• Medications


    SecondsCount - Medications - Woman doctor writing woman prescription

    Medications are a very important part of staying healthy and preventing a heart attack or stroke. But to enjoy the benefits of medication it is extremely important that you

    • take the medication as directed by your doctor
    • do not reduce the amount of medication you take
    • do not stop taking the medication until directed to do so by the same doctor who prescribed it.

    For patients with cardiovascular disease, taking medication is usually a long-term commitment, perhaps lifelong. Therefore, understanding the medications you are taking and how they work is a key step in managing your cardiovascular disease and preventing a first, or repeat, cardiovascular event. In fact, for many patients, not adhering to a medication plan can have serious, or even fatal, consequences.

    How often have you insisted that your partner, child, or parent take his or her medicine to get better or stay well? Your loved ones want the same thing for you—a long and healthy life. So, take your medicine! If not for yourself, take it for the people who care about you.

    Why You Need Medication

    If you are at significant risk of heart disease; have had a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event; or have undergone procedures such as angioplasty , stenting, or bypass surgery, your doctor will prescribe medications as part of your treatment plan for primary and secondary prevention:

    • Primary prevention is whenmedications are prescribed to prevent heart disease. An example of this would be starting a cholesterol medicine before plaque begins to build up in the blood vessels.
    • Secondary prevention is whenmedicines are prescribed to limit the progress of heart disease or reducing its symptoms. For example, doctors may prescribe a beta blocker drug for a patient who has had a heart attack to control blood pressure and relieve chest pain (angina).

    If you or your primary care physician has any questions about the medications that have been prescribed for you, be sure to talk to your prescribing cardiologist before making any changes. Improving your cardiovascular health depends on carefully taking prescribed medication and maintaining ongoing contact with your cardiologist.Remember, caring for your cardiovascular health does not end when you leave the cardiologist’s office or hospital. It is only the beginning

    Know Your Medications

    The high cost of medication, as well as keeping track of what you take, how much to take, and when to take it, can be challenging. But if you have heart disease, medication can make you feel better and it might save your life. It is expensive, but frequent trips to the doctor or the hospital emergency room, can cost you more in the long run.

    To make it easier to face the cost and inconvenience of taking medication, think of each pill as a life saver or a life enhancer instead of a nuisance. Ask yourself, “What does this medication do for me? How is it saving or enhancing my life?”  If you don’t know, read the label. If you still aren’t sure, ask your doctor or ask your pharmacist. Once you understand, write the purpose down for future reference on the Know Your Meds Worksheet, give a copy to anyone involved in your care, and keep a copy with you.

    Types of Medication

    The following table lists the most common types of medications used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease:

    Meds table
    The types of medication listed in this table are not brand or generic names. If you’re not sure which type of medication you’re taking, ask your doctor or pharmacist, or look it up in an online medication database to understand the purpose of the drug and how it will help you.

    Side Effects and Interactions

    If a medication makes you feel bad in any way or affects your ability to function as you normally would, DO NOT stop taking it but DO tell your doctor. Medication is a critical part of your treatment and your doctor will work with you to alleviate the side effects by adjusting the dosage or trying a different medication. Each type of medication listed in the table above includes different medications, so if one medication has serious side effects or interactions for you (that may or may not be included in the list above), your doctor can prescribe a different medication.

    Help with the Cost and Inconvenience of Medication

    Now that you know why it’s so important to take your medication as directed by your doctor, and you’re committed to taking it, here are some suggestions for getting the medication that you need:

    • Know Your Medications and How to Take Them

    Keeping track of your medication and when to take it can be overwhelming. A good place to start is to know what each pill looks like and what it’s supposed to do. It will help you make sure you are taking the right medication and remind you of its importance. Learn more…

    • Poor Metabolizers (Non-Responders)

    Clopidogrel (Plavix), an antiplatelet medication, can be less effective for a small percentage of the population who carry a particular gene. Unfortunately, there are no specific signs or symptoms to help determine whether you are at risk. Complying with your doctor's recommendations is the most important thing you can do. Learn more…

    • Medication Safety

    It is very important that your primary care physician, cardiologist, and any other doctor providing care and treatment knows about all medication you take, including prescription drugs, supplements, and over-the-counter medication. Learn more…

    • How to Read a Medication Label

    Your medication labels provide important information about how much to take and how often, as well as important information taking it with other medication. Learn more…

