Information on common medications for heart disease.
Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are usually called ACE inhibitors. These medications are used to control blood pressure, to protect and strengthen the heart, and/or to protect the kidneys.
Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are mainly used to treat high blood pressure. They work as well as ACE inhibitors for treating high blood pressure, but may be a better choice for you if you are having side effects with ACE inhibitors.
Alternative medications, herbal products, naturopathic therapy, over the counter drugs (OTCs)
Any of these products could potentially interact with the cardiac medications that are prescribed for you. So while there may be multiple methods of therapy, it is best to discuss any potential therapies with your doctor and/or pharmacist before starting anything new. Be aware there are products you can purchase without a prescription that may have a negative interaction with your prescribed medications, or worsen your heart failure.
Beta blockers are also called beta adrenergic blocking agents. These medications are used to control the heart rate, control blood pressure, and protect and strengthen the heart.
Calcium channel blockers
Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are also called calcium channel antagonists. They help control blood pressure and slow the heart rate. They also help control symptoms of chest pain caused by heart disease.
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors (Ezetimibe)
These drugs prevent your body from absorbing and storing cholesterol in your liver. They also improve the way cholesterol is cleared from your blood and lower your “bad” LDL-cholesterol level, while increasing your “good” HDL-cholesterol level.
Diuretics are also called water pills. They remove excess fluid from your body and help your kidneys produce more urine. Diuretics are used to treat high blood pressure and control symptoms of fluid retention in heart failure.
Fibrates (also called fibric acid derivatives) help reduce high cholesterol levels. This can lower your risk factors for heart disease and stroke. They work by lowering your triglycerides (a fat found in the blood). Reducing triglyceride levels can increase your levels of “good” HDL-cholesterol. They can also reduce the “bad” LDL-cholesterol.
Mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists
Mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists are diuretics or water pills. They may also be called aldosterone antagonists or aldosterone receptor blockers.
Niacin is a form of vitamin B that can be used to help lower cholesterol. It works by slowing your liver’s production of “bad” LDL-cholesterol and raising your “good” HDL-cholesterol.
Nitroglycerin helps open up your blood vessels. This makes it easier for your blood to flow and helps your heart to relax. Nitrates help to prevent and treat chest pain (angina). They can reduce the number of angina attacks you have, relieve the pain of a current attack, and treat the symptoms of heart failure.
Resins (Bile acid sequestrates)
What happens if I'm running low on medications?
Many heart medications are prescribed for the long term. If you’re running out of medication, call your pharmacy to check if you have refills and obtain a new supply. If not, make an appointment with your family doctor to obtain a new prescription. If you are not sure whether you should continue taking a medication, consult your family doctor before you stop taking it.
Do not stop taking your medication without talking to a health care professional, even if you are feeling well.
What should I do if I'm experiencing a medication side effect?
If you think you are experiencing a side effect from a medication, contact your pharmacist or doctor for advice. Do not stop taking your medication without talking to a health care professional first.
What should I do if I miss a dose of my medication?
Take a missed dose as soon as you think of it. If it is less than six hours before the next dose, skip the missed dose and take the next dose at the normal time. Do not take two doses at the same time or take extra doses.
What if I can't afford the medication prescribed?
There are medication subsidies available for people who qualify. B.C. residents covered by the provincial Medical Services Plan (MSP) are eligible to register for Fair PharmaCare. Coverage under this plan is based on your net family income. Some medications may require a special application for coverage, so talk to your pharmacist or doctor for more information on a specific medication.
Can I take supplements or natural health products while taking heart medication?
When taking supplements or natural health products, there is always a risk of a reaction due to interaction with your heart medication.
Visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation's website for more information on taking alternative medications, herbal products, naturopathic therapies, and over the counter items while on cardiac medications.
How should I keep track of my heart medications?
Keep a medication list with you. Your health care provider will need to know what you are taking. For each drug, list the name, dose, how often you take it, and when it was prescribed. If your medication is changed, make sure you change it on the list so that it is up to date.
Medications are very individualized, because each person’s situation is different. You may not be taking the same medication as someone else with your condition due to a number of factors. If you have specific questions about your medications, contact your pharmacist or health care provider.