I am
Show me:
Show me:
Heart attack medication
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Heart attack medication

There are a number of medications you could be prescribed after a heart attack.

Key takeaways

  • Medication is important to your recovery after a heart attack  
  • It reduces your risk of future heart events and complications
  • The medication you are prescribed after a heart attack depends on the cause 
  • You should always take prescribed heart attack medication and speak with your doctor or pharmacist before making any changes
3 min read

Common medicines 

The medicines you take depend on your heart condition and symptoms. For a heart attack, it’s normal to take a number of different kinds of medicines.  

Below is a list of medicines commonly used to: 

  • stop blood clots  
  • manage high blood pressure 
  • manage high cholesterol 
  • manage and stop angina. 

Anti-clotting (blood-thinning) medicines 

Antiplatelet medicines 

Aspirin 

You may have to take a small dose of aspirin every day. It can stop blood clots from forming in a narrow artery and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

If you can’t take aspirin, you might take another anticlotting medicine. 

Antiplatelet medicines include clopidogrel, prasugrel and ticagrelor. They can be used with, or instead of, aspirin. They help to stop blood clots forming in your blood vessels. 

You usually need antiplatelet medicines if you’ve had coronary angioplasty and stent implantation, or have had recurring heart attacks or angina. 

If you take an antiplatelet medicine, unless you are suffering severe bleeding you must not stop taking it unless your cardiologist or doctor tells you to. 

This is even more important if you have had a stent implanted. 

Anticoagulant medicines 

Anticoagulant medicines help to prevent blood clots forming and treat existing clots. 

Common anticoagulant medicines include apixaban, rivaroxaban, dabigatran and warfarin

Other medicines can change how anticoagulant medicines work. Tell your doctor or pharmacist or pharmacist about any other medicines you take or plan to start taking and read the instructions carefully. 

Warfarin 

If you are taking warfarin you need to have regular blood tests to check you're taking the right dose and that its working properly. 

In addition to other medicines, some foods and beverages, alcohol, herbs and vitamins can change how warfarin works. Speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about what foods, beverages and supplements can interact with warfarin. 

Blood pressure medicines 

Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors 

ACE inhibitors widen (‘dilate’) your blood vessels and reduce strain on your heart. They are used to lower blood pressure, make your heart work better and improve your chance of surviving after a heart attack. 

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB) 

ARBs are sometimes used instead of ACE inhibitors if you get side effects, such as a persistent cough, from taking ACE inhibitors. ARBs work like ACE inhibitors -  they widen your blood vessels and reduce strain on your heart. 

Beta-blockers 

Beta-blockers can make your heart beat more slowly, and lower your blood pressure and risk of a heart attack. You may sometimes be given a beta-blocker for arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) or angina

Cholesterol medicines 

Statins 

Statins reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke by helping to lower your cholesterol. They also sometimes lower your triglycerides. 

Statins help to stabilise plaque in arteries. They are often given to people after they have had a heart event (e.g. heart attack, stroke or angina) – even if the person’s cholesterol is in the ‘normal’ range. 

Statins are recommended for almost everyone with coronary heart disease. 

You will usually be given a statin when you are in hospital. You will need to keep taking it when you go home. 

Your doctor may change the dose or type of statin you are taking, to make sure it is working properly and not causing side effects. 

Anti-angina medicines 

Nitrates

Nitrate medicines increase blood flow to your heart by widening blood vessels. They prevent or treat angina.

There are two types of nitrate medicines. 

  • Short-acting nitrate medicines relieve angina symptoms within a few minutes. These medicines are a spray or tablet that goes under your tongue. They are absorbed through the lining of your mouth into your bloodstream. The most common short-acting nitrate medicine is glyceryl trinitrate (sometimes called ‘GTN’). 
  • Long-acting nitrate medicines prevent angina symptoms. They do not relieve an angina episode within a few minutes. These are usually tablets that you swallow whole (you do not put them under your tongue like short-acting nitrate medicines). 

Nitrate medicines may also come as patches, and you gradually absorb the medicine through your skin. 

Other medicines 

Your cardiologist or doctor may prescribe you other drugs. These may be for a range of conditions such as high blood pressure or irregular heartbeats. 

Further questions and support? 

Your GP and pharmacist are excellent sources of information about your medicines.  You can also call the Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 to speak to a health professional about your medicines or call the Heart Foundation Helpline on 13 11 12.  

Taking medications everyday can be challenging and sometimes confusing. Read more about understanding medications and safety.

You might also be interested in

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

Pauline is a nurse and shares advice for young people who have had a heart event or are recovering from surgery....

Action Plans

Action Plans

Action Plans

Recovery is a long journey, so having a plan makes a huge difference. Using an action plan gives you a step-by-step guide to improving your lifestyle....

Alcohol action plan

Alcohol action plan

Heart health information in your language

Heart health information in your language

A selection of heart health information brochures in a range languages...

