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How to Take Heart Medication

Your doctor may prescribe a variety of heart medications you can take to treat or prevent heart disease. These drugs may help lower your blood pressure, reduce the level of cholesterol in your blood, or help the body get rid of excess fluids that put a strain on the heart's ability to pump blood.

Heart medication needs vary for each person. Whatever the treatment protocol prescribed to you, it is a good idea to keep the following guidelines in mind when you're taking heart disease drugs.

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  • Know the names of your heart medications and how they work. Know the generic and brand names, dosages, and side effects of the drugs. Always keep a list of your medications with you.
  • Take heart medications as scheduled, at the same time every day. Do not stop taking or change medications unless you first talk with your doctor. Even if you feel good, continue to take your medications. Stopping these drugs suddenly can make the condition worse.
  • Have a routine for taking heart medications. Get a pillbox that is marked with the days of the week. Fill the pillbox at the beginning of each week to make it easier to remember.
  • Keep a medicine calendar and note every time you take a dose. The prescription label tells how much to take at each dose, but your doctor may change the dosage periodically, depending on your response to the drug. On your medication calendar, you can list any changes in dosages as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Do not decrease a drug's dosage to save money. You must take the full amount to get the full benefits. Talk with your doctor about ways to reduce drug costs.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter drugs or herbal therapies unless you ask your doctor first. Some drugs, such as antacids, salt substitutes, antihistamines (including Benadryl and Dimetapp), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs, such as Advil, Motrin, and Indocin), can worsen heart failure symptoms.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, ask your doctor about skipping versus making up the missed dose.
  • Regularly fill  prescriptions and ask your pharmacist any questions you have. Do not wait until you are completely out of medication before filling prescriptions. If you have trouble getting to the pharmacy, have financial concerns, or have other problems that make it difficult to get your heart drugs, let the doctor know.
  • When traveling, keep medications with you so you can take them as scheduled. On longer trips, take an extra week's supply of medications and copies of your prescriptions, in case you need to get a refill.
  • Before having surgery with a general anesthetic, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist in charge what heart drugs you are taking. An antibiotic may need to be prescribed prior to a surgical or dental procedure.
  • Drugs that relax constricted blood vessels may cause dizziness. If you experience dizziness when standing or getting out of bed, sit or lie down for a few minutes, then get up more slowly.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Thomas M. Maddox, MD on February 16, 2012
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