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Common Medications for Treating Heart Disease - Part 1

March 15, 2012

A wide variety of medications are presently being used for treating heart disease, and the most common ones are ACE inhibitors, ARBs, calcium channel blockers, and beta blockers. These medications are all effective in their own ways, and they have their own pros and cons, as well as side effects.

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors

Medication options for heart diseaseACE inhibitors are mostly used for treating hypertension and congestive heart failure, but they are also effective in preventing repeat heart attacks, reversing thickening of the heart caused by hypertension, and preventing decline in kidney function in diabetes and hypertension patients. They cause the blood vessels to dilate by restricting the production of the angiotensin-converting enzyme, a process in a chain reaction that constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure.

Since they have been widely used for a long time, ACE inhibitors are considered a safer option for heart disease patients. Most of them have generic versions, and therefore, they are more affordable. One of the major cons of ACE inhibitors is that they can cause side effects in 5% to 10% of people who take them. Potential side effects include skin rash, persistent hacking cough, nausea, headache, altered sense of taste, and decline in kidney function.

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

Similar to ACE inhibitors, ARBs also target the angiotensin-converting enzyme. However, instead of stopping the enzyme from being produced, they prevent it from damaging the blood vessels and heart. They also dilate the blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. Generally, they are prescribed to people who are suffering from high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetic kidney disease.

ARBs offer the same benefits as ACE inhibitors, but they come with different risks. Women who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant should not take ARBS, because they can be detrimental to the fetus. Also, research has suggested that they may increase the risk of cancer. Side effects of ARBs include dizziness, headache, nausea, and low blood pressure.