If you have heart failure, your treating physician will prescribe medications to help your heart function and to reduce the workload of the heart muscle. It is important that you take any medications exactly as prescribed. Report any side effects to your prescribing physician, but do not stop taking your medication until you have been advised by your physician that it is safe to do so. Suddenly stopping a medication can be dangerous. If you have concerns about your medications, contact your care team. For example, your hospital social worker or pharmacist may be able to help you find solutions if you are having trouble paying for your medications.
If you need help in remembering to take your medications, you may wish to try tracking your medications with SecondsCount’s Med Minder chart. This chart and other useful tools can be found on the Know Your Medications & How to Take Them page.
Heart Failure Medications
Medications commonly prescribed for heart failure include the following:
- Aldosterone antagonists. These medications are diuretics that can also reverse damage to the heart and are prescribe for patients with certain types of severe heart failure.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. This class of medications lowers blood pressure by widening blood vessels and allows blood to flow more easily from the heart. The names of these medications often end in “-pril.”
- Angiotensin receptor blockers. These medications lower blood pressure and are used in patients who do not tolerate ACE inhibitors well. The names of these medications often end in “-sartan.”
- Beta-blockers. These medications lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate and can improve the heart’s functioning. Beta-blockers can help improve the quality of life for heart failure patients and help them live longer. The names of these medications often end in “-olol.”
- Digoxin. This medication improves your heart’s pumping ability and slows down an irregular heartbeat.
- Diuretics. Diuretics, or water pills, cause you to urinate more often and thereby prevent fluid from building up in your body. They also help to lower blood pressure.
- Inotropes. Inotropes are used to improve heart functioning and blood pressure in cases of severe heart failure. These medications are administered intravenously.
- Potassium. Some heart failure medications can cause your potassium levels to drop, and potassium is important to the heart’s functioning. Do not supplement with potassium without talking with your physician. Some heart failure medications can actually increase potassium, so you do not want too much.
- Vasodilators. These medications relax blood vessels to lower blood pressure and reduce the workload of the heart muscle.
Medication is one of the cornerstones of heart failure treatment. To learn more about treatment options for adults and children with heart failure, visit Heart Failure Treatment.