Hello. This is Heart Health Tuesdays! Today, we’ll talk about the common types of medications used to combat heart disease. If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, you’re not alone. Nearly half of all American adults are affected by cardiovascular disease. So, it’s important to make every effort to improve your heart health and minimize your risk of developing dangerous complications.
Lifestyle changes that keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check can help, but for some people, this won’t be enough. In these cases, your doctor may want to prescribe medications to treat your heart disease.
Even though these medications have the same general goal, their level of effectiveness can be different for different people. Learn about the various types of medications that are frequently prescribed so you and your doctor can work together to decide on the best treatment.
Medications Used for Heart Disease Treatment
There are dozens of different heart disease medications, and many of them help reduce the damage heart disease causes in different ways. Some focus on improving blood flow, while others target factors like cholesterol and plaque buildup.
1. ACE inhibitors
ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors prevent the body from producing the artery-constricting hormone angiotensin. Arteries relax with ACE inhibitors and this lowers blood pressure. They are prescribed for patients with congestive heart failure, a recent heart attack, and those with hypertension.
Diurestics, also known as water pills, causes the body to rid itself of excess fluids and sodium through urination. This helps to reduce the heart’s workload. Some examples of diuretics include: hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide, and spironolactone.
3. Beta Blockers
Metoprolol is a type of medication known as a beta blocker. This means it lowers your blood pressure by reducing the speed and force of your heartbeats. They can also help widen your veins and arteries, which may have become narrowed, thus facilitating improved circulation.
Metoprolol is also used to reduce the overall risk of heart failure. People with heart disease who take metoprolol have a higher survival rate from a heart attack.
Common side effects include dizziness, fatigue, stomach pain, and nausea.
4. Calcium channel blockers
Calcium channel blockers lower your blood pressure by inhibiting the movement of calcium into your heart and artery cells.
Diltiazem functions as a type of antihypertensive drug known as a calcium channel blocker. Diltiazem is commonly used in the treatment of the arrhythmia atrial fibrillation.
Statins are a type of drug that can reduce the amount of cholesterol produced by your liver. This helps regulate your cholesterol levels, which in turn, lowers your risk of developing heart disease or further damaging your heart.
Too much bad cholesterol can create plaque deposits in your arteries, limiting blood flow throughout your body. By reducing the amount of harmful cholesterol, you can minimize your risk of having a heart attack or stroke caused by heart disease and blocked arteries.
Commonly prescribed statins include Atorvastatin, Lovastatin, Rosuvastatin, Pravastatin, and Simvastatin.
6. Blood Thinners
Blood thinners are also called anticoagulants because they prevent coagulation, or clotting, in your blood. Clots can cause arterial blockages that make heart attacks or strokes more likely, so they’re frequently prescribed to people with heart disease.
Note that blood thinners can be dangerous if you exceed your prescribed dosage. If you sustain an injury such as a cut or laceration, your blood won’t be able to clot and stop the bleeding like usual. This means that applying pressure to the area and seeking medical attention for continued bleeding will be necessary.
Practice extra caution and be careful to avoid combining blood thinners with any medication that can interact negatively with them. Always read labels to know what medications to avoid with blood thinners.
- Plavix, also known as Clopidogrel, is a type of blood thinner that can reduce your risk of having a stroke or heart attack. You may experience side effects such as increased bleeding, bruising, and itching.
Talk to Your Doctor About Heart Disease
For each of the medications above, you’ll need a prescription from your doctor. This means you will need to schedule follow-up appointments at least once a year to renew your prescription and perform any necessary tests to monitor your heart disease.
Always follow all instructions when taking any medication. Read the label and keep an eye out for any side effects that could potentially be dangerous. Talk to your doctor if you feel lightheaded, frequently nauseous, or extremely fatigued, and always get physician approval before you stop taking any heart disease medication.
Food For Thought
Medications do their part to prevent or treat heart disease, but you can’t rely on medication alone. Instead, you will have to make lifestyle changes like eating right, maintaining ideal body weight, and getting enough exercise each day to support your heart health.
If you use these methods alongside any necessary medications, you’ll greatly increase their effectiveness.
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I’m excited to talk about this topic today because not only do I truly believe that you have the power to reverse heart disease and lower high blood pressure to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of these chronic diseases so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
As you may already know, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools to Improve Heart Health
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Since weight management is very important in blood pressure control, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor.
Remember, healthy lifestyle behaviors–like eating a whole-foods plant-based diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, and stress management are the best ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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