Know Your Heart Meds
You don’t need to be an expert on your drugs, that’s what your doctor’s for, but you should ask questions and know the basics about your heart meds.
Whether it’s a pill for high cholesterol or your blood pressure medicine, make sure you know the answers to these questions:
- What’s the name of my medicine?
- What does it do?
- What are its side effects?
- What can I do to reduce those side effects?
- How does this drug work with other drugs, dietary supplements, foods, or drinks?
- How much is a one dose?
- When’s the best time to take this medicine, like when you wake up, with breakfast, or before bed?
- How long will I take this medicine?
- What should I do if I miss a pill?
Helpful Terms for Understanding Your Blood Pressure Heart Meds
Blood vessels move blood through your body. These are the types of blood vessels:
- Arteries – These carry blood away from your heart
- Capillaries – These connect your arteries to your veins and help move water and chemicals between your blood and tissues.
- Veins – These carry blood from your capillaries back to your heart
Did you know? If you laid all the blood vessels of an average adult in a line, it would stretch over 100,000 miles.
Kinds of Blood Pressure Heart Meds
Blood pressure meds fall into 11 different classes, but they all have the same goals, to lower and control your blood pressure.
How It Works
Possible Side Effects
|Diuretics||Help your body flush extra salt and water through your urine.||
|Beta-Blockers||Reduce your heart rate and how much blood it pumps to lower your blood pressure.||
|ACE Inhibitors (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme)||Narrow your arteries and make you produce less angiotensin, so that your blood vessels can open up to lower your blood pressure.||
|Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers||Block your blood vessels from angiotension, so that your blood vessels can open up to lower your blood pressure.||
|Prevents calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and arteries, which makes your heart’s job easier, and helps your blood vessels open up to lower your blood pressure.||
|Alpha-Blockers||Reduce nerve impulses to your blood vessels to let blood pass more easily.||
|Decrease your blood vessels’ ability to narrow, which also helps to lower blood pressure.||
Source: The American Heart Association.
Kinds of Cholesterol Heart Meds
Depending on the type, cholesterol meds help:
- Lower your bad cholesterol.
- Lower your triglycerides, a fat in your blood that raises your risk of heart disease.
- Increase your good cholesterol, which guards against heart disease.
Types of Cholesterol Meds
How It works
Possible Side Effects
|Lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides and cause small increases in good cholesterol.||
|Bile Acid Binding Resins|
Questran (cholestyramine/ sucrose)
|Lower bad cholesterol.||
|Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor|
|Zetia (ezetimibe)||Lowers bad cholesterol, and causes small decrease in triglycerides and small increase in good cholesterol.||
|Combination Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor and Statin|
|Vytorin (ezetimibe-simvastatin)||Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.||
|Lower triglycerides and increases good choleterol.||
|Niaspan (prescription niacin)||Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.||
|Combination Statin and Niacin|
|Advicor (niacin-lovastatin)||Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.||
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids|
|Lovaza (prescription omega-3 fatty acid supplement)|
Vascepa (Icosapent ethyl)
Source: The Mayo Clinic
When Should I Take My Heart Meds?
Your body’s inner clock can affect how well some medications work. Since, you can’t read your body’s clock though, researchers have studied how well heart meds work when they’re taken at different times of the day.
According to a clinical trial from Medscape, blood pressure meds are most effective when taken at night. The random trial tested the effect of taking blood pressure meds at bedtime versus in the morning.
It found that treatment at bedtime was the most cost-effective and simplest strategy to reach the right blood pressure when sleeping and of getting a normal 24-hour blood pressure pattern.”
It also estimated that each 5-mm-Hg decrease in overnight blood pressure reduced the risk of heart events by 14%.
Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before you make a change to your meds or their schedule. You can also learn more about the importance of taking your heart meds regularly and on-time in our Health section.