Learn about cardiac drugs to help keep you safe!

Medications are the corner stone of medicine. Cardiac drugs are no different. People live longer healthier lives today than ever thanks to medications. The medicines are used to prevent problems or keep problems from coming back. They are not perfect and are not 100% effective, like I said before in medicine there are no guarantees; it is both an art form and a science. Those doctors that can combine them both become very good doctors. The medicines used in cardiac medicine can be broken down into classes of drugs; anticoagulants, antiarrythmatics, Beta-blockers (Metoprolol) and antilipidemics.

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There are many different types of cardiac drugs. Anticoagulants such as Coumadin are also known to the lay person as “blood thinners”. The term blood thinner is not that accurate since these medications do not thin the blood. In the blood there are small cells called platelets. Platelets are responsible for created clots to stop blood from leaking out of our bodies when we get a cut. Conversely they also form clots on the inside too, which is when the problems start. The blood clotting cascade is a very complex and long process to describe that happens in seconds. When platelets start the cascade they begin by sticking together called clumping. Then they begin to form fibrin which is a fine net that progressively gets tighter and tighter, until a clot is formed. When it formed on the skin it is called a “scab”, when it forms inside the body it is called an emboli. Anticoagulants work on different parts of the cascade to stop a blood clot from forming and is used as prevention in people with one or more risk factors.

Antiarrythmatics are drugs used when the heart’s wiring or electrical system has a problem. These weird rhythms cause blood not to flow as efficiently and cause the blood to be turbulent like whirlpools in a river. The turbulent blood flow can cause the blood to clot hence the doctors will put on both anticoagulants and antiarrythmatics. The antiarrythmatics tell the wiring of the heart to settle down and beat more rhythmically. These drugs ( Diltiazem and Amiodarone ) try to keep the heart in a normal sinus rhythm. Digoxin works like an antiarrythmic to keep your heart in a slow normal rhythm as in atrial fibrillation, but it is calssified as a inotrope/pressor

Beta-blockers are a class of drugs that work on the wiring of the heart, Like Atenolol and Bisoprolol . They simply slow the heart rate down if the rate is too great. These drugs can also be used after a heart attack to reduce the work load of the heart. By reducing the workload there is reduction in a reoccurrence of another heart attack.

Finally cardiac drugs that reduce cholesterol in your blood stream are known antilipidemics. These drugs work by reducing the risk factor of high cholesterol . In your blood vessels throughout life minor damage occurs on the lining of the vessel. These minor damages are like little scratches. Platelets like a smooth surface to glide on. When they encounter this roughness they form a little clot then comes along fat and deposits along these clots and more blood clots form and so forth. By reducing the cholesterol in your blood stream it stops these cascades of events in producing a blood clot.

You can easily see why some people end up being on a lot of different medications. Each cardiac drug has a role to play and each drug works on different problems. Working together in conjunction to keep you safe. Sometimes too many drugs can interact with one another and this is where a pharmacist really helps to keep you even safer.

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