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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Disease and Medication Safety

One of the goals when you take medication for heart disease is to be sure that your medication helps your heart function as well as possible. One step toward achieving this goal is to avoid some medications. What kinds of problems might these medicines cause?

  • Some medicine can make blood pressure rise, placing an extra burden on your heart.
  • Some medications may interact with your heart disease medicine. This can prevent either medicine from working properly.

Here are common types of medicines that can make your heart disease worse.

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Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs include both prescription and over-the-counter medicine. They are often used to relieve pain or reduce inflammation from conditions such as arthritis. However, NSAIDs can make your body retain fluid and decrease the function of your kidneys. This may cause your blood pressure to rise even higher. The extra fluid and higher blood pressure puts an added burden on your heart. [JPR1] The use of NSAIDS also can increase your risk for heart attack or stroke, particularly is used in high doses.

Common NSAIDs include:

You may also find NSAIDs in over-the-counter medications for other maladies, so be sure to check the label. Ask your doctor if any NSAID is OK for you to use. Your doctor may be able to recommend alternatives, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead of ibuprofen.

If you take aspirin as a precaution against heart attack or stroke, be sure you take only the amount suggested by your doctor.

Cough and Cold Medications

Many cough and cold medications contain NSAIDs to relieve pain. NSAIDs may increase your blood pressure, as well as cause your body to retain fluid. Both these effects increase your heart's workload.

Cough and cold medicines also frequently contain decongestants. Decongestants can make heart disease worse in these ways:

  • Decongestants may make your blood pressure and heart rate rise. Higher blood pressure puts an extra burden on your heart.
  • Decongestants may prevent your heart disease medication from working properly.

What can you do? Avoid using cough and cold medicine that contains NSAIDs or decongestants. Ask your doctor for suggestions about other ways to ease symptoms of cold, flu, or sinus problems.

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