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Heart Disease and Medication Safety

One of the goals when you take medication for heart disease is to be sure that your medication helps your heart function as well as possible. One step toward achieving this goal is to avoid some medications. What kinds of problems might these medicines cause?

  • Some medicine can make blood pressure rise, placing an extra burden on your heart.
  • Some medications may interact with your heart disease medicine. This can prevent either medicine from working properly.

Here are common types of medicines that can make your heart disease worse.

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Most people know that cardiovascular disease can run in families -- that if you have a family history of heart disease, you may be at greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and other heart problems. But how much does family history affect your heart health? What parts of the family tree are most important? And what can you do about it?

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Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs include both prescription and over-the-counter medicine. They are often used to relieve pain or reduce inflammation from conditions such as arthritis. However, NSAIDs can make your body retain fluid and decrease the function of your kidneys. This may cause your blood pressure to rise even higher. The extra fluid and higher blood pressure puts an added burden on your heart.

Common NSAIDs include:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

You may also find NSAIDs in over-the-counter medications for other maladies, so be sure to check the label. Ask your doctor if any NSAID is OK for you to use. Your doctor may be able to recommend alternatives, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead of ibuprofen.

If you take aspirin as a precaution against heart attack or stroke, be sure you take only the amount suggested by your doctor.

 

Cough and Cold Medications

Many cough and cold medications contain NSAIDs to relieve pain. NSAIDs may increase your blood pressure, as well as cause your body to retain fluid. Both these effects increase your heart's workload.

Cough and cold medicines also frequently contain decongestants. Decongestants can make heart disease worse in these ways:

  • Decongestants may make your blood pressure and heart rate rise. Higher blood pressure puts an extra burden on your heart.
  • Decongestants may prevent your heart disease medication from working properly.

What can you do? Avoid using cough and cold medicine that contains NSAIDs or decongestants. Ask your doctor for suggestions about other ways to ease symptoms of cold, flu, or sinus problems.

Migraine Headache Medications

Some migraine medicines work by tightening blood vessels in your head. This relieves migraine pain. However, the medication also constricts blood vessels throughout your body. This makes your blood pressure rise, perhaps to dangerous levels.

If you have high blood pressure or any other type of heart disease, talk with your doctor before taking medication for migraines or severe headaches.

Weight Loss Medications

Some weight loss medications may make heart disease worse:

Appetite suppressants tend to "rev" up your body. This can make blood pressure rise and put more stress on your heart.

Before using any weight loss medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter, be sure to check with your doctor. These medications may do you more harm than good.

More Tips for Avoiding Medication Problems

Be sure any medications you choose to use are safe for people who have heart disease. These suggestions can help:

  • Give a list of ALL the medications you use, both prescription and over-the-counter, to every doctor you visit.
  • Read medication labels before buying over-the-counter preparations. Make sure the medicine doesn't contain ingredients that could make your heart disease worse, such as NSAIDs or decongestants.
  • Talk to your doctor before using any over-the-counter medication, herbal preparation, vitamins, or other nutritional supplements. Ask for alternatives to potentially harmful medicines.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

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