Dr Simon Kennon MB ChB, FRCP, MD Consultant Cardiologist

Medication

There a variety of medical treatments for heart disease which include medications, surgery and other medical procedures.

Medications

Medications for heart conditions aim to reduce symptoms and help you to live longer. They work by helping the heart to beat properly and regularly and circulate blood around the body without obstruction.

As an overview, it can be helpful to view these medications in terms of the different ways in which they work. Medications which are commonly prescribed include those which:

  • Lower blood pressure. These include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or beta blockers; cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statins or fibrates.
  • Thin the blood and prevent clots. Otherwise known as anticoagulants and antiplatelets, they include daily aspirin therapy, warfarin and heparin.
  • Lower cholesterol such as statins or fibrates. When there is too much cholesterol (fatty substance) in the blood, it can build up in the walls of the arteries and restrict blood flow.
  • Normalize the heart’s rhythm. Anti-arrhythmic medications can reduce episodes of rapid hear beating or slow down the heart when an episode occurs.
  • Open the blood vessels (vasodilators). They work directly on the muscles in the walls of your arteries, preventing the muscles from tightening and the walls from narrowing. As a result, blood flows more easily through your arteries, your heart doesn't have to pump as hard and your blood pressure is reduced. A few better known examples of vasodilators include ACE inhibitors, nitrates and calcium channel blockers.
  • Reduce water retention. Diuretics are commonly used to ease fluid retention. This is taken in addition to an ACE inhibitor and beta-blocker. Diuretics work on the kidneys and make you pass out extra urine. This helps to clear excess body fluid that builds up.

Surgery and other medical procedures

There are many different surgical procedures to help heart conditions. They range from opening blocked arteries by implanting tubes or stents to keep them open, bypass surgery where the surgeon builds a bypass around a blocked artery, heart valve replacement or repair, implantation of a pacemaker to regulate the heart beat and heart transplantation. More information on many of these procedures can be found on this site.