If you have heart disease or want to prevent it, your doctor may suggest drugs that help. They can:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Cut your cholesterol levels
  • Get rid of extra fluid in your body that puts a strain on the way your heart pumps

You and your doctor will work together to find the best choice for you. Whichever meds you use, some simple tips can help you take them safely and on schedule.

Stay on Track

First, learn about the medicine your doctor prescribes. Know the names, dosages, and side effects of the drugs, and what they're used for. Always keep a list of the medications with you.

Don't stop or change your medicines without talking to your doctor first. Continue it even if you feel better. If you stop suddenly, it can make your condition worse.

It's important to take your medicines at the same time every day. To stay on top of things, get a pillbox marked with the days of the week. Fill it up at the start of each week.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it's almost time for the next one, it's OK to skip the missed dose and go back to your regular schedule. But don't take two doses to make up for the one you forgot to take.

Make sure you refill your prescriptions on time. Don't wait until you're completely out before you go to the pharmacy.

Safety Tips

Don't take less medication than your doctor prescribes in order to save money. You need to take the full amount to get the drug's benefits. If you're worried you may not be able to afford your meds, talk to your doctor about ways to lower the costs.

Also, check with him before you take any over-the-counter drugs or herbal treatments. They may have side effects, make the symptoms of your heart disease worse, or make your other meds less effective.

For example, some common drugs that don't mix well with heart medications are:

  • Antacids
  • Salt substitutes
  • Cough, cold, or allergy drugs
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen and naproxen)

If you're going to have surgery and will be put under with anesthesia, make sure you tell your surgeon about the heart drugs you take.

Tips for Traveling

Keep your meds with you when you're away from home. Don't pack them in luggage that you don't plan to keep with you at all times.

If you're taking a long trip, pack an extra week's supply. Make sure you have the phone number of your pharmacy and the refill numbers of your prescriptions, in case you run out.

Watch Out for Side Effects

Heart disease drugs that relax narrow blood vessels might make you dizzy. If that happens to you when you stand or get out of bed, sit or lie down for a few minutes. This helps raise your blood pressure. Then, get up more slowly.

ACE inhibitors may make you cough. Let your doctor know if that keeps you up at night or gets in the way of your daily activities.

Diuretics (water pills) make you pee more. If you need a single dose each day, take it in the morning. Or if you take two doses a day, take the second one in the late afternoon. That way, you won't need to pee so often during the night, so you can sleep better.

Diuretics can make you dehydrated. Watch out for signs like:

  • Dizziness
  • Extreme thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Peeing less
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Constipation

Call your doctor if you have any of these. Don't just assume you need more fluids.

Bleeding is the most common side effect if you take blood thinners. Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Heavy bleeding during your period
  • Red or brown pee
  • Tar-like stools
  • Bleeding from your gums or nose that doesn't stop right away
  • Red things you cough up
  • Severe headache or stomachache
  • Unusual bruising
  • Cuts that won't stop bleeding
  • A bump on the head or serious fall

A daily aspirin routine could increase your risk of a bleeding stroke. It also ups your chances of a stomach ulcer. You also shouldn't take aspirin if you're allergic to it.

Talk to your doctor before starting an aspirin routine.

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