heart medications

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.

    Learn more about ACE inhibitors.

  • 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.

    Learn more about ARBs.

  • Antiplatelet medications

    Most people who have had a cardiac event are on an antiplatelet medications. These medications help stop platelets from blocking off arteries and stents.

    Learn more about antiplatelet medications.

  • Anticoagulants

    Anticoagulant medications are also called blood thinners. They help prevent clots from forming in the blood vessels or prevent existing clots from getting bigger.

    Learn more about anticoagulants.

  • Antiarrhythmics

    Antiarrhythmic medications are used prevent or treat abnormal heart beats or arrhythmias. They can slow down your heart rate and/or regulate your heart beat.

    Learn more about antiarrhythmic medications. Cardiac Services BC also has information about abnormal heart rhythm

  • 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.

    Learn more about alternative medications.

  • Beta blockers

    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.

    Learn more about beta blockers.

  • 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.

    Learn more about calcium channel blockers.

  • 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.

    Learn more about cholesterol absorption inhibitors.

  • Digoxin

    Digoxin treats heart rhythm disorders and heart failure. It works by improving your heart's pumping action or slowing it down.

    Learn more about digoxin.

  • Diuretics

    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.

    Learn more about diuretics.

  • Fibrates

    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.

    Learn more about fibrates.

  • Ivabradine

    Ivabradine is used for patients with heart failure. It is a type of medication that slows the heart rate. It does this by inhibiting the electrical current made by the heart's natural pacemaker.

    Learn more about ivabradine

  • Mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists

    Mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists are diuretics or water pills. They may also be called aldosterone antagonists or aldosterone receptor blockers.

    Learn more about mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists.

  • Niacin

    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.

    Learn more about niacin.

  • Nitrates (Nitroglycerin)

    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.

    Learn more about nitroglycerin.

  • Resins (Bile acid sequestrates)

    Resins bind to bile acids and prevents their re-absorption. They can help reduce your total cholesterol and may even raise your “good” HDL-cholesterol.

    Learn more about resins.

  • Statins

    Statins help prevent the build-up of plaque in your arteries. This can lower the long-term risk of having a heart attack.

    Learn more about statins.

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.



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