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Medications for coronary artery disease

There are medications to treat the symptoms of coronary artery disease as well as medications that help control risk factors such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.

Many doctors will try medication treatment in the first instance because they can be very effective at controlling your symptoms, particularly to reduce the severity and frequency of any pain and discomfort.

Long-term medication can also help prevent or reduce your chances of having further heart problems in the future such as a heart attack or stroke.

Symptom controllers

Nitrates are medicines that relax and widen blood vessels which allow more blood to flow to the heart. Nitroglycerin is the most commonly used nitrate. In oral form it dissolves under your tongue or between your cheek and gum to be absorbed into the lining of your mouth and into your bloodstream.

Risk factor controllers

You may need other medicines to treat or prevent coronary artery disease from worsening. This includes medications such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, statins, oral anti-platelet medicines and anticoagulants (blood thinners).These can help to:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Slow the heart rate
  • Relax blood vessels
  • Reduce strain on the heart
  • Prevent the formation of blood clots.

Even if medication doesn’t provide ideal symptom control and stenting or surgery is advised, several of these medications will help reduce future risks associated with coronary artery disease such as stroke and heart attack.

What about aspirin?

While low-dose aspirin has been recommended for lowering the risk of symptoms of coronary artery disease, recent medical research suggests that even if you have risk factors for coronary artery disease, if you’ve not experienced angina or had a stroke or a heart attack then there’s not much to be gained by taking low-dose aspirin. Research suggests instead that low-dose aspirin has benefits for people who already have clot damage to their arteries showing up as angina, a heart attack or a stroke. Whether or not you should be taking low-dose aspirin is something you need to talk over with your doctor.

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Disclaimer
This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.

Bupa Australia Pty Ltd makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. Bupa Australia is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information. Except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health. For more details on how we produce our health content, visit the About our health information page.

Last published 31 October 2011

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