Being a carer for a heart attack patient

Being a carer for a heart attack patient

Being a carer for a heart attack patient

Your role as a carer for a heart attack patient is an important one – explore some useful things to know....

Cardiac arrest at 26: adjusting to a new ‘normal’

Cardiac arrest at 26: adjusting to a new ‘normal’

Cardiac arrest at 26: adjusting to a new ‘normal’

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

What is a heart attack?

The most common cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease....

Blood pressure action plan

Blood pressure action plan

Key steps that can help you manage your blood pressure....

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

What is cardiac rehab?

Cardiac rehab is proven to keep you out of hospital and reduce your risk of death from heart conditions....

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

From diagnosis at 37 to heart surgery, rehab and now

Claude Lam, Open heart surgery survivor...

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

This cardiac services directory presents information on cardiac rehab programs offered across Australia....

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Driving and travelling after a heart attack

Explore our guide for driving and heart attack recovery. ...

Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem

Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem

Daniel's cardiac arrest helped him discover another problem

Dan was six minutes into his treadmill session when his heart stopped beating....

Cholesterol and triglycerides action plan

Cholesterol and triglycerides action plan

Key steps that can help you manage your cholesterol and triglyceride levels....

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

Feelings and emotions after a heart attack

This is a guide to how you might be feeling after a heart attack. ...

Davina overcomes the shock of a lifetime to recover from a traumatic heart story

Davina overcomes the shock of a lifetime to recover from a traumatic heart story

Davina overcomes the shock of a lifetime to recover from a traumatic heart story

Davina was going about her busy life when a visit to her GP revealed a series of heart conditions that changed her life. ...

Diabetes action plan

Diabetes action plan

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Sorting out your finances after a heart attack

Explore how to manage your financial concerns after a heart attack. ...

Debbie's heart story

Debbie's heart story

Debbie's heart story

Debbie decided to give cardiac rehab a go and hasn’t looked back since. ...

Get heart attack recovery emails

Get heart attack recovery emails

Get heart attack recovery emails

The Heart Foundation has designed a series of emails to help people who've had heart attacks (and their loved ones) through their recovery....

Cardiac rehabilitation resources for healthcare providers

Cardiac rehabilitation resources for healthcare providers

Useful cardiac rehabilitation resources for health professionals....

Cardiac arrest at 33: the challenges of restarting your life

Cardiac arrest at 33: the challenges of restarting your life

Cardiac arrest at 33: the challenges of restarting your life

Emma shares her story and opens up about her emotional struggles....

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Confidential. Personal. Reliable.

Got a question about your heart?...

Cardiac Rehabilitation for Health Professionals - Patient Resources

Cardiac Rehabilitation for Health Professionals - Patient Resources

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

I’d always thought of myself as fairly fit; I swam a lot, and did ‘soft running’, a combination of running and walking. ...

Nutrition action plan

Nutrition action plan

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Key healthy eating messages for heart attack recovery 

Eating healthy foods can help you recover and reduce your risk of more heart problems. ...

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Meditation helped Grant recover from his heart attack

Thankfully for Grant Byrne, a lifelong Led Zeppelin fan, some quick thinking helped him avoid a stairway to heaven. Read Grant’s heart attack story now. ...

Physical activity action plan

Physical activity action plan

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Explore the Heart Foundation’s guide on what to expect in the first month after your heart attack. ...

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

Heart attack at 35: Knowing the signs and symptoms

David reflects on how his life changed when he had a heart attack at 35 and how he got back on track....

Psychological and social health action plan

Psychological and social health action plan

Key steps that can help you manage your emotional health....

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Heart attack recovery – quit smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Get the facts on quitting and how it can help you recover. ...

The Heart Collective

The Heart Collective

The Heart Collective

Supporting women who are living with a heart condition....

Quit smoking action plan

Quit smoking action plan

Heart procedures and devices

Heart procedures and devices

Heart procedures and devices

If you have a heart condition, your doctor may recommend treatment or procedures...

Do you have a Heart Story to share?

Do you have a Heart Story to share?

Do you have a Heart Story to share?

Sharing your story could help another Australian just like you to overcome their heart challenges...

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Long-term recovery after a heart attack

Information to help you adjust to what could be the 'new normal'...

Helen's heart story

Helen's heart story

Helen's heart story

It wasn’t until Helen's second heart attack that she realised the importance of exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet....

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

Kim shares the emotional and physical upheaval experienced on her journey to diagnosis and recovery....

Nutrition after a heart attack

Nutrition after a heart attack

Nutrition after a heart attack

Discover key information on heart-healthy eating and drinking....

I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack

I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack

I’m a mum and I survived a heart attack

Nicola, mum of 2, shares her heart attack recovery story....

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Physical activity after a heart attack

Discover what you need to know about being active after a heart attack....

Jo's heart story

Jo's heart story

Jo's heart story

Joanne had five stents inserted into her heart in her early forties. Fifteen years later she had a triple bypass....

