Why do I need all these medications?

Taking your medicines as prescribed is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to help yourself feel better, avoid hospitalization, and live longer.

Most people with heart failure require a three-drug regimen:

  1. an angiotensin-converting–enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, an angiotensin-receptor blocker (ARB), or a newer medication known as an angiotensin receptor–neprilysin inhibitor (ARNI), to relax the blood vessels
  2. a beta blocker to reduce the heart’s workload
  3. a diuretic to help the body eliminate excess fluid and sodium

As heart failure advances, you may need additional drugs to relieve symptoms and prevent hospitalizations.

Optimizing your medications

Ideally, each drug you take will control your symptoms and protect against complications with minimal side effects. Often, your provider will start you off at a low dose of a new medication and gradually increase to the recommended target dose or to the maximum dose that you can tolerate. But it can take some time to find the right dose of the right combination of drugs.

You’ll work closely with your heart failure team while they make these adjustments. This process is called titration. Do your best to faithfully follow your changing drug regimen. Communicate with your team if you experience side effects. And never stop taking a medication without your doctor’s okay.

Finally, be patient. Today’s heart failure drugs can markedly improve the quality and length of your life. It may take some time and effort to determine which medications work best for you, with the fewest side effects. But it will be worth it.