Keeping up with Medications


Some medications for heart failure can help your heart pump better, and others can help relieve the symptoms of heart failure.

24% of return hospital stays occur due to not taking the proper medications


It is important to:

  • Take your medications exactly as your doctor tells you to
  • Know the names of your medications, why you’re taking them, how they work, and possible side effects
  • Know when and how to take them, if they have special instructions, how they work with other medications, and when to call your doctor
  • Have a consistent schedule for taking your medications; for example, always with breakfast or always right before bedtime. Setting reminder alarms and using pillboxes can be helpful
  • Refill prescriptions before they run out

If you don’t understand your medications or have questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Never change the dose or stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor.

There are many different medications you could be prescribed to help with your heart failure. Below is a list of common medications and what they do to improve your heart function or symptoms:

couple
Type of Medication How it works
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor Stops the body from making angiotensin (a hormone used to treat high blood pressure) so the blood vessels can relax. This lowers your blood pressure and decreases how hard the heart has to work. The heart pumps better and blood flow is improved.
Angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) Blocks the effects of angiotensin so the blood vessels can relax. This lowers your blood pressure and decreases how hard the heart has to work. The heart pumps better and blood flow is improved. May be used instead of an ACE inhibitor.
Beta-blocker Alters hormones that make the heart pump too fast with too much force. This lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate. May strengthen the heart’s pumping action over time.
Diuretic Helps the body get rid of extra fluid, which will decrease swelling and may improve breathing. Less fluid to pump is less work for the heart. May also be called a water pill.
Aldosterone antagonist Blocks the effect of aldosterone, a hormone that can make heart failure worse.
Digoxin Slows the heart rate. Helps the heart pump more blood with each beat so that more oxygen gets to the body.
Hydralazine and nitrates Lowers blood pressure and decreases how hard the heart has to work.
Blood thinner Helps to prevent blood clots (a mass of blood that forms a gel or solid state, blocking the artery or vein).
Potassium supplement Replaces potassium (an element that helps lower sodium levels in the body and provides heart health benefits) that is lost due to the effects of a diuretic.

Learn more about medications often prescribed for patients with heart failure.

You can use this medication tracker to list your current medications and doses. Always take an updated version of this tracker to your doctor’s appointments.