Tips for patients on heart medications

Ever wonder why you’re taking more pills than you have shoes in your closet? Do you ever think that you don’t “feel” any different after taking your heart medications? Do you have trouble managing your concoction of pills and forget to take doses? If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of these questions, here are some tips to help you manage your condition and medications.

Tip 1: Stay on track with your blood pressure medications to reduce your risk for heart attack and strokes 

Many patients with high blood pressure do not experience any symptoms. Even after starting blood pressure-lowering medications, you may find it’s a burden to take multiple pills which interfere with your quality of life, especially when you don’t feel any immediate benefits. It is important to remember that high blood pressure is the single most common risk factor for strokes, and a leading risk factor for heart attacks. Keep in mind that after starting these medications, you typically need to be re-evaluated every 2 to 4 weeks until adequate blood pressure control is achieved, then every 3 to 6 months to ensure that control is maintained. Being diligent with your medication regimen will greatly reduce your risk for experiencing a heart event in the future.

Tip 2: Monitor your blood pressure at home

Patients should speak to their pharmacist when choosing home blood pressure monitors to ensure that they are using them correctly to obtain the most accurate readings. It is advisable to take measurements in both upper arms, and they should be roughly equivalent. If they differ by more than 15mmHg, speak to your pharmacist or doctor, as this may indicate peripheral artery disease, a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. Also, choose a quiet room and take your measurements after five minutes of rest in a seated position with your back and arm supported. Take both morning and evening measurements over a period of one week, and average them out.

Tip 3: Watch your cholesterol! 

Patients who have a history of heart attack, angina, or bypass surgery, for instance, carry a dramatically higher risk of having another heart event in the future. Their risk of mortality is 20 times higher than those without known heart disease. These patients are usually treated with a statin, a class of cholesterol-lowering medications. Even if you do not have high cholesterol, but have other cardiac risk factors, statins are known to reduce the risk of having a first or second heart event in heart disease patients. The most appropriate choice of medication may depend on your ethnicity, concurrent medications, age, and genetic factors. Your pharmacist can suggest alternative doses and classes of cholesterol medications to help minimize side effects while maximizing benefits from statins.

Tip 4: Ask your pharmacist to help you

While patients on heart medications often need to take multiple pills to manage their condition, did you know that there are some single-pill combination medications which may help simplify your daily routine? Some pharmacists also offer compliance packaging to help you organize all your medications and remind you when to take them. Speak to your pharmacist if those options may be right for you.

The choice of heart medication may also have a favourable effect on symptoms of other medical conditions, such as migraines, prostate conditions, tremors, osteoporosis, thyroid issues, and more. Speak to your pharmacist about how other conditions may be affected by your heart medication.

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