Heart Disease Medication Guidelines

Whatever the treatment protocol prescribed, the following guidelines should be kept in mind when taking heart disease medication:

  • Know the names of the medications and how they work. Know the generic and brand names, dosages and side effects of medications. People should always keep a list of their medications with them.
  • Take medications as scheduled, at the same time every day. People should not stop taking or change medications unless they first talk with the doctor. Even if they feel good, people should continue to take the medications. Stopping medications suddenly can make the condition worse.
  • Have a routine for taking medications. Use a pillbox that is marked with the days of the week, and fill the pillbox at the beginning of each week to make it easier to remember to take the pills. A home care aide can also provide reminders to take medication or an automated medication dispenser can be used.
  • Do not decrease the medication dosage to save money. A person should take the full amount to get the full benefits. The doctor may be able to recommend ways to reduce the costs of medications.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter drugs or herbal therapies without the doctor’s permission. Some drugs, such as antacids, salt substitutes, antihistamines (including Benadryl and Dimetapp) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (such as Advil, Motrin, and Indocin) can worsen heart failure symptoms.
  • If a dose is forgotten, it should be taken as soon as remembered. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, the doctor should be asked about skipping versus making up the missed dose.
  • Never wait to be completely out of medication before filling prescriptions. If there is a challenge getting to the pharmacy, if finances are a concern or if other problems make it difficult for medications to be obtained, the doctor should be informed. A home health aide can also assist with picking up prescriptions.
  • When traveling, keep medications available to take them as scheduled. On longer trips, an extra week’s supply of medications and copies of prescriptions should be taken in case they need to be refilled.
  • Before having surgery with a general anesthetic, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist in charge what medications are taken. An antibiotic may need to be prescribed prior to the surgical or dental procedure.

Tips for Specific Heart Disease Medications

  • Some medications may alter the heart rate, so it is important to take the pulse regularly.
  • Medications that relax constricted blood vessels may cause dizziness. If dizziness is experienced when standing or getting out of bed, the person should sit or lie down for a few minutes, then get up more slowly.
  • ACE inhibitors may cause or increase cough. If coughing is keeping a person awake or interfering with daily activities, the doctor should be contacted.
  • Diuretics (“water pills”) increase how often a person goes to the bathroom. If a single dose of diuretic is taken each day, it should be taken in the morning. If two doses are taken, the second dose should be taken no later than late afternoon to avoid interrupted sleep.

Diuretics can also cause dehydration (excessive loss of water). Signs of dehydration are: dizziness,extreme thirst, dry mouth, less urine output, dark-colored urine or constipation. If a person has any of these symptoms, the doctor should be called. It should not be assumed that more fluids are needed.