Taking drugs to reduce your risk

As well as cardiac rehabilitation and lifestyle advice, NICE has recommended that you should be offered treatment with the following types of drugs. However, there might be some situations where you won't be offered all the drugs mentioned. For example, if you had a heart attack more than a year ago, you may not need treatment with all the drugs.

ACE inhibitors

ACE inhibitors (also called angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) have a protective effect on the heart and make it easier for blood to be pumped around the body. They also reduce blood pressure and relieve workload on the heart.

Antiplatelet therapy

Aspirin

Antiplatelets make your blood less likely to clot. If you are offered aspirin, you will normally need to take it for the rest of your life.

Additional antiplatelet drugs

You might be offered another antiplatelet drug (clopidogrel, ticagrelor or prasugrel) in addition to aspirin. These drugs are normally taken for up to a year after a heart attack.

Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers slow your heart and protect it after a heart attack. Additionally they lower blood pressure and relieve the workload on the heart.

Statins

Statins lower the level of cholesterol in your blood, so fatty deposits are less likely to form in your blood vessels.

NICE has produced advice on statins and lowering cholesterol (see Other NICE guidance for details).

Other drugs

You may also be offered treatment with the following drugs:

  • A drug called an angiotensin receptor blocker (also known as ARB) if you cannot take ACE inhibitors.

  • A drug called an aldosterone antagonist if you have heart failure (that is, your heart is not pumping enough blood to meet your body's needs).

NICE has produced advice on treatment for people with chronic heart failure (see Other NICE guidance for details).

Monitoring your drug treatment

Monitoring will be needed when you start your drug treatment, and there should be a written plan in place that is given to you and to your GP. This should include details about your drug treatment, and monitoring your blood pressure and kidney function.

You should receive a copy of your discharge summary, which is a brief report written by your hospital doctor, when you leave hospital.

Questions to ask about drug treatment

  • How long will I have to take the drug(s) for?

  • What is the best time of day to take the drug(s)?

  • What should I do if I get any side effects? (For example, should I call my GP, or go to the emergency department at the hospital?)

  • Are there any food or drinks that I should avoid?

  • Are there any long-term effects of taking this treatment?

  • What will happen if I choose not to have the treatment you have offered?

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