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Getting the most from your heart meds

Older man with reading glasses looks at a pill bottle.

Taking your heart medicines consistently can help you feel better, live longer.

If you're living with heart disease, you may be taking multiple medicines daily. And that's a good thing—they can help keep you and your heart as healthy as possible.

But since each one comes with its own directions, that can be a lot to keep track of.

Here are four of the best ways get the most benefit from your medicines with the least hassle, according to the American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health and other experts:

1. Be curious. For your medicine to be effective, you need to use it correctly. That means knowing the answer to questions like these, especially if you're taking a medicine for the first time:

  • Why do I need this medicine?
  • How many times a day should I take it? At what times?
  • How much is a dose?
  • Should I take it with food or on an empty stomach?
  • Are there foods, activities or other medicines I should avoid while taking this medicine?
  • If I forget to take it, what should I do?
  • What side effects are possible?

Don't be shy about asking your doctor or pharmacist anytime you have questions like these.

2. Share information. To avoid dangerous interactions, it's important to let your doctor or pharmacist know about every medicine you take, as well as any allergies you have. That includes over-the-counter medicines, supplements, vitamins and herbs. If possible, try to stick to a single pharmacy. Having all your records in one place can help prevent a harmful mix of medicines.

3. Jog your memory. Your medicines will work best when you take them consistently. To avoid forgetting a dose, give yourself some simple reminders. You might:

  • Set an alarm to remind you to take your medicine at the same time each day.
  • Tie it to a habit. Take your medicine at the same time you do something else every day—like when brush your teeth or watch the news.
  • Load up a pillbox once a week. These organizers come with sections for every day of the week—and even different times of day—making it easier to see if you've accidentally skipped your medicine.
  • Turn to a buddy. Ask a family member or close friend to remind you to take your medicine.

4. Share your concerns. If you're experiencing any side effects—or are worried that your medicine is doing more harm than good—let your doctor know right away. Your doctor may be able to switch you to a different medicine that's just as effective.

Likewise, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're having trouble paying for your heart medicine. They may suggest lower-cost alternatives or put you in touch with a financial-assistance program to help with the cost.

In either case, don't stop taking your medicine without checking with your doctor. Chances are, you have options.

Reviewed 2/9/2024

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