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Medicines for Heart Failure: Care Instructions


Most people with heart failure are helped by taking several medicines to protect their heart. Medicines may be used to help you feel better, have a better quality of life, stay out of the hospital, and live longer. They may help your heart work better.

You might not feel better right away. But give it time, and keep taking your medicines. Most people start to see improvements and feel better over time.

It's important to take all your medicines exactly as prescribed to get the best results. They can also cause side effects. If you think that any of your medicines are causing side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They may be able to help by changing the medicine or the dose.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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.

What medicines are used for heart failure?

This list includes most of the common medicines used to treat heart failure. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.

  • Aldosterone receptor antagonists. These are a type of diuretic. They make the kidneys get rid of extra fluid and lower blood pressure. They also help keep the heart muscle healthy.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These relax and widen blood vessels. This makes it easier for blood to flow through the vessels.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). These relax and widen blood vessels. This makes it easier for blood to flow through the vessels.
  • Angiotensin receptor neprilysin inhibitors (ARNIs). These also make it easier for blood to flow through the vessels.
  • Beta-blockers. These slow the heart rate. They also lower the workload on the heart.
  • Diuretics. These reduce swelling. They do this by helping the kidneys get rid of excess fluid. They also help prevent fluid buildup in the lungs.
  • Hydralazine. This may be taken with a nitrate to widen blood vessels. It can lower blood pressure and reduce the workload on the heart.
  • Ivabradine. This slows the heart rate.
  • SGLT2 inhibitors. These help the kidneys get rid of excess fluid and sodium. They may widen the blood vessels and reduce the workload on the heart.

What can you do to make problems less likely?

  • Make a list of all the prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take. Include everything you take, even natural health products. Take the list to each doctor or hospital visit. Ask your doctor if there are any things on your list that you don't need. Find out if there are things you shouldn't take. Anytime you see a doctor, bring your list of medicines.
  • Give your pharmacist your list of medicines before you pick up any new ones. Ask about interactions with any other medicines you take. If you go to more than one drugstore, make sure each of them has your list.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to run your list through a drug interaction checker. This is a computer database. It checks for medicines that can cause problems with others. If you find a problem, talk to your doctor.
  • Do not start taking any new medicines, natural health products, or over-the-counter medicines without talking to your doctor first.
  • Know your medicines by name. Understand what they do. Know how to take each one. Read all the information sheets that come with your medicines. You can go online or find books that list the side effects and interactions of medicines.
  • Ask your doctor what side effects to expect. Learn what to do if you have one. Keep track of any symptoms or changes in how you feel.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

Where can you learn more?

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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.