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.
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; however, 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 taking 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.
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.
Don’t stop taking your prescribed medicines even if you start feeling better as this could possibly make your symptoms or condition worse. Your doctor may be able to adjust the dosage or change you to a different medication to reduce any side effects you’re experiencing.
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 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.
You should never 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. This will help you to know exactly what you need to take and avoid confusion.
What else do I need to know?
Tip: Never share your medicine with other people or take medicine that’s not yours. This can cause harm even if they have the same condition as you.
Some medicines (especially those that are dispersed in water) 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 therefore 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 booklet
This booklet describes some of the different medicines often prescribed for people with a heart condition. It also covers medicines used to control high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. The booklet explains why you may have been given the medicine, how it works, and possible side effects.
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This booklet is also available to download in large print.
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