Heart attack medication

Medication is vital to your recovery after a heart attack and reduces your risk of future heart events. See the common heart attack medications and their possible side effects.

You will be prescribed several medications before leaving hospital and you will need to keep taking them when you go home.

This medication is vital for your recovery and your ongoing health. In most cases a heart attack is caused by coronary artery disease. Although heart disease can’t be cured, medication reduces the risk of more heart attacks and other forms of cardiovascular disease. Medication can also reduce symptoms such as angina pain or breathlessness and improve your quality of life.

Be aware that if you were already taking medication for heart disease, your prescribed medications or your dosages may have changed.

Dr Fraser Hamilton explains the importance of taking medication after a heart attack.

For your medication to work most effectively you must take it exactly as prescribed by your doctor. So it’s important you have a good understanding of what your medicines are and how and when to take them.

Often it can be hard to remember all the information you received about medication while in hospital. You may be confused about what you’re meant to be taking or you may have arrived home with questions about your medicines still unanswered.

Here is a checklist of things you need to know:

  • Understand what each medication is for.
  • Know how much to take.
  • Know how often to take it.
  • Find out if it needs to be taken at a certain time of day.
  • Be aware if the medication interacts with any foods or drinks.
  • Find out if the medication interacts with any other medicines you are taking.

If you are unsure about any of these points contact your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. It’s a good idea to make a list of your medications and dosages and carry it with you.

When should I start my heart tablets?

Your doctor will start your heart medication while you're in hospital and it's vital you keep taking it, as prescribed, once you get home. It's very important you don't run out of medication.

You will have been given a prescription for your medications during your hospital discharge. You will need to fill this at the hospital pharmacy before you leave or at your local chemist as soon as you return home.

Ask your GP for repeat prescriptions and put a reminder in your calendar to collect a new batch from your pharmacy before your current one runs out.

Evidence suggests that the best ways to prevent having another heart attack or stroke are to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and lower your chance of blood clots forming in an artery. You will probably be prescribed a combination of medicines to achieve this. You may also receive medication to relieve any symptoms you might have, such as angina pain.

Some of the medications prescribed after a heart attack include:

Medication to reduce your risk of blood clots forming in your arteries

Medication to lower blood pressure

Medication to reduce cholesterol

Medication for angina

Many people worry about possible side effects associated with their new heart medications. Discuss any side effects you experience with your doctor, even if you think they are minor. Your clinical team may well be able to prescribe an alternative medication that better suits you.

A heart attack isn't a one-off event and is usually a symptom of underlying heart disease. Heart disease is a lifelong condition and for most people this will mean taking lifelong medication.

Once you’re feeling better you may be tempted to stop taking your medication, but it is important that you continue it as prescribed. Not taking your medication increases your risk of more heart attacks and premature death from heart disease.

Always talk to your doctor before stopping medication or changing your dose.

Find out more about your medication by searching our medications page.

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