Drug Interactions

Medications are a valuable part of preventing and treating many chronic conditions, including cardiovascular diseases.

Medications can help keep your blood pressure and cholesterol where they need to be. They can help steady an uneven heart rhythm, prevent your blood from clotting together if you are at risk for stroke, and guard against plaque build-up in the blood vessels that supply your heart. But medications only work if you take them correctly. An important part of taking your medications is knowing whether any of the medications you take will interact with one another. That’s because taking certain medications or supplements together can be dangerous.

If you take any medication—even an over-the-counter medication like aspirin or a dietary supplement—you must be aware of how they might interact with other medications and, in some cases, foods.

Why should I be concerned?

Taking certain medications together—even if they are hours or days apart—can change the way they work. Some medications can make others more potent (stronger). Others can make them less effective. For example, the blood-thinner warfarin (Coumadin) won’t work as well if a person consumes too much vitamin K.

Also, many people with cardiovascular disease and other health problems often take several medications. This makes drug interactions and mix-ups more likely, so you need to pay careful attention. 

What can I do to lower my risk of drug interaction?

  • Always talk to your health care professional before starting a new medication.
  • Discuss interactions. Whenever you ask about your medications and why you need to take them, also ask about any drug interactions.
  • Keep a current list of all medications you take. Make sure to include any over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies and dietary supplements. Share this list at each visit with all of your health care professionals—not just your cardiologist.
  • Always take your medications as prescribed. Keep the prescription insert that comes with your medications. This contains important information about how to take the medication, what side effects to watch for and if there are any other medications you should avoid.
  • When in doubt, check with your health care professional or pharmacist. The old adage, “It’s better to be safe than sorry” holds true when taking medication.

What questions should I ask?

  • Is the drug you are prescribing going to interact with any of the others I am taking? (Remember to tell your doctor and other health care professionals about any over-the-counter drugs and supplements you take.)
  • When should I take this medication? At the same time as the others or separately?
  • Are there any foods or drinks I should avoid when taking this medication?
  • I am scheduled to have surgery. Do I need to stop taking any of my medications beforehand?