Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Dangers of skipping medications after a heart attack

Heart Beat

Dangers of skipping medications after a heart attack

As wake-up calls go, a heart attack is a big one. You might expect that people who survive one would do whatever they can for their hearts, at least right after getting out of the hospital. That isn't necessarily the case. In a study from Ontario, Canada, about 25% of heart attack survivors didn't fill their prescriptions for potentially lifesaving heart medicines such as beta blockers, statins, anticoagulants, and aspirin. That simple act mattered. Those who didn't fill any of their prescriptions were 80% more likely to have died within a year than those who filled all of them.

Four out of five people with heart disease don't take their medications consistently, and the problem is worse among those who need pharmaceutical help the most "" people with diabetes, kidney disease, or heart failure.

Taking several medications every day isn't an easy task. Here are a few strategies that can help:

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