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Monthly Archives: May 2008

Different Types of Heart Disease Medications

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What are the different types of heart disease medications?

If you have coronary heart disease (CHD) or are at risk of developing it, your health care professional may prescribe medication to treat your condition, lower your blood cholesterol, or help you to lower your blood







But have you wondered why there are so many different types of heart medication available, and what the differences between them are? 

This article briefly lists the main categories and what types of treatment they are used for. It is important to understand that whilst heart medications can reduce the risk of having a first or repeat heart attack, you should always look for the underlying causes, with a view to changing your lifestyle if this is a causative factor.   You should also make sure that any medication is taken strictly according to the instructions, as directed by your Physician. Categories of Drugs used to treat CHD include:

  • ACE Inhibitors
  • Aspirin
  • Beta Blockers
  • Blood Cholesterol Lowering (LDL)
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Digitalis
  • Diuretics
  • Nitrates
  • Thrombolytic Agents



ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor

This type of drug stops the narrowing of the blood vessels by inhibiting the production of a chemical that causes the condition. This makes it a suitable choice for the control of high blood pressure and also where there has been damage to the heart muscle. Following a heart attack, it may be prescribed to improve the circulation and help the heart to pump blood. It is also used for persons with heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs.

An example of this type of drug is Perindopril, which is commonly available under the brand name Aceon.
You can find a review of this medication here: Aceon


This is a commonly available non-prescription medicine that has been shown to lower the risk of a heart attack, especially for patients who have previously suffered from one. It can also assist in keeping the arteries open after heart bypass or similar artery-opening operations such as coronary angioplasty. However Aspirin does have associated risks, and so is not recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent heart attacks in otherwise healthy individuals. 

Beta Blocker

This works by reducing nerve impulses to the heart and blood vessels. This slows down the heart rate, and makes it beat with less contracting force, so blood pressure drops and the heart works less hard. It is used to lower high blood pressure, treat chest pain, and to prevent a repeat heart attack.

An example of this type of drug is Metoprolol, which is commonly available under the brand name Toprol-XL. You can find a review of this medication here: Toprol-XL

Blood cholesterol-lowering (LDL)

There are different types of Blood Cholesterol medicine 

  • lipid- and cholesterol-modifying medicine
    • This reduces triglycerides and increases cholesterol carried in high density lipoprotein (HDL) in the blood. HDL cholesterol is sometimes called “good” cholesterol because higher concentrations of HDL cholesterol in the blood are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. The decrease in triglycerides is thought to be due in part to reduced release of triglycerides from fat tissue in the body.
    • An example of this type of drug is Gemfibrozil which is commonly available under the brand name Lopid
  • Statins
    • This type successfully decreases the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood (by up to 60%). This is due to the inhibiting of an enzyme in the body, HMG-CoA Reductase, which controls the rate of cholesterol production by the body itself. They also allow the liver to increase it’s natural ability to remove the LDL Cholesterol from the blood.
    • There are currently five statin drugs on the market in the United States: lovastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin, fluvastatin, and atorvastatin

Calcium Channel Blocker

Has the effect of relaxing the blood vessels, and is used for the treatment of high blood pressure and chest pain. The cells of the heart contract in order to pump blood into the arteries. This requires calcium which passes into the cells via tiny ‘channels’. Calcium-channel blockers reduce the amount of calcium that goes into these muscle cells, causing them to relax. The effect widens the arteries which helps to lower the blood pressure.

An example of this type of drug is Verapamil, which is also commonly available under the brand name Verapamil.


makes the heart contract harder and is used when the heart’s pumping function has been weakened; it also slows some fast heart rhythms.

An example of this type of drug is Digoxin which is commonly available under the brand name Lanoxin.


Diuretics decrease the fluid level in the body and are used to treat high blood pressure. They are often referred to as “water pills.” because they work by increasing the amount of fluid and salt that is passed in the urine. This has some effect on reducing the fluid in the circulation which reduces blood pressure. They may also have a ‘relaxing’ effect on the blood vessels which reduces the pressure within the blood vessels. Only a low dose of a diuretic is needed to treat high blood pressure. Therefore, the diuretic effect is not particularly noticeable.

An example of this type of drug is Losartan used in combination with Hydrochlorothiazide, which is commonly available under the brand name Hyzaar. You can find a review of this medication here: Hyzaar

Nitrates (including nitroglycerine)

An angina pain develops if part of the heart muscle does not get as much blood and oxygen as it needs. (Blood flow to heart muscle is restricted because the coronary arteries are narrowed.) Nitrates mainly work by relaxing the blood vessels in the body. This causes them to dilate (widen) – Vasodilation. This then makes it easier for the heart to pump blood and reduces the ‘strain’ on the heart. This means the heart muscle does not need as much blood and oxygen supply.

An example of this type of drug is Prazosin which is commonly available under the brand name Minipress. You can find a review of this medication here: Minipress

Thrombolytic agents

These are also called “clot busting drugs,” they are given during a heart attack to break up a blood clot in a coronary artery in order to restore blood flow.

An example of this type of drug is Clopidogrel Bisulfate, which is commonly available under the brand name Plavix.
You can find a review of this medication here:


As with all types of drugs, heart drugs can cause side effects. If side effects occur, report them to your doctor. Often, a change in the dose or type of a medication, or the use of a combination of drugs can reduce or eliminate the side effect.


If you enjoyed reading this article, and have considered the possibility of pursuing a future career in medecine, then studying through Benedictine University online courses offers you a way to gain your medical qualifications, and open the door to making an impact in the public health field.