Heart Medications – 2020 Heart Failure Treatment

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Medically reviewed by Victor Nguyen, PharmD.

heart medications

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)[1], “one person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease.” In fact, heart disease is one of the leading death causes for most people in the United States alone and it is estimated that 655,000 Americans die from some form of heart disease each year.

With how severe heart disease is as a problem, it’s not a surprise that doctors and researchers are coming up with new ways to deal with heart-related problems over the years. From heart medication to implantable defibrillators[2], many new options are available to help minimize the mortality rate of people suffering from heart-related conditions.

What can heart medicine do? 

These new therapies can potentially save the life of someone suffering from heart disease. Studies have suggested that exercise and heart medications could potentially have similar benefits in reducing the mortality rate[3] of people suffering from heart disease.

These drugs affect your body in many different ways, from lowering blood pressure to promoting urination. In short, these new therapies can treat various heart conditions. People can typically seek the latest and greatest new therapies to improve their treatment. 

Types of Heart Medicines

There are many types of drugs that help people with heart problems. The drugs mentioned below deal with heart problems via different mechanisms. However, most of them focus on preventing heart disease as well as making it easier for the heart to do its job.

ACE Inhibitors

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors[4], or ACE inhibitors for short, are a type of drug used to lower the blood pressure of the body as well as help widen the arteries and veins. 

As its name implies, the drug works by inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme which is an enzyme that converts angiotensin I to angiotensin II. Angiotensin II generally raises the blood pressure of your body by constricting and narrowing your blood vessels. 

If you have higher blood pressure in general, then your heart might have to expend more effort than usual to pump blood which can potentially lead to an increased risk of problems like heart complications and heart attack[5]. Some studies have shown that high blood pressure is also a risk factor for other diseases[6] like chronic kidney disease and even oral disorders such as periodontal disease.

By inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme, ACE inhibitors like ramipril and captopril[7] can lower your blood pressure and potentially decrease the risk of severe complications such as strokes. If you have hypertension, doctors might prescribe ACE inhibitors to prevent further complications and lower the risks of heart attack or heart damage.

ACE inhibitors aren’t just used to treat heart conditions, they are also beneficial in treating specific cases of chronic kidney disease and other diseases related to high blood pressure.

Beta-blockers are one of the oldest and most common drugs to treat lower blood pressure. Beta-blockers slow down the heart by blocking hormones like adrenaline.

Having been used for more than 45 years, beta-blockers[8] have undergone multiple reviews and evaluations lately of their efficacy. Results showed that it is still effective in reducing cardiovascular mortality in the proper patient populations.

Beta-blockers often treat high blood pressure, chest pains, heart attack, and abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia). However, it has been suggested that they should not be used as the first line of treatment for hypertension[9] since there are much better alternatives.


Diuretics are drugs used to increase the urine output of the kidneys. They also remove salt and other substances that can cause problems for the body. Asides from this, diuretics[10] have been shown to have a role in treating heart failure as well. 

Conditions like edema can be treated with diuretics since it reduces fluid buildup in the body. The reduction of excess fluids can have positive effects on your heart, since it significantly lowers levels of blood pressure. 

Many health professionals consider diuretics as one of the options for first-line drugs for hypertension[11] given their efficacy. Low‐dose thiazides promote urine flow in the body which in turn may reduce the morbidity outcomes of many patients suffering from hypertension.

Calcium Channel Blockers

Calcium channel blockers like nicardipine, diltiazem, and amlodipine are effective medications known for treating high blood pressure and various heart problems. Diltiazem in particular is known for treating irregular heart rate problems like atrial arrhythmia[12].

These drugs work by hindering the movement of calcium into the cells of your blood vessels. By doing this it relaxes the blood vessels, reducing the traffic in your bloodstream and giving your blood a much wider room to flow. This also helps lessen the workload of your heart which may lower the chances of heart failure[13].

Asides from blood pressure, calcium channel blockers have shown potential in helping with the treatment of other forms of diseases like various forms of dementia as well as other cardiovascular diseases.

Blood Thinners

Blood clots can become a big problem, especially when left unchecked. When the body experiences excessive blood clotting[14], these newly formed clots can block the flow of blood in your arteries and veins. This can deprive the heart, brain, lungs, and other organs of oxygen and essential nutrients that they need.

Such deprivation can lead to problems like organ damage, stroke, heart attacks, and can even prove fatal in some cases. Fortunately, drugs like blood thinners can help prevent blood from clotting in the first place.

