Common Heart Disease Drugs

There are many drugs prescribed for heart disease. It's important for people with heart disease and those who care for them to understand the meds, follow the labels, and recognize possible side effects.

The ones most people with heart disease are given by their doctor include:

ACE inhibitors: These widen arteries to lower your blood pressure and make it easier for your heart to pump blood. They also block some of the unpleasant things that can happen with heart failure.

Aldosterone inhibitors: Eplerenone (Inspra) and spironolactone (Aldactone) are part of a class of medicine called diuretics. They can ease the swelling and water buildup heart disease can cause. They help the kidneys send unneeded water and salt from your tissues and blood into your urine to be released.

These drugs may help some symptoms, even while you take other treatments. They protect your heart by blocking a chemical in your body called aldosterone that causes salt and fluid buildup.

This medicine is for folks with some types of severe heart failure.

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): These are used to lower blood pressure for people with heart failure. They help keep your blood vessels as wide as possible so blood can flow through your body more easily. They also lessen salt and fluid buildup in your body.

Beta-blockers: They block the effects of adrenaline (epinephrine). This helps your heart work better. These meds also drop production of harmful substances your body makes in response to heart failure. And they cause your heart to beat slower and with less force. Those both lower your blood pressure.

Calcium channel blockers: These treat chest pain (your doctor may say “angina”) and high blood pressure. They relax blood vessels and increase blood and oxygen to your heart. That eases its workload.

They treat heart failure caused by hypertension. But they’re used only when other medicines to lower blood pressure don’t work. Ask your doctor if one is right for you.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs: Cholesterol helps your body build new cells, insulate nerves, and make hormones. But inflammation may force cholesterol to build up in the walls of your arteries. That buildup increases your chance of having a heart attack or stroke.


Some people’s genetics make it more likely that they’ll have high cholesterol. These folks may need drug therapy, like statins, in addition to a healthier diet, to lower the chance that they'll get hardening of the arteries (also called atherosclerosis).

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

You may be prescribed this if you have an irregular heartbeat (your doctor may call this atrial fibrillation, or AFib). It may help slow down your heart rate.

Diuretics: You may know these as water pills. They help your kidneys get rid of unneeded water and salt from your tissues and bloodstream. That makes it easier for your heart to pump. They treat high blood pressure and ease swelling and water buildup caused by some medical problems, including heart failure. They also help make breathing easier.

Inotropic therapy: This helps make an injured or weakened heart pump harder to send blood through the body. It helps strengthen the heart muscle's contractions. It also relaxes constricted blood vessels so blood can flow more smoothly. Inotropic therapy may also speed up your heart's rhythm.

You may get this if you have end-stage heart failure to help relieve and control your symptoms. These medicines are used only when others have stopped working on symptoms.

Potassium or magnesium: You can lose these electrolytes when you pee more while you take diuretics. That loss can cause abnormal heart rhythms. Ask your doctor if you should take supplements to make up the difference.

Proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors: You may get this new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs if diet and statin treatments aren’t helping. They block a liver protein called PCSK9. That protein hinders your liver’s ability to get rid of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Vasodilators: These relax your blood vessels so blood can flow more easily through your body. You’ll get these if you can’t take ACE inhibitors.


Warfarin: This helps prevent clots from forming in your blood. You’ll get it if your body is making blood clots, or if you have a condition that helps cause them.

This medicine won’t dissolve a blood clot. Over time, the clot may dissolve on its own. Warfarin may also prevent others from forming.

Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have questions about any drugs you’re taking.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on September 14, 2016



American Heart Association: "Cardiac Medications."

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





© 2016 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.