Heart Medications Archive


Improving heart health is also good for your brain

Images: Thinkstock

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.

Ask the doctor: Do I really need a statin, and which kind should I take?

Q. I'm 71 and have no sign of heart disease, but my doctor thinks I should take a generic statin drug. Will I really benefit from a statin, and is a generic as good as the brand-name drug?

A. I can understand why you ask. You're probably thinking, like the old adage says: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" While I can't comment on your particular case, I can tell you why I advise a lot of patients in their 70s and without signs of heart disease to take a statin.

Benefit of blood pressure medication rises with total risk

In people with high blood pressure who are at greatest risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems, taking medication has nearly three times the impact as in those at low risk, says a study in The Lancet. The study confirms the value of considering a man's total cardiovascular risk when weighing treatment options.

Researchers pooled 11 clinical trials involving more than 50,000 people and divided them into four groups based on their 10-year risk of heart attack, stroke, reduced heart function (heart failure), and death. How many of these harmful outcomes could be prevented by taking blood pressure drugs for five years?

Beyond statins: Assessing the alternatives

Some people can't tolerate statins, and others need additional medications to achieve healthy cholesterol levels.

In the realm of cardiovascular medicines, statins reign supreme. These drugs lower the risk of heart attack in people who have—or may develop—heart disease.

Blood pressure drugs with bonus benefits

Both ACE inhibitors and ARBs also help stave off complications from heart failure and kidney disease.

When doctors prescribe drugs to treat high blood pressure, they often turn to two classes of medications: ACE inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs). These drugs are the first-line choice for people who also have diabetes—a common condition that often goes hand in hand with elevated blood pressure. Not only do these medications help prevent heart attacks in people with diabetes, they're also useful for people with weakened hearts and ailing kidneys.

What happens when heart drug refills look different?






Image: Thinkstock

People who are prescribed generic medications after a heart attack are more likely to stop taking them if their refill pills are a different color or shape, according to a study in Annals of Internal Medicine. Generic versions of medications often look different from one another and from the brand-name versions, even though in general they work equally well. Doctors often prescribe generics to prevent or treat heart disease because they are widely available and more affordable than brand-name drugs.

The study included more than 11,000 heart attack survivors who were prescribed generic drugs. By tracking their refill habits over the following year, researchers found that more than a third of the participants stopped taking a medication. Quitting a drug was 66% more likely among those whose refilled pills were a different shape and 34% more likely if the pills were a different color.

Aspirin: Heart healthy but know the risks

Daily aspirin offers a small benefit, but can cause bleeding, too.

The cornerstones of heart health are a healthy diet and exercise, but for some men daily aspirin also has a role. For anyone who has already experienced a heart attack, stroke, or other problem related to clogged arteries, aspirin is strongly recommended because it prevents more problems than it causes—the biggest concern being unwanted bleeding. But for otherwise healthy men who want to prevent cardiovascular disease, preventive aspirin remains controversial.

How to tame stubbornly high blood pressure

Resistant hypertension poses a serious threat to your heart's health.

About one in three American adults has high blood pressure, defined as a top (systolic) blood pressure reading of 140 or higher or a bottom (diastolic) reading of 90 or higher. Also known as hypertension, this often-symptomless condition is a leading cause of stroke and heart attack. The good news is that more people have their blood pressure under control than in years past. The bad news? Nearly 10 percent of people who've been prescribed multiple medications to treat their hypertension still have dangerously elevated blood pressure readings.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Sign Up
Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.