Common Heart Disease Medications

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on March 06, 2024
12 min read

Heart disease drugs can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke or manage symptoms of an ongoing condition. Knowing the type of drug your doctor wants you to take is important. It can help you understand how the medicine works inside your body and why you need to take it exactly as prescribed.

Common types of heart medications include:

ACE inhibitors. These widen arteries to lower your blood pressure and make it easier for your heart to pump blood.

Aldosterone antagonists. If your heart isn't pumping blood as well as it should, extra fluid can build up in your tissues and blood. That can raise your blood pressure. This type of drug protects your heart by blocking a chemical in your body called aldosterone that causes salt and fluid buildup. It also helps your kidneys flush excess fluids through your urine (pee).

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). If you've been diagnosed with heart failure, ARBs can widen your blood vessels so blood flows through your body more easily. They also help reduce excess salt and fluids.

Beta-blockers. Beta-blockers drop production of harmful substances your body makes in response to heart failure. And they cause your heart to beat slower and with less force. This helps lower your blood pressure.

Calcium channel blockers. These treat chest pain (your doctor may call it “angina”) and high blood pressure. They relax blood vessels and increase blood and oxygen to your heart. That eases its workload. Calcium channel blockers are often used when other blood pressure medications don’t work. 

Cardiac glycosides. Although not prescribed as often as they used to be, these drugs treat heart failure and some types of irregular heart rhythms. They can boost how much blood your heart can pump. They can also slow down your heart rate. 

Cholesterol-lowering drugs. Inflammation can cause cholesterol to build up in the walls of your arteries. That makes it harder for blood to get through and raises your chance of heart attack or stroke. Your genes may make it more likely that you'll have high cholesterol. If so, your doctor may prescribe a drug, like a statin, to bring it down to normal levels.

Diuretics. You may know these as water pills. They help your kidneys get rid of excess water and salt from your tissues and bloodstream. That makes it easier for your heart to pump. Diuretics treat high blood pressure and ease swelling and water buildup caused by some medical conditions, like heart failure. They also help make breathing easier.

Inotropes. This type of drug can work two ways. Positive inotropes signal your heart muscles to work harder. Negative inotropes tell your heart muscles to beat with less force. Inotropic therapy is often given through an IV in your vein. You may need positive inotropes if you have end-stage heart failure. It can help relieve and control your symptoms.

Proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors. You may get this class of cholesterol-lowering drugs if diet and statin treatments aren’t helping. They block a liver protein called PCSK9 that hinders your liver’s ability to get rid of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Vasodilators. These relax your blood vessels so blood can flow more easily through your body. You may be prescribed one if you can’t take ACE inhibitors. Nitrates are a common type of vasodilator. But your doctor will choose the type that's best for you.

Some common heart disease drugs include: 

Accupril (quinapril). This ACE inhibitor can treat high blood pressure and heart failure, which can lower your risk for kidney failure, heart attacks, and strokes. Common side effects include coughing or dizziness. 

Aceon (perindopril). Your doctor might order this ACE inhibitor to treat high blood pressure. If you have coronary artery disease (CAD), it can lower your risk of heart attack or death. Among the side effects are body aches, coughing, and chills. 

Adalat (nifedipine). Doctors prescribe this calcium channel blocker to treat some types of chest pain or high blood pressure. You may have side effects that include coughing, trouble breathing, and swelling of your arms, hands, feet, or face. 

Altace (ramipril). This ACE inhibitor can improve heart function after a heart attack. If you’re 55 or older with serious heart disease, it can lower your odds of stroke, heart attack, or death. Among the common side effects: confusion, feeling dizzy when sitting or standing up, and blurred vision. 

Apresoline (hydralazine). Doctors use this medication to treat high blood pressure. If you’re pregnant and have blood pressure-related issues like eclampsia or preeclampsia, this drug can help control it. Apresoline can also be used in emergency situations if your blood pressure shoots up to unsafe levels. With this medication, you may have a skin rash, dizziness, or blurry vision.  

Aspirin. This is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). If you have chronic coronary artery disease (CAD) or a history of severe chest pain, aspirin can lower your risk of heart attack. Doctors also prescribe it to reduce your risk of repeat strokes if you’ve had one before. Side effects include stomach pain and confusion.  

Benicar HCT (hydrochlorothiazide and olmesartan). If you have high blood pressure, your doctor might use this drug alone or with other medications to bring it under control. The olmesartan in Benicar HCT is in an ARB that relaxes your blood vessels. Dizziness, tiredness, and flu-like symptoms are the common side effects. 

Brilinta (ticagrelor). Doctors prescribe this antiplatelet (anti-clotting) drug with aspirin. Together, they can lower your odds of heart attack or stroke if you have acute coronary syndrome (ACS), a condition that blocks blood flow to your heart. It’s also used to treat CAD or if you’ve had a heart attack, stroke, or a stent placed in your heart to prevent blood clots. You may have back pain, shortness of breath, or blurred vision when you take it. 