There are two types of blood thinners[15], each with a different mechanism for preventing your blood clots from forming. 

The first type is antiplatelet drugs, which prevent your platelets from clumping up together and forming clots. A common and well-known antiplatelet drug is aspirin which is an over-the-counter medication.

The second type of blood thinners are anticoagulants, and they can help prevent new clots by slowing down the process of making blood clots.

Possible Side Effects Of Heart Medication

heart medications

Just like with any drug, medication for your heart can produce unwanted side effects. And since your heart is a very important part of your body, taking these drugs irresponsibly or without prescription can put your life at risk and can lead to some adverse problems.

When taking ACE inhibitors, people can experience a wide variety of new symptoms ranging from chest pain to headaches, or rashes. A possible explanation for the rashes could be because of some people’s body’s reaction to ACE inhibitors[16].

When taking anticoagulants some people even experience bleeding. The bleeding could be explained by anticoagulants mechanism, which is intended to break down clots. An improper dosage from an anticoagulant medication[17] can disrupt your body’s ability to form blood clots which also helps stop bleeding. This will cause your body to be unable to stop unwanted bleeding, especially in the elderly, which is why people taking anticoagulants should be closely monitored by their physician to avoid problems caused by overdosing. 

Beta-blockers are normally tolerated by the body but there might be some cases where they can be more harmful than beneficial.

Some side effects worth taking a look at are erectile dysfunction and unnatural fatigue, both problems for men who have a high sex drive and people who love to exercise. A common reason for seeing these side effects would be the overdose of beta-blockers[18].

These are just some of the cases where the side effects of medications can cause problems for the body. Below is a list of common side effects[19] that you might encounter when taking these types of medication:

  • Dizziness
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dry mouth or skin
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath

Overall, these medications are meant to help minimize the risks of heart problems. However, they can be just as problematic if you take the wrong type of medication or take an improper dosage. 

This is why we highly recommend that you obtain a prescription from your doctor or another licensed medical provider before attempting to take any form of medicine for the heart. It’s also a good idea to get a second opinion from another physician as well just to make sure.

New Heart Failure Medications in 2020

Some new treatments for heart diseases have been approved by the FDA. As for new heart failure medication in 2020, there have been no new drugs approved for heart failure.

However, there have been some recent studies regarding heart medicine like Vericiguat[20] which shows potential as a medicine for heart failure. 

A recent study also supported the use of Empagliflozin[21] for people with kidney failure to reduce the risk of heart failure regardless of diabetes. Currently, Empagliglozin is approved to lower the risk of deaths related to cardiovascular problems in adults with type 2 diabetes and a heart problem.


Heart disease is a major problem that has a high death rate in men and women. Thanks to the effort of numerous researchers and scientists, we have far more ways of dealing with these issues today compared to the past.

One of the most common and most affordable ways of treating and reducing deaths from heart disease are heart medications. They can do a lot of things to help prevent cardiovascular problems and help patients who have suffered from heart failure return to their normal lives. 

Hopefully, you’ll know how serious heart diseases can be, as well as understand the importance of proper medications for these conditions. Lastly, as a reminder, we highly advise you to consult your physician on the best way to manage your heart conditions and how to take your medications. Medications may be effective in preventing cardiovascular problems but they can also be fatal when used inappropriately.

Frequently Asked Questions

How serious are heart diseases?

They’re very serious. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States alone.

What are Beta-blockers?

Beta-blockers are drugs that are used to treat heart problems like chest pains, heart attack, and high blood pressure. They do this by blocking certain hormones like the adrenaline from stimulating the heart.

Are there any harmful side effects from taking heart medication?

When taken inappropriately, these drugs can potentially lead to harmful side effects like nausea, vomiting, headaches, chest pain, bleeding, and many more. This is why it’s important to consult a physician first before taking these drugs.

+ 21 sources

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  11. Wright, J.M., Musini, V.M. and Gill, R. (2018). First-line drugs for hypertension. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Available from: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001841.pub3/ful.
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  13. Costanzo, P., Perrone-Filardi, P., Petretta, M., et al. (2009). Calcium channel blockers and cardiovascular outcomes: a meta-analysis of 175 634 patients. Journal of Hypertension, 27(6), 1136–1151. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/jhypertension/Abstract/2009/06000/Calcium_channel_blockers_and_cardiovascular.8.aspx.
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HealthCanal Editorial team is a team of high standard writers, who qualified the strict entrance test of Health Canal. The team involves in both topic researching and writting, which are under supervision and controlled by medical doctors of medical team.

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