Heart Healthy Medications

– Hello,
my name is Michelle Anderson, and I am one of the pharmacists
at the St. Cloud VA. Today, I will be talking about
some of the medications that are often used to improve
overall heart health. There are many medications
that can help manage heart health, including aspirin,
blood pressure medications, and cholesterol medications. Even though these medications
are very important, they do not take the place
of lifestyle changes, such as improved diet
and exercise, that were previously discussed
today. It is important to remember
to take these medications exactly as they are prescribed
to get the most benefit. You may not feel any differently
when you take these medications, but you should continue
taking them unless instructed to stop
by your doctor. The medications are still
working in the background to improve your heart health, even though
you likely will not feel your blood pressure lowering
or your cholesterol improving. The first medication
we will discuss is aspirin 81 milligrams, which is also known as
a baby aspirin. It is used to prevent
heart attacks and strokes. Your individual need for aspirin should be discussed
with your doctor. It is typically recommended for
anyone over 50 years of age or for people who have already
had a heart attack or stroke. Next, we will move on
to talking about blood pressure. Blood pressure is a measure
of the pressure that your blood exerts on
the walls of your blood vessels. Hypertension, also known as
high blood pressure, does not always mean you are feeling
tense, anxious, or nervous. You can have high blood pressure
even if you feel calm or are not under stress. Having high blood pressure
for a prolonged period of time can lead to
many health complications, including damage to your eyes,
heart, kidneys, and arteries. It can also cause
a heart attack or a stroke. Your individual
blood pressure goal should be discussed
with your doctor. There are many types
of medications for high blood pressure,
and some of the medications can be used for
multiple disease states. You doctor and health care team
will work with you to select
the best medication for you based on your medical history. The first types of
high blood pressure medications are called
angiotensin-converting enzyme– or ACE–inhibitors, and angiotensin II
receptor blockers–or ARBs. These two groups of medications
work in similar ways to lower your blood pressure. These medications can
also be used to help protect your kidneys, especially if you have diabetes. Lisinopril and losartan
are examples. Common side effects are
cough and dizziness, or feeling lightheaded. Another type of medication
for high blood pressure is a diuretic, or “water pill.” Hydrochlorothiazide
and chlorthalidone are common examples
of diuretics. These medications can
also be used to help with extra water
in your body, which can cause swelling
in your legs or increased
shortness of breath. Frequent urination is
a common side effect of these medications. Calcium channel blockers,
such as amlodipine, can also be used
for high blood pressure. Common side effects include
dizziness or lightheadedness, and increased swelling
of your lower legs. Beta blockers can also be used
to lower blood pressure. They are often used in patients
with fast heart rates, heart failure,
and after a heart attack. Some examples include: metoprolol, atenolol,
and carvedilol. The most common side effects
are dizziness or lightheadedness and feeling tired. You may have noticed that all of
the blood pressure medications I discussed can cause
lightheadedness or dizziness, which is a common symptom
of low blood pressure. It is important to monitor
your blood pressure at home. If you are taking
a blood pressure medication and do not have a blood pressure
monitor at home, contact your PACT team to receive a monitor
and education on proper use. If the top number
on the blood pressure machine is consistently less than 100, or if you have symptoms
of low blood pressure, you should also
contact your PACT team. The last thing I will cover is medications to control
high cholesterol. Having high cholesterol
can lead to heart disease, which includes
heart attacks and strokes. Plaque and cholesterol can
build up in your blood vessels, which can cause
decreased blood flow. Pieces of plaque
can also break off and cause problems in your body. Certain medications can lower
the risk of these conditions when combined with
diet and exercise. The medications used
for high cholesterol are also used to prevent against
heart attacks and strokes. Having a high LDL–
or lousy cholesterol– has been associated with
a higher risk of strokes and heart attacks. However,
it is important to remember that you may benefit from these even if your cholesterol labs
are normal, because they are still working
to lower your risk of strokes and heart attacks. The specific medication and dose is based on
your personal risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Your PACT team
will work with you to determine which medication
is best for you. The most commonly used
medications for high cholesterol are referred to as “statins.” These have been proven to prevent heart attacks
and strokes better than other medications that were used
for high cholesterol before. Statins work to decrease
your lousy cholesterol. They are also thought
to help prevent the plaque in your blood vessels
from breaking off. Common examples include: atorvastatin, simvastatin, rosuvastatin, and pravastatin. These are often dosed
once daily, and some need to be taken
in the evening. Common side effects include
muscle aches or pains and stomach pain. It is important to
contact your PACT team with any questions after
starting any new medicines. You should also try not to
suddenly stop any medicines without first contacting
your PACT team. Thank you for joining us. If you have any questions about the videos
you have just watched, please contact
your health care team.