Caduet (amlodipine and atorvastatin). This medication combines a calcium channel inhibitor and a statin. You can take Caduet by itself or with other medication to treat severe chest pain or high blood pressure. It’s also used to lower your risk of heart attack or stroke. If you take it and follow a well-balanced diet, it can help lower unhealthy fat levels in your blood. Common side effects include coughing, dizziness, and a fast heartbeat. 

Capoten (captopril). This ACE inhibitor is used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, or to improve your heart function after a heart attack. If you live with diabetes, your doctor might give you Capoten to protect your kidneys. It can affect your ability to taste, or you may have a cough or feel dizzy. 

Coreg (carvedilol). A beta-blocker, Coreg helps gets your blood pressure under control. That can lower stress on your heart and arteries in the long run. Coreg can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded, especially when you stand up or sit down too quickly. Sitting or lying down slowly can ease those symptoms.

Cozaar (losartan). You can take this ARB to treat high blood pressure and lower your risk of a stroke. If you live with type 2 diabetes along with uncontrolled high blood pressure, this drug can be prescribed to prevent kidney issues. Side effects include a stuffy nose and back pain. 

Dilatrate-SR (isosorbide dinitrate). A vasodilator, Dilatrate-SR can prevent chest pain caused by heart disease, but it can’t control pain once it’s begun. It comes in a tablet, an extended-release tablet, or an extended-release capsule. Other brand names for isosorbide dinitrate areIsochron, IsoDitrate, and Isordil Titradose.

Digitek (digoxin). You may be prescribed this cardiac glycoside (also sold as Cardoxin,Digox, Lanoxicaps, and Lanoxin) if you have congestive heart failure. It can also treat an irregular heartbeat, or what's called atrial fibrillation (AFib.) Your doctor may try other types of medications first since digoxin can cause side effects like trouble sleeping, skin rash, blurred vision, and feeling lightheaded. 

Diovan (valsartan). This ARB is used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure. It can also improve your quality of life after a heart attack. If you live with diabetes, this drug can prevent kidney issues. When you first take Diovan, it can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. But if you notice serious side effects like muscle weakness, fainting, or irregular heart rate, tell your doctor. 

Effient (prasugrel). You may be prescribed Effient to prevent blood clots if you’re at risk of a heart attack, stroke, or other heart issues. Common side effects include dizziness, tiredness, and pain in your back, arms, or legs. 

Heparin. This medication can't dissolve clots in your blood, but it can prevent new ones from forming. Heparin can be used during open heart surgery, bypass surgery, kidney dialysis, and blood transfusion. It comes in a liquid that you inject directly into a vein. With this drug, you may have belly or back pain, or your gums may bleed when you brush your teeth. 

Imdur (isosorbide mononitrate). Doctors use this type of vasodilator to prevent severe chest pain (angina attack) that stems from heart disease. It comes in an extended-release tablet. Imdur's effects can last anywhere up to 10 hours. But if you’ve already begun to have chest pain, this drug won’t work fast enough to control it. 

Inspra (eplerenone). You can use this kind of diuretic to treat high blood pressure and heart damage after a heart attack. Inspra may cause dizziness, headaches, and trouble sleeping. 

Lopressor (metoprolol). This medication is a beta-blocker that treats heart failure, chest pain, and high blood pressure. Lopressor blocks some chemicals, like epinephrine, in your body from impacting your heart and blood vessels. It helps prevent strokes, kidney problems, and heart attacks. While taking it, you may feel sleepy, get dizzy, or have diarrhea. 

Lotensin (benazepril). You can use this type of ACE inhibitor to manage high blood pressure. That can help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and kidney issues. The most common side effects of Lotensin are coughing, headache, dizziness, and sleepiness. 

Lotrel (amlodipine and benazepril). Amlodipine is a calcium channel blocker. Benazepril is an ACE inhibitor. Both will help your blood vessels relax and lower your blood pressure. 

Lovenox (enoxaparin). This medication is an anticoagulant or "blood thinner." It can both prevent and treat blood clots, which lowers your risk of heart attack or stroke. You’ll get Lovenox in a shot under your skin, usually in your belly. You may have a burning feeling where you inject it, an upset stomach, or fever. 

Mavik (trandolapril). This drug can treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and boost survival after you have a heart attack. It’s a type of ACE inhibitor. Some of the common side effects are blurred vision, confusion, and trouble breathing. 

Monopril (fosinopril). An ACE inhibitor, this drug can treat high blood pressure and heart failure. Once you start taking it, you may have a cough, diarrhea, tiredness, or feel dizzy. 

Nitroglycerin. This drug can help prevent chest pain from CAD and ease discomfort during a chest pain attack. Because it's a vasodilator, nitroglycerin is able to relax your blood vessels and improve the supply of blood and oxygen to your heart. You may get it as a spray, capsule, packet, or tablet form.

