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Common Heart Medications

Drug Class    Common Medications    

ACE Inhibitor: Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor. This class of medication is used to treat high blood pressure. It works by preventing the formation of a hormone called angiotensin II, which normally causes blood vessels to constrict. ACE inhibitors cause the blood vessels to relax, thereby lowering blood pressure. Common ACE inhibitors are Altace, lisinopril.

Alpha Blocker: Also called alpha adrenoceptor blockers. A class of blood pressure medication. Alpha blockers reduce nerve impulses to blood vessels that signal them to constrict and increase blood pressure. When the impulse to constrict is blocked, the blood vessels remain open and allow blood to flow more easily. Alpha blockers are generally prescribed when initial medications to treat high blood pressure have failed. Common medications in this class include doxazosin and prazosin.

Angiotensin II Receptor Blocker (ARB): A class of blood pressure medicine. Angiotensin is a hormone in the body that causes blood vessels to constrict. Angiotensin antagonists prevent angiotensin from causing the blood vessels to constrict. As a result, the blood vessels remain open and blood pressure decreases. Common medications in this class are Diovan, Benicar, Avapro.

Beta Blockers: Sometimes written as B-blocker or beta adrenoceptor blockers. This is a class of medication that is used to treat hypertension as well as cardiac arrhythmias. Heart attack patients also take beta blockers to help the heart heal and prevent complications after a heart attack. Patients with congestive heart failure also take this medication to help the heart function better and maintain a regular rhythm. These drugs also block the effect adrenaline has on the body. Adrenaline, also called epinephrine, is a hormone that transmits nerve signals. Common beta blockers include metoprolol and atenolol.

Calcium-Channel Blockers: A class of medication used to treat high blood pressure, angina (chest pain), and arrhythmia. Calcium-channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels which promotes relaxation of the microscopic muscle in the wall of an artery. Blood pressure is lowered by this mechanism. Common calcium-channel blockers include Norvasc, Cardizem.

Cardiac Glycosides: A class of medication used to treat congestive heart failure.These drugs increase the force of the heart's contractions by increasing the amount of calcium in the heart's cells. A common medication in this drug class is Digoxin (Lanoxicaps, Lanoxin)

Diuretic: A class of medication used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. Diuretics are often called "water pills" because they work to flush excess water and sodium (salt) from the body through urine. There are several types of diuretics. Furosemide, also called Lasix, is one type of loop diuretic, a drug that prevents the body from absorbing sodium and fluid. Potassium-sparing diuretics also reduce the amount of water in the body; however, they do not cause potassium loss, as do other diuretics. Spironolactone is a potassium-sparing diuretic. Another type of diuretic, hydrochlorothiazide, is in a class called thiazides that help prevent the body from absorbing too much sodium and also by dilating the blood vessels.

Potassium-Channel Blocker: Class of medication used to treat arrhythmia. Potassium-channel blockers slow the electrical impulses in the heart by blocking the mechanism that causes the heart cells to react to potassium (potassium channel). Common potassium-channel blocking medications include amiodarone and dofetilide.

Sodium-Channel Blocker: Class of medication used to treat arrhythmia. Sodium-channel blockers slow electrical conduction in the heart by blocking sodium channels. Quinidine, procainamide, disopyramide, flecainide, propafenone, tocainide, and mexiletine are examples of this class of medication.

Statins: A class of cholesterol-lowering medication. statins work to block the production of cholesterol in the body. This class of medications reduces the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and total cholesterol in the blood. Lower cholesterol levels help to prevent heart disease and plaque buildup in the arteries and help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Common medications in this drug class include lovastatin (Mevacor), simvastatin (Zocor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and atorvastatin (Lipitor).

Thrombolytic Agents: Class of drugs used to dissolve or break up blood clots. Treatment with a thrombolytic agent is called thrombolysis, and it can be given to patients having a heart attack or stroke. Common thrombolytic agents include streptokinase, tenecteplase (TNK), and tPA (tissue plasminogen activator).

Vasodilator: A class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. These medications dilate blood vessels by relaxing the muscle in the vessel walls. Common medications in this drug class include nitroprusside (Nitropress) and hydralazine (Apresoline).