Common Heart Disease Drugs

There are a variety of drugs prescribed for patients with heart disease. It's important for both patients living with heart disease and those who care for them to understand the prescribed medication, to follow the directions of usage, and to be able to recognize the possible side effects associated with the medicine. The drugs most commonly prescribed for heart disease include:

ACE Inhibitors: ACE inhibitors are a type of medication that dilates (widens) arteries to lower blood pressure and make it easier for the heart to pump blood. They also block some of the harmful actions of the endocrine system that may occur with heart failure.

Aldosterone Inhibitor: Eplerenone (Inspra) and spironolactone (Aldoctone) and eplerenone are potassium-sparing diuretics. They can be prescribed to reduce the swelling and water build-up caused by heart failure. Diuretics cause the kidneys to send unneeded water and salt from the tissues and blood into the urine.

They may improve heart failure symptoms that are still present despite use of other treatments. These drugs protect the heart by blocking a chemical (aldosterone) in the body that causes salt and fluid build-up. This medication is used to treat patients with certain types of severe heart failure.

Angiotensin II Receptor Blocker (ARBs): ARBs are used to decrease blood pressure in people with heart failure. ARBs decrease certain chemicals that narrow the blood vessels so blood can flow more easily through your body. They also decrease certain chemicals that cause salt and fluid build-up in the body.

Beta-Blockers: Beta-blockers block the effects of adrenaline (epinephrine) and thereby improve the heart's ability to perform. They also decrease the production of harmful substances produced by the body in response to heart failure. They cause the heart to beat more slowly and with less force, lowering blood pressure.

Calcium Channel Blockers: Calcium channel blockers are prescribed to treat angina (chest pain) and high blood pressure. Calcium channel blockers affect the movement of calcium in the cells of the heart and blood vessels. As a result, the drugs relax blood vessels and increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart, while reducing its workload.


Calcium channel blockers are only used to treat heart failure caused by high blood pressure when other medications to lower blood pressure are ineffective. Certain calcium channel blockers are used for certain types of heart failure. Consult your doctor to see if one is right for you.

Cholesterol -Lowering Drugs: Cholesterol helps your body build new cells, insulate nerves, and produce hormones. But inflammation may lead to cholesterol build-up in the walls of arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Some people have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol levels. These people may need drug therapy such as statins in addition to a healthier diet to reduce their risk of atherosclerosis.

Digoxin : Digoxin helps an injured or weakened heart to work more efficiently and to send blood through the body. It strengthens the force of the heart muscle's contractions and may improve blood circulation.

It may also be prescribed if the patient has atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat rhythm) to help slow down the heart rate.

Diuretics: Diuretics, commonly known as "water pills," cause the kidneys to get rid of unneeded water and salt from the tissues and bloodstream into the urine. Getting rid of excess fluid makes it easier for your heart to pump. Diuretics are used to treat high blood pressure and reduce the swelling and water build-up caused by various medical problems, including heart failure. They also helps make breathing easier.

Inotropic Therapy: Inotropic therapy is used to stimulate an injured or weakened heart to pump harder to send blood through the body. It helps the force of the heart muscle's contractions and relaxes constricted blood vessels so blood can flow more smoothly. Inotropic therapy may also speed up the heart's rhythm.

Inotropic therapy is used in end-stage heart failure to help relieve and control heart failure symptoms. These medications are only used when others no longer control heart failure symptoms.

Potassium or Magnesium: Potassium and magnesium are minerals that can be lost because of increased urination when taking diuretics. Low levels in the body can be associated with abnormal heart rhythms. Some patients take them as supplements as directed by their doctor.


Proprotein Convertase Subtilisin Kexin Type 9 (PCSK9) Inhibitors – A new class of cholesterol lowering drugs which is used in patients who cannot control their cholesterol through diet and statin treatments. The drugs block the liver protein PCSK9 which hinders the liver’s ability to remove LDL-cholesterol from the blood. In doing so it dramatically reduces the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream.

Vasodilators: Vasodilators are used to treat heart failure and control high blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels so blood can flow more easily through the body. Vasodilators are prescribed for patients who cannot take ACE inhibitors.

Warfarin : Warfarin is an anticoagulant medication. "Anti" means "against," and "coagulant" means "causing blood clotting." Therefore, warfarin helps prevent clots from forming in the blood.

A person is prescribed warfarin because the body is making blood clots or the person has a medical condition known to promote unwanted blood clots. Blood clots can move to other parts of the body and cause serious medical problems. Warfarin will not dissolve a blood clot; over time, however, the blood clot may dissolve on its own. Warfarin may also prevent other clots from forming.

Be sure to ask your loved one's doctor if you have any questions about over-the-counter drugs or herbs, or the medications the patient has been prescribed.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on November 12, 2015



American Heart Association: "Cardiac Medications."

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: "Your Guide to Living Well With Heart Disease."



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