Living With Heart Disease? Know What Medicine is Safe to Take

For someone recently diagnosed with a heart disease, it might be difficult to know what is safe and what is not. Balancing exercise with healthy eating can be overwhelming, but there’s also another issue that can cause stress and confusion. That issue is how to know which medications you can or can’t take with a congestive heart failure diagnosis.

It is important to remember if you have any questions, concerns or doubts to contact your primary care provider or cardiologist before taking any medication.

What to Avoid
One rule to remember if you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure is to never take medicines that speed up your heart rate, increase your blood pressure or contain sodium, unless you have been instructed to specifically by your provider.

For over the counter medications, here are some to avoid:

  • Over the counter medication with sodium, such as antacids or laxatives.
  • Over the counter medication that contain pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, such as Sudafed, Contrex, Nyquil.
  • Protein shakes or supplements containing ephedrine, such as ma huang or Herbalife.
  • Over the counter medication or herbs containing oxymetazoline, which includes nasal sprays like Afrin and Dristan.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve).

Make sure you read the label of the OTC medication to ensure none of these medications are not in it.

Proceed with Caution (& Provider Direction)
When being prescribed any of these medications, make sure you discuss the benefits and side effects with your primary care provider or cardiologist first:

  • Calcium channel blockers: Commonly prescribed for many different heart related-diseases, these interrupt the movement of calcium to the heart which relaxes blood vessels and increases blood and oxygen supply to the heart, reducing the heart’s workload.
  • Antiarrhythmic medications: Known to treat abnormal heart rhythms, there can be some side effects, so if you’re on these medications make sure to discuss with your cardiologist.
  • Many pain relievers are safe, but may contain a combination including NSAIDs, so consult with your provider when prescribed.
  • There are some over the counter medications, such as cold remedy medications, antacids or laxatives that are safe, consult your pharmacist before purchasing.

The fact that some medications can cause problems for people with heart failure might seem overwhelming, but there are some that are typically safe to take. It’s important to work with your specialist and your pharmacist to make sure you understand what’s right for you and that your dosage is accurate and easy to follow.

Options to Consider
Acetaminophen, like Tylenol, is a great pain reliever and fever reducer that is safe to take with heart failure, unless otherwise directed by your provider.

Since this can be a lot to take in, here are some ways that you can help ensure you are staying safe with medication when living with heart failure:

  • Be sure that you keep up with your routine care and provider visits. Staying in touch with your doctor or physician team on the medications you take and how they’re affecting you is paramount to your health and safety.
  • You’ll also want to setup a stringent routine for taking any prescribed medications. Set alarms on your phone, or use a medication container so you can sort out medications and avoid mistakes.
  • Ask your spouse or a loved one to keep you in check so you don’t forget to take something you’re supposed to.
  • Mark medications that aren’t safe for you to take, like Advil or Aleve, so you don’t take them by mistake. Other family members may continue to take these, but you’ll want to be sure you don’t.

If you have any questions or concerns about safely taking medication while living with heart failure, connect with your primary care provider or cardiologist. You can use MyHealth to send them messages and get quick answers to ease your mind.

Altru’s Heart & Vascular team is always here to help you keep your heart in check. To learn more about our team and services, visit

A graduate of the University of North Dakota with a bachelor’s of science in nursing and master’s of science in the family nurse practitioner program, Paula Ricke provides care in cardiology as part of Altru’s Heart and Vascular team. She has been with Altru for two years. Paula’s primary focus is treating patients with congestive heart failure. In her free time, she enjoys golfing and watching football and hockey.  

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