Skip to content

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Cardiac Rehabilitation: Medicine and Exercise - Topic Overview

If you are in a cardiac rehab program, you are probably taking medicines for your heart and for other health reasons.

Some prescribed medicines can change your heart rate, blood pressure, and overall ability to exercise. It's important for your rehab team to know what medicines you take.

Give your rehab team a list of the medicines you are taking, especially if they cause any side effects during exercise.

Which medicines affect exercise?

This table lists medicines that you might be taking and how they affect exercise.

Effect of medicines on heart rate, blood pressure, and exercise

Medicine

Affect heart rate (HR)?

Affect blood pressure (BP)?

Affect exercise capacity?

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitorsNoLower BPNo
Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)NoLower BPNo
Antiarrhythmic agentsMay lower HR, depending on the type of medicineNoNo
Beta-blockersLower HRLower BPDecrease, but may increase if you have angina
BronchodilatorsRaise HRNoIncrease capacity
Calcium channel blockersRaise or lower HR (depending on the drug)Lower BPNo
DigoxinLower HRNoIncrease, if atrial fibrillation or heart failure is present
DiureticsNoLower BPNo
Statins NoNoNo
Nitrates (nitroglycerin)Raise HRLower BPIncrease, if angina or heart failure is present
VasodilatorsRaise HRLower BP (raises BP after exercise)No

Anxiety and depression medicines

Medicines for anxiety or depression may affect your blood pressure and heart rate.

  • Antidepressants may increase your heart rate as well as decrease your blood pressure at rest and during exercise. But some antidepressants can increase blood pressure. If you are concerned about effects from your medicine, talk with your doctor.
    • Dual-acting serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors may increase your heart rate and blood pressure.
    • Tricyclic antidepressants may lower your blood pressure or cause heart rhythm problems. These medicines are generally not prescribed for people who have heart problems.
    • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have few heart-related side effects.
  • Minor tranquilizers may lower both your heart rate and blood pressure by controlling your anxiety. They will probably not affect your exercise capacity.
  • Major tranquilizers may lower both your heart rate and blood pressure at rest and during exercise.
  • Lithium will likely not change your heart rate or blood pressure at rest or during exercise. This drug may affect your ECG by causing T-wave changes and arrhythmias both at rest and during exercise.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Cardiac Rehabilitation: Medicine and Exercise Topics

    Today on WebMD

    x-ray of human heart
    A visual guide.
    atrial fibrillation
    Symptoms and causes.
     
    heart rate graph
    10 things to never do.
    heart rate
    Get the facts.
     
    empty football helmet
    Article
    red wine
    Video
     
    eating blueberries
    Article
    Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
    Slideshow
     
    Inside A Heart Attack
    SLIDESHOW
    Omega 3 Sources
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Salt Shockers
    SLIDESHOW
    lowering blood pressure
    SLIDESHOW