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What are some helpful tips to help me manage my heart medications?
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

What are some helpful tips to help me manage my heart medications?

Most people with a heart condition or with heart disease take medications every day, and for the long term.  

Sometimes, this can be hard to get used to. 

With some of the medicines you take, the dose may often change, such as blood-thinning medications like warfarin. You might need to take other medications at specific times of the day or night, or with food. Maybe your heart health has recently changed, and you are starting on a new medication. 

Even if you have been taking heart medications for some time, you could have questions or concerns about your treatment. You could be unsure of where to find clear, easy to understand accurate and trustworthy information about your medicines. 

The Heart Foundation believes that people living with heart disease should be supported to take charge of their heart health: we encourage you to ask questions and to ask for help when discussing your condition and treatment, including your medications, with your healthcare team. 

Through the rest of this blog post, we will share some useful tips to help you manage your medicines and your heart health. 

How can I learn more about my heart medications? 

A useful place to start is with your regular doctor, pharmacist or cardiologist. Before attending your next appointment, or before collecting your medications from the pharmacy, write down some questions about your medicines that you may want answered. When you discuss your medicines with a healthcare professional, be sure to take notes so you can remember the details covered. 

A trustworthy and easy to understand source of information on medicines is the NPS MedicineWise website. On this website, you can search for your medicine in the Medicine Finder. If it’s easier for you to speak with a health professional, call Medicines Line on 1300 633 424. You may also find Consumer Medicines Information leaflets included with your medicines, or you can ask your pharmacist to download and print one for you. These are easy to understand resources that can provide more information about the medication you have been prescribed. 

The Heart Foundation Helpline provides free access to information about heart health, including medications. To speak with a qualified health professional, call 13 11 12. Calls are answered between 8:30 am to 5:30 pm Australian Central Standard Time Monday to Friday, except public holidays. 

What are some tips for managing my heart medications?   

The tips below are generic and can apply to taking any medicines. For specific information on managing your heart medications, speak with your regular treating specialist, GP or pharmacist.  

Tips for managing your heart medications include: 

• Make sure you always replace your medicine before it runs out 

• When you take your medicines, follow the instructions from your doctor or pharmacist 

• Get into a routine and take your medicines at the same time each day 

• Don’t stop taking medicines or change the dose unless your doctor recommends you do this 

• Talk to your pharmacist about useful tips for remembering how and when to take your medicines 

• Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects from your medications 

• Carry a list of your medicines, doses and instructions for taking them and what they are for 

• Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking over the counter or complementary medicines (e.g. cold and flu medicine, vitamins) 

• Don’t take medicines after their expiry date 

• Don’t share medicines with family or friends 

• See your doctor regularly to check that your medicines are working properly. 

Get to know your medicines. 

When you take a new medication, it’s important to know: 

  • The active ingredient’s name and the brand name. These are likely to be different. For example, a medicine regularly prescribed to manage high cholesterol is called “atorvastatin”; you may know this by its brand names “Lipitor” or “Lorstat”. There may be multiple brands and brand names for the same medication   

  • Any common side effects associated with your medication and what to do if you experience these. You should discuss possible side effects with your doctor or pharmacist, especially when you start taking a new medication; this way you are aware of any possible reactions and you will know what to do if you experience these. If you experience any side effects, speak with your doctor or pharmacist as soon as you can. Do not stop taking your medications unless your doctor recommends this  

  • Make sure your doctor and your pharmacist know all the medications you are taking, even over the counter medicines or complementary medicines, such as vitamins or supplements. Some medications can interact or interfere with each other, leading to unintended side effects or impacts on your treatment. 

 

Remember how and when to take your medication. 

You may need to take your medicines at a specific time each day or with food. Make sure you take your medication, in the same way, each day. To help you to remember how and when to take your medications, you could try: 

  • Using a pillbox so that you take the right dose at the right time each day. Leave the pillbox in a place where it will remind you to take your medications every day. Set a reminder on your watch or smartphone so that you take your medicine at a set time every day 

  • Download the NPS Medicine Wise medication reminder app. 

 

Find out what to do if you miss a dose of your medication. 

It is quite common for people to forget when to take their medicine or to have difficulty taking their medicine.  

It is important to ask your doctor or pharmacist what to do if you do forget to take your medicine as advised or if you accidentally took more than recommended (e.g. taking it twice).    

If you find it difficult to remember when to take your medicine, speak to your pharmacist about packaging it into an easy-to-follow medicine organiser or calendar pack (known as a dose administration aid).    

There are also online tools and smartphone apps to help you keep an up-to-date list of your medicines and to remind you when to take them. 

Where to find more information on managing your medicines. 

  • Medicines often come with an information sheet called ‘consumer medicines information’ (CMI). If you don’t find this in the box, ask your pharmacist or doctor for the CMI and read about your medicines. 

  • Call the Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) or visit the NPS website. 

  • Access information on your medicines from Healthdirect

  • Call the Heart Foundation Helpline on 13 11 12. 

 

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