When it comes to heart medication, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that doctors now have more medications than ever before to manage various types of heart and vascular diseases and conditions. The bad news is that because these are strong drugs with occasional side-effects, patients may need expert care in managing their heart drugs and calibrating their dosages, especially if they take multiple medications.
Central Maine Healthcare’s Anticoagulation Management Clinic in Lewiston is here to help. We work with people who require medical management of heart risks and conditions. Our nurse practitioners monitor medications and their side effects so that you can feel your best and optimize your heart health. If a certain medication is causing uncomfortable side effects, we can work with you to find a medication strategy that works better for you.
To learn more about our Anticoagulation Management Clinic, call 800-760-6622.
Medications for Your Heart
When your doctor prescribes heart medications, you may have to take them for the rest of your life, so it’s important to find dosages and types of drugs that maximize health benefits while minimizing side-effects.
Sometimes, switching from one type of a drug to another within a class of drugs can eliminate side-effects. For example, if warfarin (Coumadin) doesn’t work for you, heparin, another type of anticoagulant, may be a better choice. The nurse practitioners at in our Anticoagulation Management Clinic can help with that. We assist patients manage some of the following common heart medications:
- Anticoagulants: These medications are known as blood thinners, although they don’t actually make your blood thinner. Instead, they lower your blood’s ability to clot, which can help prevent blood clots from forming. Your doctor may prescribe anticoagulants if you are at risk of stroke or to treat certain types of heart, blood vessel or lung conditions. Some common anticoagulants include warfarin (Coumadin) and heparin.
- Antiplatelet drugs: These medications help prevent blood clots from forming by stopping platelets from sticking together. (Platelets are tiny disc-shaped substances in the blood that help form clots.) Antiplatelet drugs may be recommended (aspirin) or prescribed for people with who have angina or who have had a heart attack or stroke or who have had a stent implanted in the coronary artery or coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) . Some common antiplatelet drugs include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix) and dipyridamole.
- ACE inhibitors: These drugs help expand your blood vessels to allow blood to flow more easily. They are prescribed for people with high blood pressure or heart failure . Some common ACE inhibitors include benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten) and enalapril (Vasotec).
- Beta blockers: These drugs help lower your heart rate, which helps your heart beat more slowly and less forcefully. They are prescribed for people with high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia), angina and previous heart attacks. Some common beta blockers include acebutolol (Sectral), atenolol (Tenormin) and bisoprolol (Zebeta).
- Calcium channel blockers: These medications interrupt the flow of calcium into your heart and blood vessels, resulting in a reduction of the strength of your heartbeat and a relaxation of your blood vessels. They are prescribed for people with high blood pressure, angina and certain types of arrhythmia. Some common calcium channel blockers include amlodipine (Norvasc, Lotrel), diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac) and felodipine (Plendil).
- Cholesterol-lowering medications: These drugs lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood, especially LDL (“bad” cholesterol). Some common cholesterol-lowering medications include statins such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor), nicotinic acids such as lovastatin (Advicor) and cholesterol absorption inhibitors: such as ezetimibe/simvastatin (Vytorin).
- Digitalis preparations: These medications help your heart beat more forcefully. They are prescribed for heart failure and some types of arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation. A common digitalis preparation is lanoxin.
- Diuretics: These drugs help remove water and sodium from your blood, which relieves pressure on your heart and helps reduce swelling in your ankles and legs. They’re prescribed for people with high blood pressure and edema (swelling). Some common diuretics are chlorthalidone (Hygroton) and furosemide (Lasix).
- Vasodilators: These medications, which are also known as nitrates or nitroglycerine, help relax your blood vessels while increasing blood flow to your heart. They are prescribed for angina. Some common vasodilators include isosorbide dinitrate (Isordil) and nesiritide (Natrecor).