There are many different types of medications you may be prescribed as part of a cardiovascular disease program. Typically, people with heart disease will need several medications or a combination of medications for the treatment of their disease and the prevention of other health-related problems. Your health care provider will make the decision regarding your medications based on the severity of your disease. It is important for you to follow the directions given by your healthcare provider regarding your medications, and to not stop any medication without first speaking with your provider.
This site will only discuss three major categories of heart disease medications; those used for the control of High Blood Pressure, those used to reduce high Cholesterol, and those used for Angina (chest pains). There are many more medications used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease and more are being developed every day. We have also provided links to help you in your search.
There are several different categories of medication used for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Diuretics: First-line medications include diuretics such as Hydrochlorthiazide or HCTZ, chlorthalidone, furesomide, and spirolactone). These medications help to control blood pressure by helping the body get rid of excess water and reduction of sodium (salt).
- ACE inhibitors and ARBs: Examples of these medications are Lisinopril, Enalapril, Candesartan, and Losartan. Both of these types of anti-hypertensive medication refer to controlling the effects of angiotensin on the blood vessels. Angiotensin is a chemical produced by the body which causes the blood vessels to become narrow and increases blood pressure. Controlling the effects by either inhibiting the production of angiotensin or blocking the binding of angiotensin allows the vessels to stay more open and decreases the blood pressure.
- Beta blockers: Examples of beta-blockers are Carvedolol, Metoprolol, Atenolol, and Nadolol. These medications work to lower blood pressure by decreasing the heart rate, the work load of the heart, and the amount of blood pushed out into the body.
- Calcium channel blockers: Examples of this type of medication include Diltiazem, Verapamil, and Amlodipine. These medications control the effects of calcium on the smooth muscles of the body, thus reducing blood pressure by lowering the heart rate and relaxing the blood vessels.
Cholesterol Reducing Medications
There are several different types of cholesterol reducing medications.
- The group known as statins include those such as Pravastatin, Lovastatin, Atorvastatin, etc. All of the statins work in the liver and help to reduce the total cholesterol, bad cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides, and to increase the good cholesterol (HDL). These medicines do have the potential to interact with many other medications (both prescribed and over-the-counter), so make sure to let your Provider know every drug and supplement you take.
- Fibrates. These medications, such as Gemfibrozil and niacin or nicotinic acid, work to reduce triglycerides and raise the HDL, or good cholesterol.
Other Cardiac Medications
Other cardiac medications you may be prescribed can include the following:
- Anti-anginal medications: These medications, such as Nitroglycerin and Isosorbide, are used to help ease chest pain. They work to widen the blood vessels, increasing the blood supply to the heart making it easier for the heart to pump.
- Anti-coagulants and anti-platelet medications such as aspirin, warfarin and heparin help to decrease the presence of clot formation by one action or another.