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Cardiovascular medications are used as a means to control or to prevent certain forms of heart disease. Many people with advanced heart disease may take several of these drugs, and drug treatment may change if the disease advances or improves. The reason people may require several types is because they may have numerous symptoms or conditions that need control at the same time. Understanding the various categories of these medications can be helpful. Yet it would be hard to keep track of every single drug intended to assist in heart disease because of the plethora that exist, and the intense research existing in this area, which results in frequent development of new drugs.
Types of cardiovascular drugs may be broken into groups depending upon their action or what they treat. Treatment categories are more difficult to describe since many of these medications may address several symptoms of heart disease and have more than one use. Categories that might describe drug actions include the following: statins, diuretics, anticoagulants, anti-platelet, beta-blockers, digitalis drugs, vasodilators, calcium channel blockers, and ACE inhibitors.
Statins may be better known to people as cholesterol-lowering drugs. When people are unable to control cholesterol levels through diet and exercise, doctors may prescribe different types of statins.
Diuretics are cardiovascular drugs that help to reduce fluid retention. These may also reduce blood pressure, though they usually aren’t first line blood pressure medications. When the body is retaining fluid, though, this can often make the heart work harder, and the intent with using diuretics is to reduce heart workload.
Anticoagulants lengthen the time it takes for blood to clot, which can help prevent formation of blood clots that might cause stroke. People who have artificial valves, who have had a stroke, or who are at risk for one may need an anticoagulant like warfarin to minimize future risk.
Anti-platelet drugs may be preferred to anticoagulants, and simple ones include medication like aspirin. These also work to keep blood clots from forming but through a different mechanism than most anticoagulants.
Beta Blockers have numerous uses. They may help control blood pressure, slow fast arrhythmias, and reduce chest pain associated with angina. The various beta-blockers result in a slower heartbeat that may help control numerous heart disease symptoms and which may reduce future risk of heart attack.
Digitalis is a good contrast to beta-blockers. Medications with digitalis stimulate the heart to beat more forcefully. Some people with arrhythmias may require this medication, and other times it is used when a person is in congestive heart failure.
Vasodilators like beta-blockers may reduce the work of the heart and they are often prescribed to treat chest pain resulting from angina.
Calcium Channel Blockers are another group of cardiovascular drugs useful in the treatment of some forms of angina, and may also be prescribed to treat certain arrhythmias or high blood pressure.
ACE (angiotensin-converting enzymes) Inhibitors decrease some blood supply to the heart which reduces its work. Cardiovascular drugs that fall into this category might lower blood pressure and increase heart function.
The number of cardiovascular drugs and even the number of categories is extensive. Doctors may use a combination of drugs, or may try some, only to switch to other types that appear to work more effectively for an individual patient. For those taking cardiovascular meds, it’s always important to understand their purpose and have facts about each drug’s side effects and interactions. This is especially the case when a person must take more than one medication, since some drugs may have very significant interactions with others or a combination of medications may result in more difficult side effects.