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Heart Disease Medicine: How Can It Help You?

If you've been diagnosed with heart disease, you and your doctor have probably discussed heart disease medicines you need to maintain your heart health.

Your doctor has hundreds of different heart disease medicines to choose from. These medicines work in a variety of ways to help your heart work better. What are the different types of heart disease medicines? How do they help? Here is a list of the types of heart disease medicines:

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  • Anticoagulants
  • Antiplatelet agents
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
  • Alpha-blockers
  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Digitalis
  • Diuretics
  • Vasodilators
  • Statins

Let's take a closer look at each group of heart disease medicines. Read on to learn more about each type and how it helps maintain your heart health.

Anticoagulants

Anticoagulants are sometimes called "blood thinners." This type of heart disease medicine helps prevent clots from forming in your blood vessels. This can help prevent a heart attack or stroke, which are often caused by clots. However, anticoagulants can't make existing clots go away.

Examples of anticoagulants include Coumadin (warfarin), Eliquis (apixaban), heparin, Lovenox (enoxaparin), Pradaxa (dabigatran), and Xarelto (rivaroxaban).

Antiplatelet Agents

This type of heart disease medicine helps prevent clots from forming in blood vessels. It accomplishes this by preventing blood platelets from clumping together.

Your doctor may prescribe antiplatelet medication in these cases:

  • You have had a heart attack
  • You have unstable angina
  • You have had strokes, including TIAs (transient ischemic attacks)
  • You have another type of heart disease
  • Your doctor has noted plaque buildup in the blood vessels of your legs
  • You are at high risk for heart attack or stroke

Examples of antiplatelet medicine include aspirin, Brilinta, Clopidogrel, and Effient. Some people may not be able to take antiplatelet medications if they are at risk for bleeding.

Alpha-Blockers

Alpha-blockers can help lower your overall blood pressure. They do this by reducing nerve impulses that tell your vessels to tighten. Your blood vessels remain relaxed, lowering your overall blood pressure. Cardura (doxazosin) and Minipress (prazosin) are two examples of alpha-blockers.

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors

This type of heart disease medicine can help in these ways:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Make the heart's work easier
  • Help the heart work more efficiently

Here's how ACE inhibitors work: They prevent your body from making angiotensin II. Angiotensin II is a hormone that makes blood vessels tighten. Because ACE inhibitors lower the amount of this hormone in your body, your blood vessels remain relaxed. Blood flows more easily through the vessels, lowering your overall blood pressure. Your heart doesn't have to work so hard to pump blood through your vessels.

Capoten (captopril), Vasotec (enalapril), Lotensin (benazapril), and lisinopril are examples of ACE inhibitors.

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