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Drugs for heart disease

MagazineJune 2007 (Vol. 18 Issue 3)Drugs for heart disease

There is a wide range of drugs that are designed either to reduce therisk of heart disease or prevent a reoccurrence

There is a wide range of drugs that are designed either to reduce the risk of heart disease or prevent a reoccurrence. The following is a simple list of each of the drug families. For a critical and more thorough overview, please search the database on this site.

ACE inhibitors: ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors do just that - they restrict the level of angiotensin, a chemical that narrows blood vessels. They are designed to dilate the arteries, so causing a reduction in blood pressure.

Anti-arrhythmic drugs: These are designed to correct disturbances in the heart's natural rhythm.

Anticoagulants: These are designed to reduce blood clotting, and are usually prescribed for treating clots of the leg veins, otherwise known as deep vein thrombosis. They do not, however, dissolve existing clots.

Aspirin: Aspirin is recommended as a 'just-in-case' therapy that's designed to prevent blood clotting. But stroke victims, whose attack was the result of a haemorrhage rather than a clot, should not take aspirin.

Beta-blockers: These powerful drugs control the speed and force of the heart by blocking the action of hormones such as adrenaline that make the heart beat faster and more vigorously.

Calcium channel blockers: These drugs, which are also known as calcium antagonists, help to relax the arteries by reducing the amount of calcium that enters them.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs: Statins are by far the most popular cholesterol-lowering drugs, and they are often prescribed as a preventative. There have been concerns that they may actually contribute to heart disease and they have also been linked to Parkinson's disease.

Diuretics: These are also known as 'water tablets'. They increase the body's output of water and salt in the urine, and they are designed to help prevent heart failure in cases where there is an excess of water and salt in the body.

Nitrates: These drugs are designed to relieve angina pain, and reduce the chances of a heart attack in patients who are at special risk. They relax the muscles in the walls of veins and arteries.

Potassium channel activators: These have a similar action to nitrates, and they relax the walls of the coronary arteries, improving blood flow.

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