What Drugs Should I Avoid if I Have Heart Disease?

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on November 06, 2022
3 min read

If you take medicine for heart disease, you may need to avoid certain drugs that are used for other conditions. Some may cause your blood pressure to go up. Others can keep your heart medication from working the way it should.

You get NSAIDs as a prescription or over the counter, and they're often used to ease pain or treat inflammation from arthritis. But these drugs may not be the right thing if you have heart disease.

NSAIDs can make your body hold onto fluid and can affect how well your kidneys work. This may raise your blood pressure.

The extra fluid and higher blood pressure increase your heart's workload. NSAIDs also can increase your risk for heart attack or stroke, particularly if you take them in high doses.

Some common NSAIDs are:

Your doctor may be able to recommend alternatives, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead of ibuprofen.

Some other over-the-counter meds may have NSAIDs on their ingredient list. So always check labels carefully.

If you take aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke, make sure you are doing so with your doctor's approval. Aspirin is a blood thinner and taking it may involve risks.

Many of these medications contain NSAIDs to relieve pain. They also often have decongestants in them, which can make your heart disease worse in these ways:

Ask your doctor about other ways to ease symptoms of cold, flu, or sinus problems.

Some medicines that treat migraines work by tightening blood vessels in your head. This eases your pain, but it also narrows blood vessels throughout your body. It could make your blood pressure rise, perhaps even 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.

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

Other weight loss medications can cause problems with your heart valves.

Always check with your doctor before you use any weight loss medications.

Be sure any drugs 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 labels before you buy over-the-counter medicine. Make sure it doesn't have ingredients that could make your heart disease worse.
  • Talk to your doctor before you take any over-the-counter medication, herbal preparation, vitamins or other nutritional supplements.