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Medicines important after a heart attack

After a heart attack, you may be dealing with many thoughts and emotions. But no matter how overwhelmed you may feel, you need to be sure to take the medicines your doctor has prescribed.

Most people who have had heart attacks need to take several medications for the rest of their lives, says Nanette K. Wenger, MD, a fellow of the American Heart Association (AHA) and a master of the American College of Cardiology.

In combination with lifestyle changes, these medicines can greatly reduce your risk of having another heart attack. Medicines often used after heart attacks include:

Aspirin to help keep arteries open and to prevent blood clots.

ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors to lower levels of a chemical that narrows blood vessels and allow blood to flow more easily. ACE inhibitors also help control high blood pressure and treat heart failure.

ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers) to block the effects of the chemical that causes blood vessels to narrow. ARBs are also used to help control high blood pressure and treat heart failure.

Beta-blockers to help reduce chest pain, control blood pressure, prevent a second heart attack and treat heart failure.

Nitrates to relax blood vessels and ease chest pain.

Calcium channel blockers to relax blood vessels, control blood pressure and reduce chest pain.

Diuretics to control blood pressure and reduce swelling by reducing the amount of fluid in the body and helping treat heart failure.

Digitalis preparations to increase the force of heartbeats and slow some types of irregular heart rhythms.

Statins to decrease the levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or bad cholesterol) in the blood.

Your doctor will recommend doses and combinations of medicines based on exactly what you need. It's important to follow the directions closely.

If side effects are bothering you, talk to your doctor. A different dose, medicine or combination of medicines can often help.

reviewed 7/10/2019

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