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Taking your heart medicines

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Taking your heart medicines

Know what your heart medicines are for and how to take them.

Key takeaways

3 min read

  • Heart medicines include blood pressure and cholesterol medicines. Your doctor might prescribe these medicines as part of a Heart Health Check.1

  • Most people who have had a heart attack or been diagnosed with a heart condition will need to take medicines.2

  • Taking heart medicines can reduce the risk of future heart problems and can help keep you out of hospital.2

  • It is important to keep taking your heart medicines, even if you feel well. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before stopping or changing the dose of any of your heart medicines.

What are the different types of heart medicines?

Common types of heart medicines include medicines to: 

  • manage blood pressure.  

  • manage cholesterol.  

  • stop blood clots forming (anticoagulants and antiplatelets).

  • control heart rate and rhythm. 

  • prevent and treat angina (chest pain).

  • manage fluid levels.  

Your doctor might prescribe blood pressure or cholesterol medicines as part of a Heart Health Check. This is to help reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

Read more about the different types of heart medicines.

Top tips for taking your heart medicines

  • Keep taking your medicines even if you feel well. Only stop or change the dose of your medicines if your doctor has told you to.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the possible side effects of your heart medicines. Understand what you should do if you get side effects.

  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any over-the-counter medicines. Over-the-counter medicines are medicines you can buy from a pharmacy, supermarket or health food shop without a prescription. These include pain medicines, cold and flu medicines, supplements and vitamins. Some over-the-counter medicines can interact with heart medicines or can make your heart condition worse.3

  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist if there are any foods or drinks you should avoid. Some foods and drinks can interact with heart medicines.4

  • Check the expiry date. Only take medicines that are within their expiry date. For medicines you only take every now and then, check the expiry date regularly.

  • Only take medicines that have been prescribed for you. Never share your medicines with anyone else.

  • Have enough supply of your medicines. Get your next prescription filled a few days before you are due to run out of your medicines.

  • Seek help if you’re having trouble taking your medicines. Some people might have difficulty swallowing tablets. Or they might find it hard to open the medicine packaging or read the label. If you are having trouble, it’s best to speak to your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible. They can help you find a solution.  

  • Keep a list of your medicines with you. Make a list on your phone or on paper to keep in your wallet. There are also free medicine tracking apps available like MedicineWise: Manage Medicine. Record the names of your medicines, the dose, what each one is for, and when to take them. Bring this list to all your health appointments.

It is quite common for people to forget to take their medicine from time to time, especially if it’s a new medicine. Below are some top tips for remembering when to take your medicine.  

  • Make it part of your daily routine. You can remind yourself to take your medicine by linking it with things you do every day. For example, you can take your morning medicines before getting in the shower or with your breakfast. Or you can take your evening medicines just before you brush your teeth.

  • Set a daily alarm or reminder. You can set up your phone, alarm clock or computer to remind you when to take your medicine at certain times of the day. The free MedicineWise: Manage Medicine app allows you to set reminders for when to take your medicine.

  • Use a chart or calendar. Keep the calendar in a part of the house you use often. Mark off when you have taken your medicines for that day.

  • Ask your doctor if there are other ways to help you remember to take your medicines. For example, some medicines can be combined into one tablet. Or your doctor might be able to reduce the number of doses you need to take in a day. There are ways your medicines can be packaged to remind you when to take them, such as in a blister pack or dose sachets.

It is important to ask your doctor or pharmacist what to do if you forget to take your medicine as advised or if you accidently take more than your usual dose.

Find out more about your heart medicines

Your doctor or pharmacist can answer any questions you have about your heart medicines.

Other reliable sources of information include:

• Consumer medicines information leaflet. The leaflet comes with most medicines. It explains what the medicine is for, how to take it, and if there are any side effects. If you didn’t receive this, ask your doctor or pharmacist. You can also look a leaflet up on the NPS MedicineWise website.

Home Medicines Review. This is when your pharmacist checks the medicines you are taking at home. They can make sure you are taking the right medicines in the right way. A Home Medicines Review might be helpful if you:

o are taking more than five medicines a day

o have recently been in hospital

o are confused or worried about your medicines

o are having trouble remembering to take your medicines.

Medicines Line (1300 MEDICINE or 1300 633 424). This is a free telephone service. Registered pharmacists answer your questions about prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

1. Commonwealth of Australia as represented by the Department of Health and Aged Care. Australian Guideline for assessing and managing cardiovascular disease risk. 2023.

2. Chew DP, Scott IA, Cullen L, et al. National Heart Foundation of Australia & Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand: Australian Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Acute Coronary Syndromes 2016. Heart Lung Circ. 2016;25(9):895-951. doi:10.1016/j.hlc.2016.06.789

3. Australian Medicines Handbook. Cardiovascular drugs. 2023. Accessed 5 Dec 2023. Liperoti R, Vetrano DL, Bernabei R, Onder G. Herbal medications in cardiovascular medicine.

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Last updated18 January 2024