Taking medication

Thinking about taking medications to help lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke? Learn some of the pros and cons

Making lifestyle changes such as modifying your diet and being more active can help lower your risk of heart attack or stroke, but they may not be enough on their own, especially if you have a family history of heart disease. You may be advised to take medication as well.

It is possible that your doctor will recommend a medication like a statin because your risk of having a heart attack or stroke is high, even if your cholesterol is not. This is because these drugs not only lower cholesterol but also reduce the chance of the plaques cracking, meaning no clot and no heart attack.

Despite the clear benefits of taking medication, some people, understandably, do have reservations – some because of practical reasons, others because of personal values and beliefs. 

What if I get unwanted side effects from my medication?

Some types of medication will work better for some people than others. This is because everybody is different. A medication that works well for a family/whānau member may not work well for you. 

Some people may experience one or more unwanted side effects (for example itching or tiredness) when they start a medication. These effects may go away with time, but if they don’t, you may like to talk to your doctor about changing your medication. It’s important to weigh up the benefits and risks of medication and decide if lowering your risk of a heart attack or stroke is more important to you, than the risk of developing one or more of these unwanted side effects.

If you have concerns about taking medication to lower your risk, discuss these with your family/whānau and your health professional. They can help you work through the benefits and risks.

Talking to your doctor about medications

Here are some questions that you may like to ask your doctor about any medications they suggest you think about taking.

  • What medications have you given me?
  • Why is it important that I take this?
  • What will happen if I don’t take these pills?
  • What does this medication do to my body?
  • What do I need to know about taking these pills? e.g. unwanted effects, instructions on how and when to take them?
  • How will I know if the medication is working and how long will I need to take it for?
  • What do I do if I miss a dose?
  • What checks are needed when I take these pills?
  • Do all my medications work well together?
  • If this treatment is not effective, what other options are there?
  • If I exercise and change my diet, do I need to take medications?
  • How can we make a decision together that is right for me, and takes into account my thoughts, beliefs and ideas? 

Whenever you are taking any medication, you should make sure you understand what it is doing for you, and what to look out for. If you are currently taking medication for your heart, do you understand your heart medications?

Learn more about heart medications