There are many effective medicines to treat heart disease.
Medicines can reduce your risk of heart attack, angina, stroke, or heart failure. They can help manage symptoms by controlling high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, and improve your quality of life.
Learn more about taking your medicines.
The medicines you take depend on your heart condition and symptoms. For a heart attack or angina, it’s normal to take different kinds of medicine.
Below is a list of medicines commonly used to:
To find out about a specific medicine search for it on the National Prescribing Service Medicinewise website.
You may have to take a small dose of aspirin every day. It can stop blood clots from forming in a narrow artery and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. If you can’t take aspirin, you might take another anti-clotting medicine.
Antiplatelet medicines include clopidogrel, prasugrel and ticagrelor. They can be used with, or instead of, aspirin. They help to stop blood clots forming in your blood vessels.
You usually need antiplatelet medicines if you’ve had coronary angioplasty and stent implantation, or have had recurring heart attacks or angina.
If you take an antiplatelet medicine, unless you are suffering severe bleeding you must not stop taking it unless your cardiologist or doctor tells you to. This is even more important if you have had a stent implanted.
Warfarin helps to prevent blood clots forming and treats existing clots.
If you are taking warfarin you need to have regular blood tests to check you’re taking the right dose and that it’s working properly.
Other medicines, including some foods, alcohol, herbs and vitamins, can change how warfarin works. Speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about what foods can interact with warfarin. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any other medicines you take or plan to start taking and read the instructions carefully.
Some other anticoagulant medicines, called NOACs (novel anticoagulant therapies) include dabigatran, apixaban and rivaroxaban. These do not require blood testing.
ACE inhibitors widen (‘dilate’) your blood vessels and reduce strain on your heart. They are used to lower blood pressure, make your heart work better and improve your chance of surviving after a heart attack.
ARBs are sometimes used instead of ACE inhibitors if you get side effects, such as a persistent cough, from taking ACE inhibitors. ARBs work like ACE inhibitors; they widen your blood vessels and reduce strain on your heart.
Beta-blockers can make your heart beat more slowly, and lower your blood pressure and risk of a heart attack. You may sometimes be given a beta-blocker for arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) or angina.
Statins reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke by helping to lower your cholesterol. They also sometimes lower your triglycerides.
Statins help to stabilise plaque in arteries. They are often given to people after they have had a heart event (e.g. heart attack, stroke or angina) – even if the person’s cholesterol is in the ‘normal’ range. Statins are recommended for almost everyone with coronary heart disease.
You will usually be given a statin when you are in hospital. You will need to keep taking it when you go home. Your doctor may change the dose or type of statin you are taking, to make sure it is working properly and not causing side effects.
Nitrate medicines increase blood flow to your heart by widening blood vessels. They prevent or treat angina.
There are two types of nitrate medicines.
Nitrate medicines may also come as patches, and you gradually absorb the medicine through your skin.
Men should not take erectile dysfunction drugs with nitrate medicines.
We are here to answer your questions. Call 1300 36 27 87 and talk to one of our qualified heart health professionals. If you need an interpreter, call 131 450 and ask for the Heart Foundation.