Heart Failure - Medications

You probably will need to take several medicines to treat heart failure, even if you don't have symptoms yet.

Medicines don't cure heart failure. But they can help your heart work better and improve symptoms.

Medicines can:

  • Relieve or control symptoms.
  • Treat other health problems you have, such as coronary artery disease.
  • Improve your daily quality of life.
  • Slow the rate at which your heart failure gets worse.
  • Reduce the chance of other problems from heart failure, such as stroke.
  • Reduce hospital stays.
  • Help you live as long as possible.

It's very important to take your medicines exactly as your doctor says. If you don't, your heart failure may get worse or you may get sudden heart failure.

Heart Failure: Taking Medicines Properly

The medicines you take will depend on the type of heart failure you have. The most commonly used medicines are listed below.

Medicines for pumping problems (heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, or systolic heart failure)

  • ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) relax and widen blood vessels. This makes it easier for blood to flow.
  • Aldosterone receptor antagonists, a type of diuretic, make the kidneys get rid of extra fluid.
  • ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers) make it easier for blood to flow through the vessels. You might take an ARB that is combined with another medicine in one pill.
  • Beta-blockers slow the heart rate. They also may help the heart fill with blood more completely.
  • Digoxin helps the heart pump more blood with each beat.
  • Diuretics help relieve symptoms like swelling in the legs.
  • Hydralazine taken with a nitrate widens blood vessels. This medicine can lower blood pressure and reduce the workload on the heart.
  • Ivabradine slows the heart rate. This medicine may help prevent some people from being hospitalized for heart failure.

Medicines for filling problems (heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, or diastolic heart failure)

Other medicines

You also may take other medicines for health problems that can cause heart failure or for problems caused by heart failure.

Talk to your doctor before you take any over-the-counter medicines. Some of them might make your symptoms worse.

Heart Failure: Avoiding Medicines That Make Symptoms Worse

More information

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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