Several medications are used to treat, prevent, or lessen the frequency or severity of abnormal heart rhythms. This group of medications is called antiarrhythmics.
- Antiarrhythmic drugs- decrease the frequency or severity of abnormal heart rhythms, known as arrhythmias. These medications include:
- Beta blockers- such as metoprolol, carvedilol, nadolol, and atenolol
- Calcium channel blockers- such as verapamil and diltiazem
- Potassium channel blockers- such as amiodarone, sotalol, and tikosyn (also known as dofetilide)
- Sodium channel blockers such as flecainide and rhythmol (also know as propafenone)
Other medications are prescribed to treat related heart disorders, which can lead to arrhythmias or to prevent or lessen associated complications. These include:
- Anti-clotting agents or anticoagulants (blood thinners)
Help to prevent blood clots that can cause stroke. Anticoagulants, such as Coumadin (warfarin), are commonly used for patients with atrial fibrillation or mechanical heart valves. Patients taking warfarin require periodic blood tests (INR) to ensure that the blood is appropriately thinned. Newer anticoagulants include Pradaxa, Xarelto and Apixaban. Blood tests are not required with the newer anticoagulants.
Lower elevated blood pressure (hypertension) and prevent complications from high blood pressure such as heart attack and stroke.
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
Decrease cholesterol levels in the blood. Lower cholesterol helps to prevent coronary artery disease and heart attacks.
Help to decrease fluid and salt in the body. Sometimes called water pills, these are used to reduce the buildup of fluid which occurs in heart failure. People taking diuretics may need to take extra potassium to maintain safe levels in the blood.