Heart Medications Archive

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Ask the doctor: What is pericarditis?

Q. I had chest pains for a couple of days and thought I was having a heart attack. My doctor did an electrocardiogram and said I had pericarditis and that it was not serious. What exactly is pericarditis?

A. Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, a protective, double-layered sac surrounding the heart. It has many different possible causes, including a virus or other infection, certain illnesses, an injury to the chest, radiation therapy for cancer, or a reaction to medications. Complications from bypass surgery or the insertion of a pacemaker are other possible triggers. But most of the time, the cause remains elusive.

New thinking about beta blockers

Beta blockers are no longer the first line of defense used to lower blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure, there may be better alternatives.

Common pain relievers add bleeding risk to afib treatment

The abnormal heart rhythms from atrial fibrillation (afib) can form clots that, in turn, trigger strokes. To prevent that, people with afib take a blood-thinning medication to prevent clotting. But also taking common over-the-counter painkillers can block clotting too much and lead to dangerous bleeding, according to a study in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Danish researchers examined health records of more than 150,000 people with afib. A third of them had also been prescribed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). These common pain relievers interfere with the body's natural clotting function. Paradoxically, some NSAIDs have also been linked to higher risk of thromboembolism, or a clot that forms in the body and travel to the lungs, brain, or elsewhere.

Dizzy spells when you stand up: When should you worry?


It's a common phenomenon with an uncommon name: orthostatic hypotension. It just means that when you shift from lying down or sitting to standing, your blood pressure drops and you momentarily feel a little woozy. That's because blood pools in your legs temporarily when you stand up, and it takes the body a moment to compensate by squeezing blood out of the large veins in your legs and revving up the heart a bit. The dizziness may strike after you eat a meal, because digestion diverts blood flow and may lower your blood pressure.

Up to 20% of people over 65 experience some degree of orthostatic hypotension. "If it's occasional or mild, this doesn't need to be aggressively treated," says Dr. Christian Ruff, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. "But if you feel you could fall or that it's impairing your quality of life, then you should be evaluated."

4 myths about statins



Image: Thinkstock

Some side effects attributed to taking a statin may be caused by a different problem.

Don't let misconceptions about these medications prevent you from taking them. 

Muscle pain from statins doesn't seem to impair strength



Image: Thinkstock

A small percentage of people who take cholesterol-lowering statins complain of muscle pain. This side effect, known as myalgia, may lead people to stop taking their medications, thereby missing out on the protection statins offer against heart attacks. Another concern is that myalgia might also cause muscle weakness, possibly increasing the risk of injuries, especially in older adults. But according to a small study in the Oct. 15, 2014, American Journal of Cardiology, statin-associated myalgia does not seem to affect muscle strength.

For the study, researchers measured muscle strength and self-reported physical activity in 11 people with a history of statin-associated muscle pain. Four people currently taking statins were tested initially and then again after two months off the medication. The other seven people, who were not taking statins at the start of the study, were tested initially and again after two months of restarting statins, or when their muscle complaints returned.

Top 10 cardiovascular advances of 2014

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Despite this year 's advances, healthy eating and exercise habits are still the cornerstones of heart health.

Highlights include promising new medications, devices, and procedures to prevent and treat heart disease and stroke.

Improving heart health is also good for your brain


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Your brain will benefit from the heart-healthy steps you take to eat better, exercise more, and stress less.

Philosophers have long pondered the mysteries of heart and mind. Now scientists are working to unravel the flesh-and-blood linkage between the cardiovascular system and the brain. What they are finding is that the recipe for a strong heart is fundamentally the same as that for a sharp mind.

Adjusting your blood pressure medicines at home

It's not quite DIY yet, but some people may be able to self-manage their blood pressure drugs with good results.

Today's medications are remarkably effective in controlling dangerous high blood pressure (hypertension). But the drugs don't work for everyone, and some people don't take their medications as prescribed. To compound the problem, doctors are often slow to make changes to a patient's drug regimen even when they see blood pressure readings that are clearly outside of the desired range.

Better outcomes with generic statins

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Thinkstock

They say you get what you pay for. But sometimes, paying less may lead to better results. People who were prescribed less-costly generic statins to lower their cholesterol levels were more likely to take their pills than people who were prescribed a brand-name statin, according to a study in the Sept. 15, 2014, Annals of Internal Medicine. The study compared data from nearly 84,000 people who started a generic statin with nearly 6,400 who started a brand-name drug. Those who took generic statins were also slightly less likely to be hospitalized for a serious heart problem or stroke or to die from any cause. The average copayment for a brand-name statin prescription was $48, compared with just $10 for generic statins. The cost factor may explain why people were more likely to take the medicine and therefore have better outcomes, the authors say.

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