Taking your medicines as your doctor has prescribed will help to reduce your risk of worsening heart disease, for example, having another heart attack, and help you in your recovery. Medicines work best when combined with other helpful activities, like taking exercise and healthy eating.

All medicines have an approved or generic name, which refers to the active ingredient, for example, ramipril or clopidogrel. However, many also have a trade or proprietary name, which may often be confusing. It is therefore possible to receive exactly the same medicine in a range of forms – tablets and capsules, packaging – boxes and bottles, and colours. If you are concerned that you have been given an incorrect drug, please ask the surgery or pharmacy where you obtained them to check you have the correct medication.

Experiencing side effects to medicines is a concern of most people, and is often the reason why people decide not to take, or stop taking their medicines. All medicines can potentially cause side effects, but in most cases these are minor and often disappear on continued use. However, if you experience a rash, difficulty in breathing or swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth, this may indicate a more serious reaction, and you should contact your doctor for advice straight away. These reactions are fortunately, very rare. The information leaflet inside each pack will give details of side effects, and the prescriber should have discussed with you any common side effects you may experience. It is important to tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you have experienced a side effect to a medicine.

In most cases, a variety of medicines are used to treat heart disease. Many people will also be taking other medicines for other conditions. The most commonly used medicines (and some examples) for heart disease are:

Anti-platelet drugs: Aspirin and clopidogrel make the blood less sticky, and are best taken with, or just after a meal.

Beta-blockers: Atenolol and bisoprolol slow and steady the heart

ACE inhibitors: Ramipril and perindopril reduce the heart’s workload.

Statins: Simvastatin and atorvastatin help to reduce cholesterol levels.

Other medicines are used to prevent and treat other symptoms or conditions, like breathlessness, angina and irregular heart rate. If you have particular questions about any of these medicines, please contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Herbal and ‘natural’ medicines. Many people find these products helpful in treating minor illness and symptoms. However, it is important to remember that many of our potent ‘conventional’ medicines are derivatives of herbal remedies which have been refined over the years. As well as having a beneficial effect, many herbal and natural remedies may themselves cause side effects, but more importantly, may interact, sometimes seriously, with prescribed medicines. It is very important to check with your doctor or pharmacist before you decide to purchase and use a herbal or natural medicine to ensure that you are safe to do so. Unfortunately, there are so many herbal and natural products available that it is impossible to provide specific information here.