Heart failure medicine dos and don'ts: What to avoid

Some medicines—even medicines you can buy without a prescription—can make your heart failure worse.

Avoid taking

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). These include: ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Toradol, Celebrex. These medicines hold fluid and cause swelling. They also can harm your kidneys.
  • Cold and cough medicines with pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. Check with your doctor before using a cold medicine.
  • Alka-Seltzer® – this has too much sodium (salt).
  • Calcium channel blockers such as diltiazem (Cardizem) or verapamil (Calan, Verelan). These lessen the heart’s ability to pump if you have systolic heart failure. They may be used if you have diastolic heart failure or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
  • Before you take any medicine, herb, or supplement, call your doctor.

Medicine “DO”s

  • Always carry an up-to-date list of your medicine names and doses
  • If you feel you are having side effects, contact your doctor or nurse
  • Tell your doctor about all medicines or herbal supplements you take. They may react with your prescription medicines.
  • Bring all pill bottles or a current medicine list to your clinic visits
  • Use pill boxes to arrange your medicines. This helps make sure you take the medicine you need at the right time.
  • If you miss a dose, take it right away and then return to your normal schedule
  • When you travel, always bring your medicines in a carry-on bag
  • Fill your prescriptions at the same pharmacy
  • Refill your prescriptions one week before you run out
  • Check to make sure you have refills for the future

Medicine “DON’T”s

  • Do not stop taking your heart failure medicines, even if you feel better
  • Do not skip any doses
  • Do not double-up if you miss a dose
  • Do not stop your medicines without talking with your doctor

Remember to take your medicine

  • Put your medicines in the same spot so you will see them each day
  • Take medicines with daily habits
  • Use an alarm for medicine time
  • Ask a friend or family member to remind you
Last reviewed: 
June 2016

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