Michelle Badash, MS
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
The following medications may be used to treat heart failure.
Aldosterone receptor blocker
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
Angiotensin II receptor blockers
Common names include:
Diuretics help promote excretion of water and sodium from the body. You may have heard them referred to as water pills. This reduces the amount of work the heart has to perform.
Possible general side effects include:
Common names include eplerenone
Aldosterone receptor blockers are generally used to treat
high blood pressure. The drug may be used to treat people who develop heart failure following an acute heart attack.
Common names include:
ACE inhibitors prevent the body from creating angiotensin II, a substance in the blood that causes vessels to tighten and raises blood pressure. As a result, ACE inhibitors relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and ease the heart’s workload. A number of studies have shown that ACE inhibitors are beneficial in reducing symptoms and prolonging life in people with heart failure. These medications are often considered in all people with heart failure.
Vasodilators help dilate or enlarge blood vessels. People with heart failure often have blood vessels that are constricted, which causes the heart to work harder pumping blood through the vessels. Vasodilators address this problem.
These are a newer class of medications similar to ACE inhibitors, but with a significantly lower frequency of cough as a side effect. The general side effects in angiotensin II receptor blockers were similar to that of placebos in most studies. Like ACE inhibitors, they may have very rare, but severe side effects. In selected groups of people with severe heart failure, ACE inhibitors may be used along with ARBs.
Possible side effects:
Beta-blockers help slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. They are used for mild-to-moderate heart failure and are often used in conjunction with other medications such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and digoxin.
Also known as digitalis, this medication increases the strength of the heart contractions, slows the heartbeat, and controls abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation.
Possible side effects include:
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
Note: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can worsen your condition. Talk to your doctor about other medications you may be able to take.
ACCF/AHA Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Heart Failure in Adults. A Report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines.
Flather MD, Yusuf S, et al. Long-term ACE-inhibitor therapy in patients with heart failure or left-ventricular dysfunction: a systematic overview of data from individual patients. ACE-Inhibitor Myocardial Infarction Collaborative Group.
Heart failure. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 20, 2013. Accessed October 9, 2013.
Heart failure medications. American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/PreventionTreatmentofHeartFailure/Heart-Failure-Medications_UCM_306342_Article.jsp. Updated October 12, 2012. Accessed October 9, 2013.
How is heart failure treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hf/treatment.html. Updated January 9, 2012. Accessed October 9, 2013.
4/2/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Choosing wisely. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 26, 2014. Accessed April 2, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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