Keeping Track of Your Heart Medicines

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

Treatment of heart disease usually requires a variety of heart medications. If you are tracking your heart medications, make sure to take the prescribed dose at the prescribed time, and get refills before they run out.

If you are caring for a loved one with heart disease, you may need to remind them when it's time to take different drugs, or you may actually need to give out the medication when it's time to be taken.

Following are pointers on tracking your heart medications and taking them safely.

Daily Heart Medication Tips:

  • Know the names, dosages, and side effects of your heart medications and what they are used for.
  • Always keep a list of the medications with you so that ALL your doctors know exactly what you are taking.
  • Heart medications need to be taken as scheduled, at the same time every day. Medications should not be stopped or changed without first consulting with your doctor. Continue taking a heart drug even if you feel better; stopping medications suddenly can make your condition worse.
  • Develop a routine for taking your heart drugs. Get a pillbox that is marked with the days of the week, and fill the pillbox at the beginning of each week. This is an easy way to tell when each day's medications have been taken.
  • If a dose is missed, take it as soon as you remember to take it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, ask your doctor about skipping versus making up the missed dose. Two doses should never be taken to make up for the dose missed; nor should they be taken if you don't feel well.
  • Make sure prescriptions are filled regularly, and if you have questions, write them down and ask the pharmacist. Don't wait until you're completely out of medication before filling prescriptions.
  • Use one pharmacist to fill your prescriptions. That way, you can make sure you don't get medications that counteract each other.

Safety Tips for Heart Medication:

  • Don't take less heart medication than your doctor prescribes in order to save money. You have to take the full amount in order to get the full benefits. If medication costs are too high, talk with your doctor about ways to reduce the costs.
  • Don't take any over-the-counter medications or herbal therapies until you've consulted with your doctor or pharmacist. These drugs can make heart disease symptoms worse and/or change the effect of prescribed medications. Even common drugs such as antacids, salt substitutes, cough/cold/allergy medications (including Benadryl, Dimetapp, Sudafed, or Afrin nasal spray), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs, such as Advil, Motrin, and Aleve) can worsen heart disease symptoms or cause harmful effects when taken with some heart medicines.
  • Don't store medications in the bathroom or where they are exposed to light. Moisture and heat can destroy their effectiveness.
  • If you're going to have surgery -- including dental surgery -- be sure to tell your doctor or dentist what heart medications you're taking.

Heart Medication Travel Tips:

  • Keep heart medications with you when traveling. Don't pack them in luggage that you don't plan to keep with you at all times; luggage that is checked can be lost or delayed in getting to you.
  • Keep a separate list of all the medications you're taking, along with your doctor's phone number, dosing intervals, and dosage sizes -- in case you lose your medications.
  • If you are taking a flight that crosses time zones, make sure you maintain the right dosing frequency.
  • If you're taking a long trip, 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.

Tips for Specific Heart Medications:

  • Heart medications that relax constricted blood vessels -- ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers, for example -- may cause dizziness. If you get dizzy when standing or getting out of bed, sit or lie down for a few minutes, then get up more slowly.
  • ACE inhibitors, prescribed to lower blood pressure, may cause or increase cough. If coughing is keeping you up at night or interfering with your daily activities, contact your doctor.
  • Diuretics ("water pills"), often prescribed to heart patients to control blood pressure, increase how often you go to the bathroom. If you take a single dose of diuretic each day, take it in the morning. If you take two doses of a diuretic each day, take the second dose no later than late afternoon so you can sleep through the night (without having to get up and urinate). However, promising evidence has shown that if you also have type 2 diabetes or chronic kidney disease, taking a dose before bedtime may help better control your blood pressure over time and decrease your risk for heart attack, stroke and heart-related death.
  • A warning: Because diuretics can cause dehydration (an excessive loss of water), look out for dizziness, extreme thirst, dry mouth, less urine output, dark-colored urine, or constipation. If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor. Don't just assume that you need more fluids.

WebMD Medical Reference


Sources: American Heart Association web site: ''Quick Tips for Taking Medications'' and "Types of Blood Pressure Medications.'' Hermida RC. Diabetes Care, June 2011. Hermida, RC. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, published online Oct. 24, 2011. ''Medical Guidelines for Airline Passengers,'' Aerospace Medical Association, May 2002.



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