Taking a handful of medications on a daily basis can be an unwanted chore for some. And for a lot of women with heart disease, this can lead to a missed dose here and there.
This was the case with heart disease and transplant survivor, Jamie Napolitano, who was diagnosed with heart disease at just three months old. As a thriving, healthy teenage woman, heart disease wasn’t on her mind. But being lax in her medication regimen finally caught up with her sophomore year of college when she suffered a heart attack, and doctors discovered a blood clot in her heart.
It can be tempting to ignore your heart medications when you feel like you’re in good shape. But if Jamie’s story proves anything, it’s that you can be young, feel strong and look good on the outside while your heart is telling you otherwise.
Why so many medications?
Unfortunately, heart disease patients rarely have the luxury of taking a one-size-fits-all magic pill. Depending on the types of medications prescribed, each one may treat a different condition. Your doctor may recommend other medicines for you, but these four are typically the ones prescribed: A beta blocker, an anti-coagulant, an ACE inhibitor and a statin. “Together these four medications can lower another heart-related incident by at least one-third,” says Dr. Clyde Yancy, Professor of Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “No other treatment – not even surgery – can do that.”
In some cases, it’s the frustration over not seeing immediate effects that leads so many people to stop taking their medications. But usually, it’s the unexpected side effects, cost or problems getting refills that are the main culprit. But as Dr. Yancy points out, “Medication is the most effective treatment available.”
Prepping for appointments
Be sure to tell healthcare professionals about all the medicines you’re taking, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbs. “It’s hard to keep track of all of the medications my patients are taking,” says Dr. Yancy. “Patients are seeing several different doctors, and each one may prescribe something different.” That’s why it’s critical to keep all of your healthcare providers informed by maintaining an up-to-date list. And remember to bring a list to every appointment.
Develop a system that works for you
Here are a few tips and resources to help you remember to take your medications on time, every time.
- Create a visual aid. If you’re the type of person who needs to write things down in order to stay organized, use a medication chart. Print out multiples and check off each medication after you take it each day. And if you think it will help, tape one to a place you think a reminder will come in handy.
- Set up electronic reminders. You can also take advantage of an online cardiovascular wellness center, Heart360. It’s an easy-to-use tool from the American Heart Association that helps you record your medications, set goals to improve things like blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, and track your progress along the way.
- Use your smart phone. Use the calendar on your phone to set alarms for medications you need to take at specific times. It’s easy to lose track of time and all of the very necessary and important things you need to do to take care of yourself. But without your health, you can’t do all of those things.
- Medications don’t get a holiday. Just because you’re going on vacation doesn’t mean you can take time off from your medications. So when you’re packing, don’t forget to include your heart medications, as well as the chart you created laying out the dosage and times to take each one.
For more information on traveling with your medications, visit the government’s website on traveling with your medications.