Reducing Heart Attack Risk With Daily Medicine: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

If you are at risk for heart disease, there are many medicines that can reduce your risk. These include:

  • ACE inhibitors. These are a type of blood pressure medicine. They can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes if you are at high risk.
  • Statin medicines. These lower cholesterol. They can also reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.
  • Aspirin. It can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke.
  • Beta-blocker medicines. These are a type of blood pressure and heart medicine. They can reduce the chance of early death if you have had a heart attack.

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 lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), benazepril (Lotensin), and ramipril (Altace).

Before you start taking an ACE inhibitor, 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 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.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • A dry cough.

Aspirin

Taking an aspirin every day can lower your risk for a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when a blood vessel in the heart gets blocked. 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.

Talk to your doctor before you start taking aspirin every day. He or she may recommend that you take one low-dose aspirin (81 mg) tablet each day, with a meal and a full glass of water.

Taking aspirin isn't right for everyone, because it can cause serious bleeding. And you may not be able to use aspirin if you:

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

Before having a surgery or procedure, tell your doctor or dentist that you take aspirin. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking aspirin beforehand. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.

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

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

Statins

Statins lower cholesterol. Examples include atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor), 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.

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?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are wheezing or have trouble breathing.
  • You have swelling in your face, head, neck, or tongue.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have severe muscle pain, weakness, or brown urine.
  • You have vision problems.
  • You have new bruises or blood spots under your skin.
  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have ringing in your ears.
  • You feel very tired.
  • You have gas, constipation, or an upset stomach.

Where can you learn more?

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

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