Norvasc (amlodipine). You could be prescribed this calcium channel blocker to lower high blood pressure or reduce your risk of strokes and other heart-related events. It can also help treat chest pain and CAD. With Norvasc, you may have a headache, feel tired, or your heart may race or pound. 

Plavix (clopidogrel). Plavix keeps your blood flowing well. It prevents certain blood cells from sticking together and creating harmful clots. You can use this drug to prevent heart attacks and strokes if you have heart disease, an issue with blood circulation, or have had a recent heart attack or stroke. You can also use it with aspirin to treat chest pain. It could make you very tired or dizzy, or cause headaches. 

Potassium or magnesium. You can lose these electrolytes when you pee more than usual. (Like if you take a diuretic drug.) That loss can cause abnormal heart rhythms. Your doctor may suggest that you take potassium or magnesium supplements to make up the difference.

Prinivil (lisinopril). This drug is an ACE inhibitor that treats high blood pressure to prevent heart attack, stroke, and kidney issues. It can also help treat heart failure and help you live longer after a heart attack. Prinivil's main side effects are coughing, dizziness, and upset stomach. 

Toprol XL (metoprolol). Your doctor could give you this beta-blocker to treat high blood pressure and chest pain. It can also help lower your risk of hospitalization or death due to heart failure. Some people also use it after a heart attack to prevent further ones and lengthen their life. 

Univasc (moexipril). This drug blocks a substance in your body that causes your blood vessels to narrow. Taking it can lower your blood pressure and help prevent heart attacks, stroke, and kidney issues. Your doctor may prescribe Univasc on its own or with another medication. 

Vasotec (enalapril). This drug is an ACE inhibitor used to treat heart failure and high blood pressure. It can also lower your chance of hospitalization if you have heart failure.

Warfarin. If your body is making blood clots or you have a condition that makes them more likely, your doctor could prescribe warfarin. It can't dissolve blood clots, but it can help prevent new ones from forming.

Zebeta (bisoprolol). You may be advised to use this drug alone or with other medications to treat high blood pressure. Zebeta is a beta-blocker and works in a similar way to Lopressor (metoprolol).

Zestril (lisinopril). This medication is an ACE inhibitor that treats high blood pressure. It can help prevent heart attack, stroke, and kidney issues. It can also treat heart failure and help you live longer after a heart attack. 

Once you're prescribed heart medication:

  • Know the names, dosages, and side effects of your heart medications and what they're used for.
  • Always keep a list of medications with you so that your doctors know exactly what you're taking.
  • Take all heart medications as scheduled, at the same time every day.
  • Don’t stop or change medications without first checking with your doctor. Keep on taking a heart drug even if you feel better. Stopping medications suddenly can make your condition worse.
  • Stick to a routine for taking your heart drugs. For instance, you could get a pillbox marked with the days of the week and fill it at the beginning of each week. This is an easy way to tell when you’ve taken each day’s medications.
  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it’s almost time for the next dose, ask your doctor about whether you should skip or make up the missed dose. Never take two doses to make up for the missed dose; nor should you take an extra dose if you don't feel well.
  • Make sure to have your prescriptions filled regularly. Don't wait until you're completely out of medication before refilling prescriptions.
  • Use one pharmacy to fill all your prescriptions. That way, you can be sure you don't get medications that interact with each other.

If your doctor prescribes heart medication,  they believe the benefit to you outweighs any risks. Still, follow these simple safety guidelines.

  • Always remind your doctor about other medications and supplements you're taking in case there are any interactions.
  •  If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant, tell your doctor right away. Some drugs aren't safe to take during these times.
  • Know whether your medicine should be taken with or without food. Some may cause side effects or not work well if you take them with things like grapefruit juice, alcohol, or caffeine. Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist how to take your medicine so it’s safe and effective.
  • Don't take any over-the-counter medications or supplements until you've talked with your doctor or pharmacist. These drugs can make heart disease symptoms worse or change the effect of prescribed medications. Even common over-the-counter products like antacids, cough/cold/allergy medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and even salt substitutes can worsen heart disease symptoms or cause harmful effects when taken with some heart medicines.
  • Don't keep medications in the bathroom or where they're exposed to light. Moisture and heat can destroy how well they work.
  • If you're going to have surgery, including dental surgery, tell your doctor or dentist what heart medications you're taking.
  • Don't take less heart medication than your doctor prescribes to save money. You must take the full amount to get the full benefit. If you can’t afford your medication, talk with your doctor about ways to reduce the costs.

When you go on a trip:

  • Keep heart medications with you when you travel. Pack them in luggage that you will have with you at all times.
  • Have a list of all the medications you're taking, along with dosages and your doctor's phone number, in case you lose your medication.
  • If your trip crosses time zones, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how to stay on your dosing schedule.
  • On long trips, pack an extra week's supply of medications, the phone number of your pharmacy, and your prescriptions' refill numbers in case you need a refill.

If you’re caring for a loved one with heart disease, you may need to remind them when it's time to take their medications.