Love your heart: How to get the most out of your heart medications

March 4, 2019 Providence Health Team

Taking your heart medications properly can reduce your risk of a major cardiac event.

Heart medications should be taken exactly as prescribed in order to be most effective.

Along with eating a heart-healthy diet, following a regular exercise plan, and getting enough sleep, taking your heart medications properly can help you stay well and improve your overall quality of life. Heart medications control high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and prevent blood clots — but only if you take them as instructed.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your heart medications:

Take medications exactly as prescribed. Always follow your doctor’s instructions about how much, and how often, to take them. With heart medications, you will likely need to be on them long-term. Don’t stop taking them without your doctor’s approval, even when your symptoms improve. Also, ask your pharmacist about automatic refills so that your medications never run out.

Share information. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about any other medications you are taking so that potential drug interactions can be identified and avoided. Ask about possible food interactions as well — and whether the medication should be taken on a full, or empty, stomach. Check with your doctor or pharmacists before taking over-the-counter medications, supplements, or herbals.

Read the fine print. Familiarize yourself with potential side effects from medications; your pharmacist will give you detailed information when you pick up your prescriptions. Not only will this help to avoid experiencing something unexpected, you’ll also be better prepared to know what is considered normal vs. when it’s time to see a provider. In case of emergency, dial 911.

Be organized. The more medications you are taking, the more complicated tracking them can be. We recommend that you take some time to put appropriate systems in place. There are a variety of methods to track medications — a plastic pillbox with days of the week can be very helpful. Another method is to check off boxes on a calendar after each dose is taken. Or, some patients find a smartphone medication tracker app an essential tool. Develop a routine that works for you — and stick with it. It is also a good idea to keep a list of medications, doses, and instructions with you at all times.

Download our free medication tracker to print and post on your fridge:

Knowledge is power. The more you understand about the potential benefits of taking a medication, the more likely you are to continue taking it. So, ask your doctor some questions to boost your knowledge: How will this medication help me? What would happen if I stopped taking it? Are there any alternatives? The American Heart Association has a helpful list of heart rehab questions that you might consider asking at your next doctor appointment. Here are some questions to ask when your doctor recommends a test.

Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is not healthy, particularly in combination with many medications. If you do drink, do so in moderation. Save it for special occasions, if at all, and never engage in binge drinking.

Visit your doctor regularly for follow-up. It is important to be closely monitored by your physician when you’re a heart patient, so be diligent about going to follow-up visits as recommended. If you would like to know if you can stop taking any of your prescription medications, discuss the options with your doctor first.

Did you know you can book your next appointment on the new Providence Health Connect App for your mobile device? Download it today!

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Recommended for you:

A cardiologist speaks: How to think about heart medications

Why older adults should review their medications

How to be heart healthy at any age

Read and download our free Heart to Heart Patient Education Guide:

(Compiled and reviewed by the Regional Cardiac Education Committee, clinical staff and physicians in Providence Health & Services’ Portland Service Area)

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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