Heart Medications

Given the many conditions that affect the heart, it's no surprise that hundreds of medications have been developed to treat heart disease and related conditions. Medications are available to:

·       lower cholesterol

·       lower blood pressure

·       slow the heart rate

·       stop abnormal heart rhythms

·       improve the force of heart contractions

·       improve circulation in the coronary arteries (nitrates and other anti-angina medications)

·       prevent blood from clotting (anticoagulants (also known as blood thinners) and antiplatelet agents)

·       break apart clots that have formed in an artery or vein (thrombolytics, also known as clot busters)

·       remove excess water from the body (diuretics, also known as water pills)

The development of these medications have helped dramatically decrease death rates from cardiovascular disease in the United States and other developed countries.

Heart Medications Articles

Ask the doctor: Should I switch to generic Lipitor?

After a heart attack six years ago, I went on Lipitor because my doctor said it was proven to reduce the risk of a second heart attack. Three years ago, I switched to a generic to save money. Now that Lipitor is going generic, should I switch back? (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Can stopping aspirin cause heart problems?

I've read that if you take aspirin every day, stopping it temporarily increases your chance of having a heart attack more than if you had never taken aspirin. Is that true? If I need to stop taking aspirin for some reason, is there a safer way to do it? (Locked) More »

Peripheral artery disease often goes untreated

Peripheral artery disease often goes untreated until it is too late, and research suggests that millions of people with peripheral artery disease are not taking the appropriate medications to control it. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital estimated that at least two-thirds of the seven million American adults with peripheral artery disease aren't taking a statin, an ACE inhibitor, and/or aspirin, medicines known to protect arteries and the heart (Circulation, July 5, 2011). (Locked) More »

September 2011 references and further reading

Boden WE, O'Rourke RA, Teo KK, Hartigan PM, Maron DJ, Kostuk WJ, Knudtson M, Dada M, Casperson P, Harris CL, Chaitman BR, Shaw L, Gosselin G, Nawaz S, Title LM, Gau G, Blaustein AS, Booth DC, Bates ER, Spertus JA, Berman DS, Mancini GB, Weintraub WS. Optimal medical therapy with or without PCI for stable coronary disease. New England Journal of Medicine 2007; 356:1503-16. Borden WB, Redberg RF, Mushlin AI, Dai D, Kaltenbach LA, Spertus JA. Patterns and intensity of medical therapy in patients undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention. JAMA 2011; 305:1882-9. Maron DJ, Boden WE, Weintraub WS, Calfas KJ, O'Rourke RA. Is optimal medical therapy as used in the COURAGE trial feasible for widespread use? Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine 2011; 13:16-25. (Locked) More »

Update on aspirin

For people who have not had a heart attack, the question of whether or not to take a daily aspirin is a matter of weighing potential benefits against potential harm. More »

Surviving a heart attack: A success story

  Heart attack survival rates are much higher than they were a few decades ago, thanks to greater awareness, new clot-busting drugs, and expanded access to specialized cardiac treatment centers.   More »

Alternative to warfarin

People with atrial fibrillation are at higher risk of having a stroke because they are more susceptible to the blood clots that cause stroke. When the atria (the top two chambers of the heart) fibrillate (beat chaotically), blood collects in the heart, giving clots a chance to form. One of those clots can travel to the head, get stuck in a blood vessel there, and cause a stroke by depriving a part of the brain of the oxygen and nutrients it needs; some of the cells of the brain die, possibly taking with them the ability to move, speak, feel, think, or even recognize people. Warfarin prevents blood clots by making the platelets in the blood less sticky. It's a good, time-tested drug. But warfarin is tricky to use. Some experience bleeding problems like nosebleeds. Yet if you take back the dose too far to avoid bleeding, you're back to where you started: running the risk that a blood clot may form and cause a stroke. Doctors try to steer people down the middle by monitoring them with international normalized ratio (INR) tests, which measure how fast the blood clots. But people's response to warfarin is variable, and the drug interacts with a lot of food and medications. A good alternative to warfarin has been on the wish list of many "afib" patients — and their doctors — for years. (Locked) More »

Beyond the coronary arteries: Possible benefits of statin drugs Part I: Meet the statins

Statins can reduce the risk of heart attacks and other major clinical manifestations of coronary artery disease (CAD) by up to 37%, with the greatest benefit going to men at the highest risk. And since heart disease is America's leading cause of death, it's no wonder that the seven statin drugs are the best-selling prescription medications in the United States. A large body of research suggests they may also have important benefits beyond the coronary arteries. (Locked) More »