Medications to help prevent a heart attack

Which medications can help prevent a heart attack?

There are a variety of different medications that may help you prevent a heart attack. The medications your doctor recommends will depend on your medical history and risk factors for a heart attack.

The types of medications you may be prescribed include:

  • medications to treat medical conditions that increase your risk of a heart attack, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes
  • medications that reduce the risk of blood clots (which can cause heart attacks), such as:
    • low dose ASA (acetylsalicylic acid, e.g., Entrophen® and various other brands): can help reduce the risk of a first non-fatal heart attack and reduce the risk of death in people who have already had a heart attack
    • clopidogrel (Plavix®): can help reduce the risk of a second heart attack in people who have already had a heart attack
    • warfarin (e.g., Coumadin®, generics): may be used with other medications to help reduce the risk of a developing blood clots in people who have already had a heart attack

What do many people do wrong when managing their medications?

Despite the fact that medications are so important in preventing a heart attack, many people do not take their medications as recommended by their doctor. People may forget to take their medication, take less or more than their doctor recommended, or decide to stop taking the medication entirely. This means that they will not receive the full benefits of the medication.

What can I do to make it easier to manage my medications?

Use these tips to help you manage your medications:

  • Know your medication. Make sure you understand what it's for, how to take it, and what side effects to expect. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you're not sure.
  • Make it part of your routine. Take your medication at the same time as another activity you do regularly. Check with your pharmacist to see if your medication has special instructions (e.g., take with food, take on an empty stomach, take at bedtime), and if so, choose an activity that matches with these instructions.
  • Simplify. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about ways that your medication routine could be simplified.
  • Use tools. Ask your pharmacist about tools like dosettes (special containers with compartments for each dose), blister packs, or alarms to help you remember your medication.
  • Watch your numbers. Get regular medical tests as recommended by your doctor. Seeing the difference your medication makes in your test results (e.g., improved blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar) can offer a powerful reminder of how your medication is helping "behind the scenes" to reduce your risk of a heart attack .
  • Speak up about your concerns. If there's something that worries you about your medication, your doctor or pharmacist can help address your concerns.

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