    • How to Afford Your Medications

    One of the most common reasons for not taking medication is the cost. Yes, it can be very expensive. Don’t be embarrassed to admit that you’re concerned about the cost. It’s in your best interest to explore ways to afford the medication you need and to save money where you can with generics, discounts, free samples, assistance programs, and clinical trials. Learn more…

    • Know Your Pharmacist

    You might be surprised to learn that a pharmacist can answer many of your most pressing questions about your medication, including questions about insurance, generic drugs, interactions, safety, discounts, storage, and disposal. You might save a buck or two by going someplace new or ordering from online pharmacies but you won’t have the support, information, and peace of mind that you will have with a pharmacist you know by name and reputation. Learn more… 

    • Special Considerations for Older Patients

    As we get older, taking care of ourselves can become even more challenging. For example, how we respond to medication changes as we age because our bodies are changing. It is very important to discuss these changes and special considerations with your doctor. Learn more…

    • Tips for Caregivers

    Managing multiple medications is not easy, so it helps to have a caring team. Take the time to learn about all the medications your loved one is taking. Maybe you can offer some suggestions for helping them remember when to take their pills. More tips…

    SecondsCount - Medications - Doctor Writing Prescription for Cardiovascular PatientThe most important thing to remember about medication is to take it as directed by your doctor. Even if you feel great, hear something negative about it on the news, or another doctor tells you to stop taking it before a procedure, check with your doctor first before you reduce or stop taking your medication. Click here for some common questions that you might find helpful when you discuss your medication with your doctor.

  • More About Medications

    Type Size

    Antiplatelets, Dual Antiplatelets, and Stents

    When you are healing from an injury, your blood clots because of platelets—cell fragments in blood that clump together to prevent bleeding, such as the protective scab that forms where you are cut or scraped. But platelets can also clump where there is plaque (the build-up of fat and cholesterol) in the arteries that supply blood to your heart, which can contribute to a heart attack, stroke, or other problems

    How to Afford Your Medications

    The high cost of medications for cardiovascular disease is one of the most common reasons patients give for not taking their medicine. But when you consider what is at stake—your health and possibly your life—you must find a way to afford them. Don’t wait to fill your prescriptions until you can afford them. You need them now. If you are already taking medication but are thinking about stopping, skipping, or dividing up your doses to make your medication more affordable, don’t do it until you talk with your doctor. Your doctor and others can help you get the medication you need.

    Know Your Medications and How to Take Them

    If you have heart disease or have had a heart attack or stroke, you probably take medicine every day. You are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 48 percent of Americans take at least one prescription medication every day.

    Know Your Meds Worksheet

    Every time you go with your parent for a doctor’s visit, review the Know Your Meds Worksheet , understand the purpose for each medication, and eliminate any that are no longer necessary.

    Know Your Pharmacist

    We often overlook one of the most important members of our healthcare team—our pharmacist. Your pharmacist can do much more than fill prescriptions. He or she can also answer questions about your medications.

    Medication Safety

    Medication safety is best achieved through open and honest conversations between a doctor and patient. If, as a patient, you find challenges to taking your medication as prescribed or have concerns, discuss these with your physician. You are likely not alone in your concerns, and your physician, based upon interactions with other patients and his or her professional expertise, may have tools or suggestions to help you stay on track with taking prescribed medications. Open dialogue with your doctor about what medications you take is also the only way to prevent potentially harmful drug interactions.

    Medication Tips for Caretakers of Aging Parents

    With advances in healthcare people are living longer and many of them are looking to their children to help with their care. Helping aging parents is a challenge often compounded by distance, but there are ways to make it easier.

    Poor Metabolizers (Non-Responders)

    When you take a pill, your digestive system breaks it down just like food. Your body metabolizes and absorbs it through the bloodstream. Some people metabolize medication differently from the majority of the population. They are known as poor metabolizers of that medication.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Medications

    The following questions can help you talk to your physician about your medications. Print out or write down these questions and take them with you to your appointment. Taking notes can help you remember your physician’s response when you get home.

    SecondsCount Manage Your Meds Checklist

    Mix and match the following suggestions to help you successfully manage your medications.

    Special Considerations for Older Patients Taking Medications

    As you age, you will probably use more medications. And yet at the same time, you will have to afford those medications with a fixed income. If you’re concerned about that, ask your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company about ways to save on your medications.