Everything You (Generally) Need to Know About Heart Medications

Everything You (Generally) Need to Know About Heart Medications

Posted on: August 7, 2015

Understanding how heart medications function and what they do for you can make it easier to remember them. If you take them, be prepared next time a health professional asks, "Are you taking any medications?"

Everything you need to know about your heart drugs

"Are you taking any medications?"

That's often one of the first — if not THE first — question you are asked at a doctor’s office, emergency room or pharmacy. Health-care providers need to know because our goal is to detemine if a particular medication is working for you, if it needs to be changed, and/or if it's safe to add something new. In many cases, you are the only one who knows the comprehesive list of everything you are taking.

Related article: Two Things a Hospital Pharmacist Wants You to Know

 

What Have Your Heart Medications Done for You Lately?

Heart medications are very commonly prescribed, and you need to become familiar with heart medications if you or someone you love is taking them. Understanding how heart medications function and what they do for you may make it easier to remember them when someone asks THE question.

 

Anticoagulants, or Blood Thinners

Medication names

Brand Names Generic Names
Lovenox Enoxaparin
Coumadin Warfarin
Praxada Dabigatran
Xarelto Rivaroxaban
Eliquis Apixaban
Savaysa Edoxaban

What this medication does:

Decreases the ability of your body to form clots (coagulate). These medications are often called “blood thinners."

Why are you taking this medication:

Helps to prevent clots from occurring or recurring in your blood vessels. When clots form in your blood vessels you can experience pain, or the clots can grow larger and cause more serious complications such as stroke.

Possible side effects:

  • You may bruise more easily
  • You may bleed more easily 

 

Antiplatelets

Medication names:

Brand Names Generic Names
Bayer, Ecotrin Aspirin
Plavix Clopidogrel
Effient Prasugrel
Brilinta Ticagrelor

What this medication does:

Decreases the ability of your body to form clots by preventing blood platelets from sticking together.

Why are you taking this medication:

Helps prevent clots from occurring in patients that have had heart-related complications (example = heart attack) or to prevent problems in persons at risk for heart-related complications.

Possible side effects:

  • You may bruise more easily
  • You may bleed more easily 

 

ACE Inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors)

Medication names:

Brand Names Generic Names
Lotensin Benazepril
Vasotec Enalapril
Prinivil, Zestril Lisinopril
Accupril Quinapril
Altace Ramipril

What this medication does:

Blocks the enzyme responsible for the creation of angiotensin II. Angiotensin II would normally cause vasoconstriction and increased resistance. Blocking the creation of angiotensin II allows your blood vessels to dilate and resistance to go down, which results in things like lower blood pressure.

Why are you taking this medication:

Helps lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to other organs in your body.

Possible side effects:

  • Cough
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

 

ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers)

Medication names:

Brand Names Generic Names
Atacand Candesartan
Avapro Irbesartan
Cozaar Losartan
Micardis Telmisartan
Diovan Valsartan

What this medication does:

Blocks angiotensin II from binding to its site, which blocks the effects of angiotensin II. Angiotensin II would normally cause vasoconstriction and increased resistance. Blocking the binding of angiotensin II to its sites allows your blood vessels to dilate and resistance to go down, which results in things like lower blood pressure.

Why are you taking this medication:

Helps lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to other organs in your body.

Possible side effects:

  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Dizzines
  • Headache

 

Beta Blockers

Medication names:

Brand Names Generic Names
Tenormin Atenolol
Zebeta Bisoprolol
Lopressor, Toprol XL Metoprolol
Corgard Nadolol
Inderal Propranolol
Coreg Carvedilol

What this medication does:

Decreases heart rate which helps reduce stress on the heart and lowers blood pressure.

Why are you taking this medication:

Used to lower blood pressure, control arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats) and to treat chest pain (angina)

Possible side effects:

  • Slow heart beats/rate
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Rash
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

 

CCB’s (calcium channel blockers)

Medication names:

Brand Names Generic Names
Novasc Amlodipine
Cardizem, Tiazac Diltiazem
Isoptin, Verelan, Calan Verapamil

What this medication does:

Blocks calcium channels that normally allow calcium to enter heart and blood vessel cells. This blocking action decreases the force of contraction of the heart and relaxes blood vessels.

Why are you taking this medication:

Used to lower blood pressure, chest pain (angina) and some arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats)

Possible side effects:

  • Swelling or fluid retention (edema)
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

 

Diuretics or Water Pills

Medication names:

Brand Names Generic Names
Midamor Amiloride
Bumex Bumetanide
Hygrotin, Thalitone Chlorthalidone
Lasix Furosemide
Aquazide, Microzide Hydrochlorothiazide
Aldactone Spironolactone
Dyrenium Triamterene

What this medication does:

Helps the body remove excess fluid via urination. This helps reduce swelling (edema) and decreases demands put on the heart to pump blood. These medications are often called “water pills."

Why are you taking this medication:

Used to help lower blood pressure and reduced swelling (edema) due to excess fluid in the body

Possible side effects:

  • Electrolyte disturbances
  • Dizziness when you stand after sitting for a while (orthostatic hypotension)

 

Combination Medications

Many heart medications come in combination products, as well, and include:

Brand Names Generic Names
Dyazide, Maxzide Triamterene/Hydrochlorothiazide
Tenoretic Atenolol/Chlorthalidone
Lopressor HCT Metoprolol/Hydrochlorothiazide
Lotensin HCT Benazepril/Hydrochlorothiazide
Prinzide Lisinopril/Hydrochlorothiazide
Zestoretic Lisinopril/Hydrochlorothiazide
Hyzaar Losartan/Hydrochlorothiazide
Diovan HCT  Valsartan/Hydrochlorothiazide
Lotrel Amlodipine/Benazepril

Remembering all the medications you are taking is hard but very important. Other helpful tips to help you remember what medications you are taking include:

  • Write the names (ask your pharmacist for the brand and generic names), strength and directions of each medication you take on a piece of paper or notecard and update that card every time a medication is stopped or started.
  • Keep a record on a computer and have it updated and printed regularly.
  • Bring the card or the printout with you to every doctor appointment, pharmacy visit or other health-care professional meeting. They may not need it or ask for it, but it is always good to have on hand. 

Image credit 

Share

Leave a Reply

Mercy Medical Center | 1320 Mercy Drive NW, Canton, OH 44708 | info@cantonmercy.org
Contact Us | Careers | Privacy Policy | Copyright © 2017 Mercy Medical Center