Taking your medicines

Taking your medicines

There are many medicines that treat heart attack, angina, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other heart conditions.

Your cardiologist, along with your doctor, will decide the best medicines for you to take at home to help you manage your heart condition.

When you leave hospital, you will only have enough medicine for a short time. It is important that you keep taking these medicines and see your doctor for more prescriptions.

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 to help you keep an up-to-date list of your medicines and remind you when to take them.

You can also keep track using the the Heart Foundation My Heart, My Life App on Android or iPhone and IOS devices or the or the NPS Medicinewise MedicineList+ app from iTunes or Google Play.

Taking medicines – do's and don'ts

  • Take your medicines exactly as your doctor advises. Get into a routine.
  • Do not stop taking your medicine, even if you feel well.
  • Don’t stop taking medicines or change doses unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects. 
  • Don’t run out of your medicines – keep enough of a supply at home.
  • Carry a list of your medicines, doses and instructions for taking them.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking over-the-counter or complementary medicines (e.g. cold and flu medicine, vitamins or herbs).
  • Don’t take medicine that’s past its ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date.
  • See your doctor regularly to check that your medicines are working properly.

Having trouble taking medicines?  

If you have trouble taking your medicine (e.g. you can’t swallow the tablets or opening the medicine bottle is difficult), speak to your doctor or pharmacist immediately. They will help find a solution – medicines can be changed or repackaged.

Important tips

  • Don’t crush or break tablets to make it easier to take them unless the doctor or pharmacist tells you to do this. 
  • Don’t open capsules to mix the content with a liquid to make it easier to take. 
  • Do not stop taking your medicine, even if you feel well.
  • Speak to your doctor or pharmacist before making any changes. 

Managing your medicines

It is quite common for people to forget when to take their medicine or have difficulty taking their medicine.  It is important to know what to do and what tools are available to help.

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 accidently took more than recommended (e.g. accidently 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 to help you keep an up-to-date list of your medicines and remind you when to take them. 

Tell your doctor or pharmacist what other medicines you are taking. That way they will know if mixing medicines will cause issues or if they will need to be taken at separate times throughout the day.  

Why are medicines important?

Medicines can help:

  • reduce your risk of a future heart attack, angina, heart failure and stroke
  • manage your symptoms
  • improve your quality of life
  • keep you out of hospital
  • you live longer.

You may be given different medicines to do different things. You will need to take most of your medicines long term. 

Read more about types of heart medicine.

Get to know your medicines

It’s important to know what medicine you’re taking, what it does, and how it might affect you. Your doctor or pharmacist can give you this information.

Medicine name

The drug name and brand name are different, and some medicines have more than one brand name. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are cheaper brands available.

How to take the medicine

Follow your doctor and pharmacist’s advice about when and how to take your medicines (e.g. at a particular time of the day, or with food).

Possible side effects

Talk with your doctor about these and what to do if you have side effects. Check if any of your medicines might affect you before driving, operating machinery or doing jobs where you need to be alert.

All medicines can cause side effects. That includes prescription medicine, medicines you can buy without a prescription (e.g. cold and flu remedies, painkillers or allergy medicines), vitamins and minerals, and herbal, alternative or natural medicine. 

Side effects can be caused by reactions with other medicines or food, or because the medicine isn’t working well. Not everyone will experience them.  

You can have side effects at any time. Most are mild, but some medicines can have serious side effects. That’s why you should ask your doctor or pharmacist about side effects and how you can manage them if you experience any.  

If you think you feel a medicine side effect, speak with your doctor or pharmacist as soon as you can. Don’t stop taking your medicine until you do. Often symptoms are coincidental and due to another cause.  

Learn more about medicines and side effects on the NPS Medicinewise website

You can also visit the Healthdirect website or call their helpline on 1800 022 222 to speak to a registered nurse.

Other things to remember

  • If you miss a dose, check what the information sheet says or ask your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Store your medicines away from direct sunlight.
  • 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 accidently took more than recommended (e.g. accidently taking it twice). 

Where to find more information

Other ways to find out about your medicines:

  • Medicines often come with an information sheet called ‘consumer medicines information’ (CMI). If they don’t, ask the pharmacist or doctor for it and read all about your medicines. 
  • Call the Medicines Line on 1300 633 424.
  • Call the Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87.

The internet is a handy source of information about medicines. But it is not as reliable as what your doctor or pharmacist can tell you.

Home Medicines Review

A pharmacist can visit you at home to check your medicines and how you are taking them. Talk to your doctor to arrange a Home Medicines Review.

Over-the-counter medicines

Many people take over-the-counter medicines available from a pharmacy or supermarket. These can affect your prescription medicines. Talk to your cardiologist, doctor or pharmacist about which over-the-counter medicines are safe for you to take.

Things to remember

  • Take your medicines exactly as your doctor advises. Get into a routine.
  • Don’t stop taking medicines or change doses unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects. 
  • Don’t run out of your medicines – keep enough of a supply at home.
  • Carry a list of your medicines, doses and instructions for taking them.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking over-the-counter or complementary medicines (e.g. cold and flu medicine, vitamins or herbs).
  • Don’t take medicine that’s past its ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date.
  • See your doctor regularly to check that your medicines are working properly.

Learn more about medicines.

Find out about getting back to normal life. 

Need some answers now?

Our free Heart Foundation Helpline can help you. Call 1300 36 27 87 and talk to one of our qualified heart health professional. If you need an interpreter, call 131 450 and ask for the Heart Foundation.

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