Skip to Content
UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital
SHARE TEXT

Taking Medicines for Heart Conditions

What do I need to know if I am taking medicine for my heart condition?

The treatment of most heart conditions requires the use of prescription drugs. In fact, many people need to take many different pills, several times each day, to treat their heart conditions.

Follow your doctor's instructions

Medicines only work if they are taken properly. So it is very important to understand how many times per day each medicine should be taken and exactly which dosage you should be taking. It is also extremely important that you take these drugs at the prescribed times and in the prescribed dosages. If you do not take your medicines the way they are prescribed, they may not work properly. Not following your doctor's instructions may result in ineffective treatment that may lead to serious complications of your condition.

Adding a medicine regimen into your lifestyle can be a challenge and requires a strong commitment on your part. Your medicine schedule needs to become a routine part of your daily activities. If you have trouble remembering when to take your medicines, you may find the following tips useful.

Managing your medicines

  • Organize your medicines in a pillbox so that you do not mistakenly skip any doses.
  • Set a watch alarm to avoid missing scheduled medicine times.
  • Schedule medicine times on a handheld computer or in an appointment book.
  • Ask a friend or family member to help you organize your medicines and remind you when it is time to take them.
  • Keep a detailed list of all medicines you are on, including a description of their color and shape. If your doctor changes your medicines, it will be easier to tell them apart.
  • Take medicines at the same time every day in order to incorporate them into your regular schedule.
  • Carry an extra dose of medicines with you when leaving the house, just in case you are unable to return home in time for the next dose.

Keeping good records

Keep detailed records of your medicine treatment, including:

  • A notebook with an up-to-date list of the names and dosages of your medicines.
  • A list of medicines that you used to take and notes about why they were discontinued.
  • A list of any medicines you are allergic to or had an adverse reaction to and descriptions of each allergic or adverse reaction.
  • The name and phone number of your pharmacy.
  • The names, phone numbers, and addresses of all your doctors.
  • Charts of your weight, blood pressure, and heart rate (as often as they are measured).

What if I miss a dose of my medicine?

If you miss a dose of one of your medicines, you should discuss the situation with your doctor or a nurse. For some medicines, missing one or two doses does not cause a major problem. For other medicines, missing a single dose can cause serious problems.

You should NOT assume that if you miss a single dose, the next dose should be doubled. Many medicines can cause significant problems and even long-term health concerns if taken in a double dose.

Changes in your medicine treatment

It may also take some trial and error for you and your doctor to find a medicine or combination of medicines that effectively manages your condition and symptoms. For this reason, you may end up trying a range of medicines within one medicine class or across a number of medicine classes.

Make sure that you discuss any changes in your medicines with your doctor. Your medicine regimen has been prescribed for a reason, and even slight changes can greatly affect its effectiveness.

Interactions with other medicines

The medicines your doctor prescribes may sometimes interact with other prescription or nonprescription medicines as well as any other dietary supplements or herbal remedies. It is therefore important to be aware of which substances will interfere with your treatment regimen. You should tell your doctor about every substance you are taking on a regular basis, whether it is a prescription medicine, an over-the-counter remedy, or an illegal drug.

What important facts should I know about medicines for heart conditions?

The treatment of most cardiac conditions requires the use of prescription medicines. The amount of time that you will be required to take medicines will vary depending upon your specific medical condition. Some people will stop taking medicines when an appropriate level of rehabilitation has been reached. Other people will be required to take medicines for the rest of their lives.

Your doctor may prescribe many medicines for you. Your ability to know and understand the purpose of each medicine is important. For each medicine, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are the generic and pharmaceutical names?
  • What is the correct dosage?
  • When and how often should I take it?
  • What is it supposed to do inside my body?
  • What side effects can I expect?
By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Theresa O'Young, PharmD - Clinical Pharmacy
Last Revised March 9, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.