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Heart attack medication
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Heart attack medication

There are a number of medications you could be prescribed after a heart attack

Key takeaways

  • The medication you are prescribed after a heart attack depends on the cause
  • You should always take prescribed heart attack medication
3 min read

Anti-clotting (blood-thinning) medicines 

Aspirin 

If you are experiencing the warning signs of a heart attack for longer than 10 minutes the 000 operator will encourage you to chew Aspirin if you have the medication while the ambulance is on the way.  

After a heart attack you may have to take a small dose of aspirin every day. It can stop blood clots from forming in a narrow artery and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

Antiplatelet medicines 

Antiplatelet medicines include clopidogrel, prasugrel and ticagrelor. They can be used with, or instead of, aspirin. They also help to stop blood clots forming in your blood vessels. 

You usually need antiplatelet medicines if you’ve had coronary angioplasty and stent implantation, or have had recurring heart attacks or angina. 

If you take an antiplatelet medicine you must not stop taking it unless your cardiologist or doctor tells you to. This is even more important if you have had a stent implanted. 

Anticoagulant medicines 

Anticoagulant medications work on reducing the blood’s clotting action. This can prevent clots from forming and help treat existing clots. In a heart attack, anticoagulant medications may be given to you in a drip, an injection in the stomach or by tablets. Depending on which anticoagulant you are prescribed, regular blood tests may be necessary to monitor the effects of the medications on how thin your blood is. 

Blood pressure medicines 

Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

ACE inhibitors widen (‘dilate’) your blood vessels and reduce strain on your heart. They are used to lower blood pressure, make your heart work better and improve your chance of surviving after a heart attack. 

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB) 

ARBs are sometimes used instead of ACE inhibitors if you get side effects, such as a persistent cough, from taking ACE inhibitors. ARBs work like ACE inhibitors; they widen your blood vessels and reduce strain on your heart. 

Beta-blockers 

Beta-blockers can make your heart beat more slowly, and lower your blood pressure and risk of a heart attack. You may sometimes be also be given a beta-blocker for arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) or angina. 

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