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Aspirin, Beta-Blockers, Statins: ABC's for Coronary Artery Disease

In recent years, better medications have made it easier to take care of coronary artery disease. Three in particular, asprin, beta-blockers, and statins, have helped many people stay healthy and avoid heart attacks.

Widely used

Aspirin is the most common medication recommended and prescribed by doctors for patients with coronary artery disease. Aspirin prevents heart attacks in people with coronary artery disease. Aspirin, often a baby aspirin dose once daily, reduces platelets sticking together and helps to maintain blood flow to the heart.

Beta-blockers are among the most commonly used drugs for controlling high blood pressure and improving blood flow to the heart. They slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decrease the amount of work the heart must do. When the heart works more efficiently, it needs less oxygen from your blood. By lowering the heart's oxygen needs, beta-blockers may help prevent or relieve poor blood flow, which is an important factor in heart attacks.

Beta-blockers can cause side effects such as decreased sexual ability and fatigue in some patients. People with asthma, heart failure, or diabetes should be cautious about taking them because they can worsen these conditions. Certain, more selective beta-blockers, however, are less likely to cause these side effects.

Statins are the most frequently prescribed type of cholesterol-lowering drugs. They block a key liver enzyme involved in making cholesterol. This helps reduce the amount of cholesterol that can be deposited into the blood. This allows more LDL, or "bad," cholesterol to be removed from the blood. Dietary changes are also important to help lower cholesterol, however, statins have other beneficial effects in addition to lowering cholesterol. Studies have shown that people who use statins, even of their cholesterol level is fine, have a reduced risk for heart attack, stroke, chest pain, and death from a heart-related condition.

Few side effects

Statins have few known side effects, but in rare cases they can damage the liver and muscles, so it is important to take only recommended doses. Statins can also make people drowsy, constipated, or nauseous, although these side effects are uncommon. One plus is that these drugs do not appear to interfere with the other medications that people with heart disease often take. And they require only a single daily dose.

Talk with your health care provider if you have questions about any of these medications.



Online Resources

American Heart Association  http://americanheart.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=827
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute  http://nhlbisupport.com/chd1/meds.htm
American Heart Association  http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2141#Beta-blockers
American Heart Association  http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3031177
FDA  http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm258384.htm
Institute for Clinical Symptom Improvement  http://www.icsi.org/guidelines_and_more/gl_os_prot/cardiovascular/coronary_artery_disease/coronary_artery_disease__stable__3.html
National Guideline Clearinghouse  http://www.ngc.gov/content.aspx?id=14438#top

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