You never thought that you would have a heart attack, let alone have one at such a young age. Cardiac problems run in your family, but you make it a point to eat healthy and exercise often to help strengthen your heart. Unfortunately, your efforts apparently weren’t enough to combat genetics, because after your daily workout routine, you began to feel a sharp pain in your left arm. You thought it was just a pulled muscle, but by the time you made it into the kitchen where your wife was making breakfast, your vision had become blurry and your chest felt extremely tight. You remember mumbling something to your wife about your breathing and then everything went dark.
You awoke at the hospital, covered in electrodes and attached to several machines. Your wife was sitting next to you with bloodshot eyes and several used tissues in her hand. She shakily explained that you had passed out. Once you got to the hospital the doctor diagnosed that you were going into cardiac arrest and gave you nitroglycerin and blood thinners to stop the attack. Thankfully it worked, but he wants to monitor you overnight to make sure.
As your wife finished telling you what happened, your doctor came into the room with several prescription bottles. He reiterated what your wife had told you, and explained that an electrocardiogram confirmed that you have tell-tale signs of coronary artery disease. They found several indications of plaque within the arteries surrounding your heart, which caused a narrowing of the passageway. This restriction of blood flow caused a clot, which lead to your heart having to work much harder to push blood through—ultimately leading to the attack.
To prevent further incidences, he prescribed you several medications to help thin out your blood, to make it easier to flow through the restricted arteries, as well as additional medication to help relax your heart so it doesn’t pump as hard. Although he was confident that these drugs will help your heart, he made sure to tell you that they could potentially cause side effects.
Should you be worried? What types of cardiac drugs work so well that they bypass healthy and become dangerous?
Questioning the Risks of Certain Kinds of Cardiac Drugs
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 720,000 people a year suffer heart attacks—600,000 of which are fatal. Many who survive their initial heart attack are diagnosed as having perpetual heart failure, requiring medications to prevent future attacks and increase life expectancy. The CDC estimates that in the United States, over five-million people currently have heart failure. This alarming fact shows why cardiac medication is extremely important for the continued health of our country and loved ones.
As with most medications, there are many different types, brands, and formulas created to treat the various afflictions you could be suffering from. Variations allow your doctor to pick and choose the right cocktail of drugs for your specific ailment. However, many of these drug types pose extreme risks if the dosage isn’t calculated perfectly, is taken improperly, or is used in combination with other drugs.
Medications to pay particular attention to are:
- Anticoagulants (blood thinners). Blood thinners help prevent harmful clots from forming in the blood vessels by diluting the blood to prevent coagulation and the formation of blood clot blockages. It is often prescribed to prevent recurrent strokes and heart attacks.
- Beta blockers. Beta blockers decrease your heart rate and cardiac output, helping to lower blood pressure. This allows your heart to beat slower and with less force, keeping it from becoming too strained. It’s often used to prevent heart attacks from reoccurring.
- Cholesterol stabilizers. Various medications can lower blood cholesterol levels. They may be prescribed individually or in combination with other drugs. Some affect the liver, some work in the intestines, and some interrupt the formation of cholesterol from circulating in the blood. They’re used to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, and lower triglyceride levels to prevent your heart from overworking.
- Diuretics. Diuretics cause the body to rid itself of excess fluid and sodium through urination. They help to relieve the heart's workload and decrease the buildup of fluid in the lungs and other parts of the body. They’re used to help lower blood pressure and reduce swelling, allowing the heart to function more efficiently and easily when moving blood throughout your body.
Decreasing Your Risk by Increasing Your Knowledge
When prescribed heart medication it’s crucial that you’re aware of your risks. Make sure you discuss any and all concerns that you may have with your doctor, as well as talk about the potential side effects and risks that these drugs may have on your health. It is important to get the right medication to prevent a heart attack, but not at the cost of having future problems.
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