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Heart Disease: Managing Multiple Medications

Like many people with heart disease, you probably take more than one medication. Heart medicines may help you be more active, and live longer and more comfortably. Using them correctly is essential to your health.

Whether you take prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medicine or both, there are important guidelines to follow to get the most from your medicines—and to avoid unpleasant or dangerous side effects.

  • Always follow the label directions. Follow your health care provider's directions or the label of a store-bought product. Taking a smaller dose to save money or a bigger dose for faster results is risky to your health and may lead to unwanted side effects. Take only the recommended amount and number of doses at the time of day stated on the label. If you think your dosage needs adjusting, call your health care provider before making any changes.

  • Do not drink alcohol when taking medicines, unless your doctor says it is okay. Some medicines may magnify the alcohol’s effect or make you sick when mixed with alcohol.

  • Be careful when mixing medicines. Make sure your health care provider or pharmacist knows and approves of all the medicines you take (including OTC medication and herbal remedies). Certain drugs may interact with one another, making you sick or making the medicines less effective.

  • When in doubt, ask. If the label on your prescription bottle says “take as directed,” but you can’t remember your health care provider’s instructions, call and ask. Some medicines must be taken every day, no matter how you feel, and others should only be taken when certain symptoms arise. Guessing wrong could harm your health, or delay the desired results.

  • Know what to do if you miss a dose. Missing a dose can happen to anyone now and again. With some drugs, you should take it as soon as you remember. Others should not be taken again until the following day or at the next scheduled dose. If you take several medications, keep a written record of what to do for a missed dose.

  • Know what to expect. Before you start taking any new medicine, make sure you understand what it is for and how it will benefit you. Ask your health care provider how you will know if the medicine is working, how long it will take to start working and how you will feel once you take it. Always ask if the medicine is necessary, or if you could get the same results with a change in your diet or exercise habits.

  • Read and save any product information that comes with your medicine. Such information includes important warnings every consumer should know.

  • Purchase all your prescription medications at one pharmacy. Drug interactions are more likely to be caught if one pharmacist fills all your prescriptions. Ask your pharmacist to print medication labels in large print if you have trouble reading standard type.