Heart Disease: Managing Many Medicines

Like many people with heart disease, you probably take more than one medicine. Heart medicines may help you be more active. They may also help you live longer and more comfortably. Using them correctly is important to your health.

Man taking pills in kitchen.

It's important to follow guidelines whether you take prescription medicines, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, or both. The tips below will help you get the most from your medicines. They will also help you prevent unpleasant or dangerous side effects.

  • Always follow the label directions. Follow your healthcare provider's directions or the label of a store-bought product. Taking a smaller dose to save money or a bigger dose for faster results is risky to your health. It may also cause side effects. Take only the recommended amount and number of doses at the time of day stated on the label. Ask your healthcare provider if you should take your medicine with food or on an empty stomach. If you think your dosage needs changing, talk with your healthcare provider before making any changes.

  • Don't drink alcohol when taking medicines, unless your healthcare provider says it's OK. Some medicines may add to alcohol’s effect. Or they may make you sick when mixed with alcohol.

  • Be careful when mixing medicines. Make sure your healthcare provider or pharmacist knows about and OKs all the medicines you take. These include prescription medicines, OTC medicines, vitamins, minerals, and herbal products. Certain medicines may interact with each other. That can make you sick or make the medicines work less well. Some medicines need to be taken separately from others. Talk with your healthcare provider to make sure you understand how these medicines should be taken.

  • When in doubt, ask. If the label on your prescription bottle says “take as directed,” but you can’t remember your healthcare provider’s instructions, call and ask. Some medicines must be taken every day, no matter how you feel. Others should only be taken when you have certain symptoms. Guessing incorrectly could harm your health or delay the desired results. Talk with your healthcare provider to make sure you understand how these medicines should be taken.

  • Know what to do if you miss a dose. Missing a dose can happen to anyone now and again. With some medicines, you should take the dose as soon as you remember. Others should not be taken again until the next day or at the next scheduled dose. If you take several medicines, keep a written record of what to do for a missed dose.

  • Know what to expect. Before you start taking any new medicine, know what it's for and how it will help you. Ask your healthcare provider how you will know if the medicine is working, how long it will take to start working, and how you will feel once you take it. Also ask your healthcare provider about any side effects to expect and when to call your healthcare provider for unpleasant ones. Always ask if the medicine is needed. Could you get the same results with a change in your diet or exercise habits?

  • Read and save any product information that comes with your medicine. Such information includes important warnings every person should know. Check expiration dates. If the medicine is past the expiration date, check with a pharmacist about how to safely dispose of it.

  • Buy all your prescription medicines at one pharmacy.  Medicine interactions are more likely to be caught if one pharmacist fills all your prescriptions. Ask your pharmacist to print medicine labels in large print if you have trouble reading standard type. The pharmacy can also help you in getting your refills in a timely manner. The pharmacist can often give you information on side effects and interactions.

  • Keep track of your medicine. Use a medicine tracker, such as a pill box. A smartphone or tablet app may help you to remember to take your medicines at the correct time and dose. Keep an updated list of all your medicines and show the list to all your healthcare providers.

Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2023
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