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Heart Disease Medicine: How Can It Help You?

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

This type of heart disease medicine can have these effects:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Ease the work of your heart

ARBs block the action of angiotensin II, a hormone that makes blood vessels tighten. As a result, blood vessels remain relaxed. Blood flows more easily through the vessels. Your blood pressure becomes lower and your heart has to work less to pump blood through them. You may also use an ARB if you can not tolerate ACE inhibitors due to a cough, a common side effect.

Examples of ARBs include Cozaar (losartan), Avapro (irbesartan), and Micardis (telmisartan).

Beta-Blockers

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

  • Makes your heart beat more slowly
  • Makes your heart beat with less force
  • Lowers your blood pressure
  • Helps prevent future heart attacks if you have already had one
  • Relieves chest pain
  • Helps your heart beat more steadily

How do beta-blockers accomplish all this? They prevent the hormone adrenaline from working. When adrenaline is blocked, your heartbeat slows down. Your heart can't pump so hard. This makes blood go through your vessels with less force. The pressure inside your blood vessels drops. Your heart works less.

Examples of beta-blockers include Tenormin (atenolol), Coreg (carvedilol), and Lopressor (metoprolol).

Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs)

This type of heart disease medicine is also called a calcium antagonist. CCBs can have these effects:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce chest pain (angina)
  • Help lower your heart rate

How do calcium channel blockers accomplish this? CCBs prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells in your heart and blood vessels. This keeps blood vessels from tightening so much and causes the heart to pump with less strength. Your heart rate slows and blood can flow more easily through the vessels. This lowers your blood pressure.

Examples of CCBs are Cardizem CD (diltiazem), Calan (verapamil), and Norvasc (amlodipine).

Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

Cholesterol-lowering drugs help in these ways:

  • Lower LDL bad cholesterol
  • Raise HDL good cholesterol
  • Lower triglyceride levels (a fat in your blood)

Cholesterol-lowering drugs work in a variety of ways to improve your heart health. Some change the way the liver processes cholesterol and fat. Others affect the way your body digests nutrients. Still others prevent cholesterol from flowing through your blood vessels.

Your doctor may prescribe one or a combination of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Examples include:

  • Statins lower LDL (''bad'') cholesterol levels and keep cholesterol from forming in your blood vessels.
  • Lopid (gemfibrozil) raises HDL (''good'') cholesterol levels.
  • Nicotinic acid (niacin) lowers triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol levels.
  • Atromid-S (clofibrate) raises HDL cholesterol levels and lowers triglyceride levels.
  • Resins (bile acid-binding drugs) help intestines dispose of cholesterol.

Combined Alpha- and Beta-Blockers

This type of heart disease medicine helps lower your blood pressure. It does this by slowing your heart rate and reducing nerve impulses that tell your vessels to tighten.

Examples of combined alpha- and beta-blockers include Coreg (carvedilol) and Normodyne and Trandate (labetolol).

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