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Explore some useful things to know about intimacy after a heart attack....

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

After having five open heart surgeries between the ages of 13 and 41, Peter knows a thing or two about recovery....

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Discover how to plan for your return to work....

Margaret's heart story

Margaret's heart story

Margaret's heart story

Margaret was young, fit and otherwise healthy but suffered a major heart attack that could have devastated her life...

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Many different thoughts may go through your head after a heart attack and you may be presented with complicated medical info. Know where to get support. ...

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm didn’t worry too much about his cholesterol problem – until an angiogram revealed he had an 80 per cent blockage in a major heart artery. ...

Taking your medicines

Taking your medicines

Taking your medicines

There are many medicines that treat heart attack, angina, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other heart conditions....

A damaged heart valve meant Ruth had to make a tough decision

A damaged heart valve meant Ruth had to make a tough decision

A damaged heart valve meant Ruth had to make a tough decision

When Ruth felt breathless climbing the lookouts on her overseas trip, the last thing she suspected was heart disease....

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Sharing scars, and more, on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day; some people celebrate, other’s vehemently oppose it. Whatever your opinion, it’s important to remember that the day is about love. All forms of it....

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy – Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack

Fit, active and healthy, Sharon wasn’t expecting a heart attack. However, after experiencing a ‘widow maker’, she counts herself lucky....

What are some helpful tips to help me manage my heart medications?

What are some helpful tips to help me manage my heart medications?

What are some helpful tips to help me manage my heart medications?

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

Emotional wellbeing is like having a garden, sometimes it grows green on its own, other times it needs watering, cutting back or fertilising....

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Heart Healthy Dinner Plan

Sign up now and discover delicious, easy to follow dinner recipes. Plus shopping lists, tips and other helpful information to make healthy eating easy. ...

Help Keep families together this Christmas

Help Keep families together this Christmas

Help Keep families together this Christmas

Together, we can make heart disease history. Donate today to help fund ground-breaking heart research and keep families together this Christmas. ...

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Fundraise to save Australian hearts

Join the Heart Foundation community. Together, we can make a real difference for Australian hearts. ...

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Full list of clinical guidlines and references for CVD, heart failure, ACS, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, SCAD and RHD...

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Support and resources for health care professionals

Our range of clinical and patient support resources are available for you to use in your daily practice....

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Support us and help save Australian hearts

Join the fight against Australia’s biggest killer by supporting the Heart Foundation.  ...

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation Recovery Support and Resources

Heart Foundation programs and resources to support your recovery....

Key Statistics: Heart Failure

Key Statistics: Heart Failure

Statistics and information on heart failure in Australia ...

What is an arrhythmia?

What is an arrhythmia?

What is an arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia is a fault in the heart’s electrical system, which affects your heart’s pumping rhythm....

24-hour Blood Pressure Monitoring

24-hour Blood Pressure Monitoring

Blood pressure monitoring at home using a 24-hour blood pressure monitor test....

Exercises to do at home

Exercises to do at home

Exercises to do at home

All you need to know about keeping active during COVID-19....

Pregnancy and heart disease

Pregnancy and heart disease

Information and resources for health professionals....

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Is salt bad for your heart?

Most Australians are eating more than the recommended amounts and this can cause health problems....

Cardiac Rehabilitation Advocacy

Cardiac Rehabilitation Advocacy

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

The Heart Foundation Research Program

We are Australia’s biggest non-government funder of world-class research into heart health. Learn more about our high impact research. ...

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Applying for research funding with the Heart Foundation

Discover more about our various funding programs, requirements, and application dates now....

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Q&A with Lauren Blekkenhorst

Research to develop better evidence for the vascular and metabolic health benefits of vegetables and their bioactive constituents....

Chicken recipes

Chicken recipes

Chicken recipes

Find heart healthy chicken recipes....

Our supporters 

Our supporters 

Our supporters 

Working together to save Australian hearts...

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

Pauline is a nurse and shares advice for young people who have had a heart event or are recovering from surgery....

Hypertension clinical information and guidelines

Hypertension clinical information and guidelines

Clinical information for diagnosis and management of hypertension....

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

Kim shares the emotional and physical upheaval experienced on her journey to diagnosis and recovery....

Getting active at school

Getting active at school

Getting active at school

Physical activity resources for school staff....

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Information and resources for health professionals....

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

Lessons learned: recovering from open heart surgery

After having five open heart surgeries between the ages of 13 and 41, Peter knows a thing or two about recovery....

Action Plans

Action Plans

Action Plans

Recovery is a long journey, so having a plan makes a huge difference. Using an action plan gives you a step-by-step guide to improving your lifestyle....

Vegetarian recipes

Vegetarian recipes

Vegetarian recipes

Search through our vegetarian recipes...

Jump Rope for Heart

Jump Rope for Heart

Jump Rope for Heart

Jump Rope for Heart teaches school children how to keep fit and healthy through skipping!...