on aetenol for a while for fast palpitations believing I had Mitral regurgitation or a valve heart problem ran some test everything came back fine. My new doc says you can just stop taking the aetenol there is nothing wrong with u after stop taking them I still have palps which are not that often and also an increased anxiety thing going on.

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