Heart medications

avocados

What you need to know

Long names. Different colors. Some you take once a day, others more than once. All the different heart medications can be confusing, but your doctor may use them to help you manage your risks and prevent heart attacks.

Learning about your medications, their side effects, and what they do can help you make the right decisions for your care.

Manage your meds wisely

Always keep a list of all of your medications, nonprescription drugs, supplements, and herbal products in your wallet or purse. If possible, bring all of your medications in their separate bottles with you when you visit your doctor.

Talk to your doctor right away if you're having trouble taking your medicines the way they were prescribed or if you're experiencing unpleasant side effects. You can also ask one of our pharmacists if you have questions about your medications.

Don't skip doses or stop taking a medication just because you feel better.

Plan to refill your prescriptions at least a week before running out.

Side effects and sexuality

Some heart disease medications can cause sexual side effects, and some  men with heart disease also have erectile dysfunction (ED). Don't be  embarrassed to discuss these issues with your doctor.  Here are a couple of facts you should know:

Couple with bikes Blood pressure medications may cause men to have problems getting or maintaining an erection and women to have vaginal dryness and a drop in sexual desire.

Three ED medicationssildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis)  — can lower blood pressure in a dangerous way when used with nitrates and alpha-blockers. While most men with heart conditions can safely use these medicines, men with severe heart problems, such as unstable angina or uncontrolled high blood pressure, should not take ED medications.

Common heart medications

Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors)

These drugs can treat heart failure, lower blood pressure, and prevent kidney disease in people with diabetes.

captopril (Capoten)
enalapril (Vasotec)
lisinopril (Zestril, Prinivil)
benazepril (Lotensin)

Angiotensin receptor blockers

These medications are used to treat high blood pressure but can help people with heart failure and diabetes who can't take ACE inhibitors.

losartan (Cozaar)
valsartan (Diovan)

Anti-anginal medicines

ranolazine (Ranexa)

Antiarrhythmics

These drugs treat abnormal heart rhythms.

amiodarone (Cordarone)
dofetilide (Tikosyn)
flecainide (Tambocor)
sotalol (Betapace)
propafenone (Rhythmol)
mexiletine (Mexitil)

Antiplatelet and blood-thinning medicines

These medications are used to prevent heart attacks and strokes. They also prevent blood clots in people who have abnormal heart rhythms or artificial heart valves.

apixaban (Eliquis)
aspirin/dipyridamole (Aggrenox)
cilostazol (Pletal)
clopidogrel (Plavix)
dabigatran (Pradaxa)
dipyridamole (Persantine)
edoxaban (Savaysa)
prasugrel (Effient)
rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
ticagrelor (Brilinta)
vorapaxar (Zontivity)
warfarin (Coumadin)

Aspirin

Aspirin helps prevent blood clots, which can block your arteries. People who take aspirin daily are much less likely to have a heart attack or die from a heart attack or stroke.

Couple playing tennis Aspirin alone isn't enough to prevent heart disease or strokes, so if you're  at risk for developing heart disease, or have already had a heart attack, talk to your doctor.

Don't start taking aspirin without your doctor's advice, because it can worsen some health conditions and interacts with several medications. If you also use ibuprofen or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for pain and inflammation, make sure you take the aspirin 30 minutes before taking the NSAID.

Aspirin and lipid-lowering therapy

Kaiser Permanente physicians pioneered a simple treatment of combining aspirin, a lipid-lowering medication like atorvastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, lovastatin, or rosuva, and a blood pressure-reducing medication like lisinopril, benazepril or enalapril.

It can help people with heart disease and diabetics who are over age 55 lower their risk of heart attacks and strokes. It works by lowering high cholesterol and high blood pressure at the same time.

Beta blockers

Medications in this family have a variety of uses, including lowering high blood pressure, regulating heart rhythms, preventing heart attacks and sudden death, and easing symptoms of congestive heart failure.

atenolol (Tenormin)
bisoprolol (Zebeta)
carvedilol (Coreg)
metoprolol succinate (Toprol XL)
metoprolol tartrate (Lopressor)
propranolol (Inderal)

Calcium channel blockers

These medications may be used to treat high blood pressure, chest pain, and abnormal heart rhythms.

amlodipine (Norvasc)
diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor)
felodipine (Plendil)
nifedipine (Procardia, Adalat)

Cholesterol and lipid-lowering medications

These medications can be used in combination or alone to lower cholesterol.

atorvastatin (Lipitor)
bile acid sequestrants (Questran, Colestid, Welchol)
ezetimibe (Zetia)
fenofibrate (Lofibra, Tricor)
fluvastatin (Lescol)
gemfibrozil (Lopid)
lovastatin (Mevacor)
niacin (Slo-Niacin)
pravastatin (Pravachol)
rosuvastatin (Crestor)
simvastatin (Zocor)
simvastatin/ezetimibe (Vytorin)

Not sure if statins are right for you? Use our decision guide on statins to help you think through your options.

 

Diuretics

These medications treat high blood pressure and reduce water retention, which is common in people with congestive heart failure.

bumetanide (Bumex)
chlorthalidone (Hygroton, Thalitone)
ethacrynic acid (Edecrin)
furosemide (Lasix)
hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ)
indapamide (Lozol)
spironolactone (Aldactone)
torsemide (Demadex)
triamterene (Dyrenium)
triamterene/HCTZ (Maxzide)

Nitrates

These drugs are used to treat or prevent chest pain. They are also used to treat symptoms of heart failure and may be especially effective for African-Americans. Some medications for erectile dysfunction (ED) can interact in a dangerous way with nitroglycerin. If you take nitroglycerin, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to take ED medication.

isosorbide dinitrate (Isordil)
isosorbide mononitrate (Imdur)
nitroglycerin patches (Nitro-Dur)
nitroglycerin tablets (Nitrostat)

Reviewed by Eleanor Levin, MD, FACC, and Anthony Steimle, MD, FACC, November 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

©2015 Kaiser Permanente

Connect to your care

Heart-healthy living

Get a personalized plan

When you know what steps to take, you can change your health.

Try an online program to quit smoking, manage stress, and more.