Debra Wood, RN
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medication categories 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.
Emergency medical personnel may begin treating you with medications before you reach the hospital. At the hospital, additional drugs will be given and you will likely receive medications to take at home after you are discharged.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (
Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers
Common names include:
Morphine is given to relieve chest pain.
Possible side effects include:
Nitrates help relieve chest pain by dilating the arteries, which allows more blood to flow to the heart muscle. Early in treatment, nitroglycerin may be given as a tablet placed under the tongue or infused through a vein. Long-term nitroglycerin may be given on a regular basis through a patch, paste, or orally to control chronic chest pain.
A drug to dissolve or break up blood clots in the coronary artery may be given via an IV. Early treatment, within 3 hours of the
heart attack, offers the best chance for good results. Your medical history, age, and condition may prevent treatment with clot-busting drugs.
During a heart attack, damage to the heart muscle can increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Unstable heart rhythms can prevent the heart from effectively pumping blood, and if serious, lead to sudden death. Antiarrhythmic drugs help the heart beat more normally, usually by suppressing abnormal beats or by regulating the heart rate.
There are a wide variety of drugs available to treat the various causes of abnormal rhythms. In emergencies, some of these drugs are given via an IV. Oral forms of medication are used to treat more chronic
arrhythmias. The main issue with these drugs is that unless the underlying rhythm problem can be corrected, they must be taken indefinitely. One of the more unpredictable side effects of some of these medications is the risk of making the arrhythmia worse. Talk to your doctor about the specific side effects or warning signs to watch for based on the drug you are taking.
Sodium channel blockers are a type of antiarrhythmic drugs. Examples of these medications include:
Beta-blockers are another type of antiarrhythmic drugs. Beta-blockers decrease demands on the heart and lower blood pressure. They may limit the amount of heart damage and help to prevent future heart attacks.
They can also be used for their antiarrhythmic effects.
Action potential-prolonging agents are another type of antiarrhythmic drugs. Examples of these medications include:
Another type of antiarrhythmic drugs, calcium channel blockers lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. These may be given to patients who cannot take beta blockers. They can also be used for their antiarrhythmic effects.
ACE inhibitors lower blood pressure and help lower mortality in people who sustain significant damage to the heart muscle.
Antiplatelet drugs help prevent the blood from clotting. They may be given when aspirin cannot be used.
They may also be given in conjunction with aspirin to people who have had an
Anticoagulants help to prevent the blood from clotting. It is often given to people during heart procedures or after a clot-busting drug treatment.
Statins are drugs that help to lower blood cholesterol levels. They may be prescribed along with a low cholesterol diet if you have
high cholesterol. Atorvastatin may reduce the risk of repeat stroke or heart attack.
may be given by emergency medical personnel and continued after admission to the hospital. Aspirin helps prevent clotting and reclosing of the artery. Aspirin should generally be taken with food to decrease stomach upset.
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
Acute coronary syndromes. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116779/Acute-coronary-syndromes. Updated February 22, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2017.
Cardiac medications. American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Cardiac-Medications_UCM_303937_Article.jsp#.VxEdKk2FMdU. Updated August 19, 2016. Accessed March 2, 2017.
How is a heart attack treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/heartattack/treatment. Updated January 27, 2015. Accessed March 2, 2017.
ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115392/ST-elevation-myocardial-infarction-STEMI. Updated January 30, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2017.
9/19/2006 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115052/Statins-for-primary-and-secondary-prevention-of-cardiovascular-disease: Amarenco P, Bogousslavsky J, Callahan A 3rd, et al. High-dose atorvastatin after stroke or transient ischemic attack. N Engl J Med. 2006;355(6):549-559.
Last reviewed March 2017 by Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
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