What types of drugs are used for treating heart disease ? | Health FAQS | It's All about your healt
6 Medications For Your Heart—Simplified
Millions of Americans take prescription heart drugs, and the numbers are rising every year. To help, we recruited two of the country's top heart doctors from the respected Cleveland Clinic to explain the benefits and the risks of each.
Brand names: Zocor, Lipitor, and many others
What they do:Statins lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels—by 20 to 50%. These drugs work by tricking the liver into removing more cholesterol from the blood than it would naturally.
What you should know:While some patients and doctors worry about the possibility of statins causing liver damage, there has never been a case solely attributable to a statin. It's up to the doctor's discretion whether she thinks regular liver function tests are necessary. In rare instances, statins can cause severe muscle damage (rhabdomyolysis) requiring hospitalization. If you experience extreme muscle pain after you start taking a statin, particularly if it's accompanied by tea-colored urine, call your doctor immediately. Mild muscle discomfort is more common (and less dangerous): It can usually be relieved by changing your dosing schedule or switching statins.
More from Prevention: Cholesterol News That Could Save Your Life
What It Does:Aspirin is used to prevent blood clots in patients with heart disease. The drug inhibits the effects of a powerful group of naturally occurring substances known as prostaglandins, one of which helps blood platelets clump together.
What you should know:If you have coronary heart disease, you need to be on aspirin—unless you have another condition, such as an active stomach ulcer, that makes it too risky. But if you don't have heart disease, it's generally best not to take aspirin in the hope of staving off cardiac complications, because the danger of serious bleeding (especially in the gastrointestinal system and the brain) outweighs the potential benefits.
3. Clopidogrel bisulfate
Brand name: Plavix
What it does:A kind of superaspirin, this medication is even more effective at preventing blood clots, particularly when used in combination with aspirin.
What you should know:Because clopidogrel is more potent than aspirin, it's also more likely to cause internal bleeding—about 3% of patients experience moderate or severe bleeding problems. Also, many people are "poor metabolizers" of the drug and obtain less benefit because their livers don't readily convert it into a form the body can use. There is a genetic test that can indicate whether a patient is likely to be a poor metabolizer, but it hasn't been shown to improve patient outcomes, so most often a doctor will simply prescribe clopidogrel for a patient and observe how she responds over time.
4. Warfarin sodium
Brand name: Coumadin
What it does:Warfarin, an anticoagulant, is also used to treat and prevent blood clots. Unlike aspirin and clopidogrel, it restricts clotting by blocking vitamin K—a nutrient used by the liver to produce proteins that cause blood to clot—and is more powerful than either drug.
What you should know:Warfarin is extremely challenging to use safely—it interacts with dozens of other medicines that either increase or decrease its anticoagulant effects. And, since warfarin affects vitamin K, which is found in green, leafy vegetables, abrupt changes in your diet can result in too little or too much blood thinning. If you're prescribed warfarin, you'll have to take frequent blood tests to monitor the drug's effects.
Brand name: Toprol-XL, Coreg CR, and others
What they do:Beta-blockers decrease heart rate and the strength of the heart muscle's contractions. Uses for these drugs include treating chest pain (angina), stabilizing uneven heart rhythms, and maintaining heart health after a heart attack or congestive heart failure is diagnosed in a patient.
What you should know:Beta-blockers were once also prescribed to treat high blood pressure even when no other heart condition was present, but they're now considered passe for this purpose—other drugs such as ACE inhibitors, amlodipine, and diuretics offer more protection against the complications of high blood pressure, which can include stroke. Also, beta-blockers can lower heart rate too much, resulting in dizziness or low blood pressure. They sometimes cross the blood-brain barrier, where they can cause nightmares and, occasionally, depression. Finally, people with asthma or other chronic lung diseases can't take beta-blockers because these drugs constrict the lungs' airways.
6. Ace inhibitors
Brand name: Prinivil, Accupril, and others
What they do:These medicines prevent the body from producing a hormone (angiotensin) that causes arteries to constrict. Although the drugs were originally intended to lower blood pressure, today cardiologists also prescribe them to prevent further heart damage in patients who have recently had a heart attack or experience congestive heart failure.
What you should know: Used alone, ACE inhibitors produce a moderate reduction in blood pressure, and a deeper drop when combined with a low dose of a diuretic (another drug used to treat high blood pressure). Though these drugs have been used safely by millions of patients, they can occasionally cause lowered kidney function, increased blood potassium levels, or a condition called angioedema (characterized by swollen lips), which can result in obstructed airways. These side effects usually improve when the drug is discontinued.
Video: What are some heart medications ? | Health FAQS | It's All about your health
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