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10 Ways to Get the Most From Your Heart Disease Medicines

Here are four important actions you need to take to make sure you use your medicines safely.

  • Always follow the instructions from your doctor and pharmacist exactly. Also, follow instructions on the medicine's label.
  • Ask your pharmacist for a computer printout that tells about your medicine.
  • Learn how your heart medicines and other medicines you take may interfere with each other.
  • Tell your doctor if you have any side effects.

To get the most benefit from your medicines, use them safely and correctly. According to the American Heart Association, 9 out of 10 people with chronic diseases like CHD fail to take their prescription medicines in the right way. Two out of three people fail to take any or all of their medicine.

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Your medicines can help, but only if you take them all and use them the right way. Use the suggestions listed on the following pages. They'll help you to be sure that you get the benefits your doctor expects you to get from your medicines. 

If you have side effects, tell your doctor right away. Sometimes changing the type or dose of medicine can reduce or get rid of these unwanted effects. Your doctor might also make other changes to help you control your side effects.

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You could be allergic to one or more of the components of the medicine. So, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist what is in it. Also, make sure that you keep updating all of your doctors about any medicines to which you have had a reaction. It's best to give them a printed list that they can put in your file.

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Ask questions if you're not sure you understand how to take your medicine. Write down what you're told. It's easy to get confused about what to do, especially if you take more than one medicine. If you miss a dose, follow your doctor's or pharmacist's directions. Never stop taking the medicine without talking with your doctor first.

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To get the best effects, you need to take your medicine as directed. It can also be unsafe to forget to either take a dose or to take too many doses. Here are some ways to remember to take your medicine on time.

  • Take your medicine at the same time every day.
  • Link taking your medicine with another event. For instance, you might take your medicine when you eat or after you brush your teeth each morning.
  • Use a special pillbox that divides your pills into days of the week and times of the day. A quick look at the box can tell you if you've taken your medicine. Some pillboxes come with alarms you can set. Ask your pharmacist about this technique first, though. Some medicines, such as nitroglycerin, need to stay in their original containers.
  • Use a medicine calendar to check off each time that you take your medicine.
  • Put your medicines where you'll see them.
  • Carry your medicine with you so that you'll have it when it's time for a dose.
  • Use a watch or clock with an alarm. Set it to remind you when you need to take your medicine.

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Some medicines may not be effective after the expiration date. The expiration date for the medicine you are taking should be printed on the label. Ask your pharmacist to show it to you if you can't find it yourself. Safely dispose of any medicines that have passed their expiration dates. Flush the medicines down the toilet so that children and pets can't find them. Or take them to your pharmacist, who can dispose of them for you.

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Some medicines can have an effect on how well other medicines work. One medicine can keep another from doing what it's supposed to do. Or, it may cause the other to have a stronger effect than usual. Either of these could be risky to your health. Let your doctor and pharmacist know about all medicines, including over-the-counter medicines, that you take. Tell your doctor and your pharmacist about any herbal, vitamin, or mineral supplements that you take too. Also, tell your doctor if you drink alcohol, smoke, or consume caffeine. All of these can affect how well your medicine works for you.

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Taking someone else's medicine or giving them yours can be dangerous. Even if it is the same kind of medicine, the dose may be different. Call your pharmacist or your doctor to find out what to do if you have not taken enough medicine with you when you are away from home. Always make sure to bring enough of your medicines with you when you do travel. If you are going on a long trip, it is wise to take along a written prescription in your wallet or purse for any medicines you are taking.

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Keep a medicine diary. In it, list the name of the medicines you are taking and how much you take of each one. Also, write down how often you take them and what they are for. You may want to use a check-off system that will help you keep track of which medicines you've taken and when.

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Share this list with your doctor. Ask your doctor to help you work on each of those problems.

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For instance, you might store it in a locked box on an upper shelf in your refrigerator. Make sure it is away from children or pets. Never store medicines in your bathroom. The air in that room is usually too warm and moist for safe storage of medicine.

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