Medicines for heart conditions

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Medicines can help keep your symptoms under control, and prevent or treat a heart condition.

They're all different but your doctor, pharmacist or nurse will choose the one most likely to be safe and effective for your condition.

There are several types of medication for heart conditions including:

  • ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors)
  • Angiotensin-II antagonists (ARBs)
  • ARNi (angiotensin-II receptor-neprilysin inhibitor)
  • Antiarrhythmic medicines
  • Anticoagulant medicines
  • Antiplatelet medicines
  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Cholesterol-lowering medicines (lipid-lowering medicines) such as statins
  • Digoxin
  • Diuretics
  • Nitrates

You may also be on more than one type of medication depending on your condition.

Understanding your heart medication 

It’s important to know what you’re taking, why you are taking it, and how it will affect you. When you’re given a new prescription, speak to your doctor about:

  • the medication prescribed for you and its potential benefits and risks
  • how to take it safely
  • possible side effects and what to do if you notice any
  • taking other kinds of medicine at the same time, including any over-the-counter medicines or supplements.

You can find more detailed information about your medication on the eMC website.

Will my medicine cause side effects?

Some medicines may cause side effects, but often these are temporary and disappear after a short time. Not everyone experiences side effects and you may have none at all.

If you think you’re experiencing side effects it’s really important to keep taking your medication. But you can contact your GP or consultant. They can discuss side effects with you and may be able to adjust the dosage or change you to a different medication to reduce any side effects you’re experiencing.

Continue to take your prescribed medication even if you feel better, as your condition may get if you stop taking it.

Tip: The Yellow Card Scheme collects information from health professionals and medicine users on suspected side effects. You can register with the scheme to report any side effects you experience. 

How are heart medicines taken?

Heart medicines come in many shapes and sizes. The most common are:

  • Tablets or capsules – These need to be swallowed with or possibly dissolved in water. Sometimes you have to keep the tablet under your tongue until it dissolves.
  • Aerosol spray – You spray the medicine under your tongue.
  • Self-adhesive patch – A patch containing your medicine is placed on your skin and the medicine is absorbed over a period of time.

You may find that different manufacturers use different names and packaging for your medicines. Always check with your pharmacist if you have questions about this.

When will I need to take my medication?

Most medications need to be taken regularly. Some will need to be taken when you experience a symptom such as angina. You should always follow your doctor’s instructions.

If you’ve missed a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is nearly time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and take the next dose at its scheduled time. Never take a double dose.

How should I store my medication?

  • Store your medicine in a cool dry place, like your bedside cabinet.
  • Don’t leave your medicine on a windowsill in the sunlight or keep it in your car.
  • Always keep your medicine out of the sight and reach of children and pets.
  • Where possible, you should keep your medicine in its original packaging to protect it and help you keep track of how much you have taken.

Don’t take medicines that have changed in colour, consistency or odour. If you have any old or left over medicines, return them to your pharmacist who will dispose of them safely.

What else do I need to know?

Tip: Never share your medicine with other people or take medicine that’s not yours. Even if they have the same condition as you this could cause harm.

Salt and medicine

Some medicines contain sodium, which is found in salt. Having a large amount of sodium in your diet can increase your blood pressure, putting added strain on your heart and can lead to cardiovascular disease.

For those taking a regular dose of 75mg dispersible aspirin, the amount of sodium is extremely small so the benefits far outweigh any risk. If you’re concerned about the levels of sodium in your medications, ask your local pharmacist for guidance.

Over-the-counter medication, herbal medicines and supplements

Check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medicine, herbal medicines and supplements. St John’s Wort, a popular herbal anti-depressant medicine, can interact with a number of medicines prescribed for heart conditions and alter their effectiveness.

Your medicine matters. If you need advice, talk to your GP or pharmacist, or call our qualified heart nurses on 0300 333 1 333.

Medicines for your heart bookletHIS17 Medicines for your heart

This booklet describes some of the different medicines often prescribed for people with a heart condition. It explains why you may have been given the medicine, how it works, and possible side effects. It also covers medicines used to control high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.

ORDER OR DOWNLOAD NOW

This booklet is also available to download in large print.

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