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Reducing Risk of Another Heart Attack With Medicine: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

After a heart attack, medicines help lower your risk of having another one. These medicines include:

  • ACE inhibitors or ARBs. These are types of blood pressure medicines.
  • Statins and other cholesterol medicines. These lower cholesterol.
  • Aspirin and other antiplatelets. These medicines prevent blood clots from forming in your blood vessels. This can help prevent a heart attack.
  • Beta-blocker medicines. These are a type of blood pressure and heart medicine.

All medicines can cause side effects. So it is important to understand the pros and cons of any medicine you take. It is also important to take your medicines exactly as your doctor tells you to.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

ACE inhibitors

ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors are used for three main reasons. They lower blood pressure, protect the kidneys, and prevent heart attacks and strokes. Examples include benazepril, lisinopril (Prinivil), and ramipril (Altace).

An angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) may be used instead of an ACE inhibitor. ARBs help you in the same ways as ACE inhibitors. Examples include candesartan (Atacand), irbesartan (Avapro), and losartan (Cozaar).

Before you start taking an ACE inhibitor or an ARB, make sure your doctor knows if:

  • You are taking a water pill (diuretic).
  • You are taking potassium pills or using salt substitutes.
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • You have had a kidney transplant or other kidney problems.

ACE inhibitors and ARBs can cause side effects. Call your doctor or nurse call line right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling in your face, head, neck, or tongue.

Statins

Statins can help lower your risk for a heart attack and stroke. This medicine lowers your cholesterol. Examples include atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin, pravastatin (Pravachol), and simvastatin (Zocor).

Before you start taking a statin, make sure your doctor knows if:

  • You have had a kidney transplant or other kidney problems.
  • You have liver disease.
  • You take any other prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, or natural health products.
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Statins can cause side effects. Call your doctor or nurse call line right away if you have:

  • New, severe muscle aches.
  • Brown urine.

Aspirin

After a heart attack, aspirin can help lower your risk of having another one. Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot that blocks a coronary artery. When this happens, oxygen can't get to the heart muscle, and part of the heart dies. Aspirin can help prevent blood clots that can block the blood vessels.

You may not be able to use aspirin if you:

  • Have asthma or certain other health conditions.
  • Have an ulcer or other stomach problem.
  • Take some other medicine (called a blood thinner) that prevents blood clots.
  • Are allergic to aspirin.

Your doctor may recommend that you take one low-dose aspirin (81 mg) tablet each day, with a meal and a full glass of water.

Aspirin can also cause serious bleeding. Be sure you get instructions about how to take aspirin safely.

Call your doctor or nurse call line right away if you have:

  • Unusual bleeding or bruising.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or heartburn.
  • Black or bloody stools.

Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers are used for three main reasons. They lower blood pressure, reduce angina symptoms (such as chest pains or pressure), and reduce the chances of a second heart attack. They include atenolol (Tenormin), carvedilol, and metoprolol (Lopresor).

Before you start taking a beta-blocker, make sure your doctor knows if you have:

  • Severe asthma or frequent asthma attacks.
  • A very slow pulse (less than 55 beats a minute).

Beta-blockers can cause side effects. Call your doctor or nurse call line right away if you have:

  • Wheezing or trouble breathing.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Asthma that gets worse.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.