What do I need to know about heart disease medicines?

Your doctor will select a medicine or combination of medicines for you based on the following:/p>

  • the severity of your CHD
  • your coronary risk factors
  • other health problems you may have
  • other medicines you take
  • your age

It's important to work closely with your doctor and to stay informed about choices your doctor makes about medicines. It's also important to tell your doctor about the other medicines and nutritional supplements you take and about any reactions that you have had to medicines in the past.

There is no one pill or combination of pills that is right for everyone who has heart disease. So not everyone who has heart disease takes the same medicines. For instance, if you have angina, your doctor may prescribe nitroglycerin to relax your arteries. Or your doctor may choose a beta-blocker to decrease your heart's workload. Taking the right medicine at the right time in the way you are told to take it is important to your treatment plan. In some cases, following the directions exactly can save your life. In other cases, taking the wrong medicine at the wrong time can do more harm than good.

Remember that not every medicine you take does the same thing. For instance, if you have high cholesterol that you can't control with diet and exercise, your doctor may prescribe a type of medicine such as a statin to lower your cholesterol. On the other hand, for high blood pressure, you may need to take a calcium channel blocker. This type of medicine relaxes blood vessels and lessens resistance to blood flow. Or you may need to take a beta-blocker that decreases how hard your heart has to work. If you have fluid retention, your doctor may want you to take a water pill, called a diuretic, to flush out excess fluid. So only taking some of your medicines and skipping or forgetting to take others means you are not going to get the full treatment that you need for your health.

Learn about your medicines. The more you know about them, the more they can help you. To start learning, talk with your doctor. Ask about the medicines he or she prescribes. At the very least, you should know:

  • the name of the medicine you are taking
  • how and when to take it
  • how much to take at each dose
  • how much to take in a day
  • what it is supposed to do for you
  • what to do if you miss a dose
  • possible side effects
  • what to do if you experience a side effect
  • what to avoid, such as other medicines, while you are taking the medicine
  • what will happen if you do not take it
  • what happens if you accidentally take an extra dose
  • what to do if you travel and run out of medicine

You can also talk with your pharmacist about your medicines. Your pharmacist is an excellent source of information.

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