How to Take Heart Medication

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on February 04, 2021

Your doctor may suggest a variety of heart drugs to treat or prevent heart disease.

These medicines may help lower your blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels in your blood, or help your body get rid of extra fluids that put a strain on your heart's ability to pump blood.

Everyone's treatment is different. The drugs your doctor recommends for you may not be the ones your neighbor takes. But there are some general guidelines to keep in mind when you take heart medications.

Know what you take. Learn the names of your heart meds and how they work. Find out the generic and brand names, dosages, and side effects of the drugs. Always keep a list of your medicines with you.

Stick to a schedule. Take your drugs when you're supposed to, at the same time every day. Don't stop or change them unless you talk with your doctor. Even if you feel good, keep up with your medications. You can make your condition worse if you quit suddenly.

Get a routine for taking your medicine. Buy a pillbox that's marked with the days of the week. Fill it at the beginning of each week to make it easier to remember.

Keep a medicine calendar. Note every time you take a dose. The prescription label tells how much to take at each time, but your doctor may change that amount now and then, depending on how you respond. List any changes in dosages that your doctor prescribes.

Don't decrease your dosage to save money. You need to take the full amount to get all the benefits. Your doctor can help you learn about ways to pay less for drugs.

Talk to your doctor before you take over-the-counter drugs or herbal therapies. Some drugs, such as antacids, salt substitutes, antihistamines (including Benadryl and Dimetapp), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Advil, Indocin, and Motrin, can make heart failure symptoms worse.

If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it's almost time for the next dose, though, get your doctor's advice about skipping vs. making up the missed dose.

Regularly fill your prescriptions. Don't wait until you're completely out of medication before you get the next batch. 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 your doctor know.

Plan ahead when you travel. Always take your meds with you when you're on the road. On longer trips, take an extra week's supply and copies of your prescriptions, in case you need to get a refill.

Tell your doctor if you need surgery that you use heart medicine. If you're going to have general anesthesia, even for a dental procedure, let your doctor know what drugs you take.

Be careful when you stand up. Drugs that relax narrowed blood vessels may cause dizziness. If it happens to you when you stand or get out of bed, sit or lie down for a few minutes, then get up more slowly.