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Heart Disease Medicine: How Can It Help You?

Digitalis Drugs

This type of heart disease medicine can be helpful in these cases:

  • If you have heart failure
  • If you have an irregular heartbeat, especially atrial fibrillation

Digitalis drugs work by making your heart beat stronger and can help slow down heart rate. Lanoxin (digoxin) is one example of a digitalis medicine.


Diuretics are often called "water pills." Diuretics can help your heart in these ways:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce swelling from extra fluid buildup throughout your body
  • Relieve your heart's workload

Here's how they work: Diuretics help your kidneys remove sodium and water from your body. One of the results is that you have less blood volume circulating in your blood vessels. Less blood volume in the vessels leads to lower blood pressure.

Diuretics are usually the first type of medicine that your doctor will try if you have high blood pressure. Examples of diuretics include Esidrix (hydrochlorothiazide or HCTZ) and Aldactone (spironolactone), Lasix (furosemide), and Bumex (bumetanide). Some diuretics are combined in one pill with other heart medications. 

Nervous System Inhibitors

This type of heart disease medicine helps lower your blood pressure.

Nervous system inhibitors keep your brain and central nervous system from sending too many nerve impulses that tell your vessels to tighten. As a result, your blood vessels remain wider. This helps lower your blood pressure.

Some nervous system inhibitors are called "central agonists." Others are called "peripheral adrenergic." Catapres (clonidine) is an example of a central agonist. Wytensin (guanabenz) is an example of a peripheral adrenergic medicine.


Your doctor may prescribe vasodilators if you haven't been able to tolerate ACE inhibitors. Vasodilator heart disease medicine has two effects:

  • Lowers your blood pressure
  • Eases chest pain (angina)

Vasodilators relax the muscles in your blood vessel walls. The vessels widen and blood flows through more easily. Your blood pressure lowers. Your heart receives more blood and oxygen, so it doesn't have to work so hard to pump.

Examples of vasodilators include Isordil (isosorbide dinitrate), Imdur (isosorbide mononitrate), nitroglycerin, Apresoline (hydralazine) and Loniten (minoxidil).

Finding the Right Combination of Heart Disease Medicine

Which medicines may be best for you? That depends on factors such as these:

  • The causes of your heart disease
  • How your body responds to different medicines
  • Any other health problems you might have

It may take some trial-and-error testing to find the combination of heart disease medicine that works best for you. Many people need more than one type of medicine in order to get the best results. Some of these medicines are combined into one pill.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Thomas M. Maddox, MD on July 15, 2012

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