Most patients with heart failure need at least one type of medication to manage the condition. When taken correctly, heart failure medications can improve your heart’s function, ease symptoms and help you live longer.

The type of medication you need depends on the cause and the severity of symptoms. At the Penn Heart Failure Program, our specialists select the right medications to ease your heart’s workload and prevent complications.

Heart Failure Medication Treatments: The Penn Medicine Difference

When you seek medical treatment for heart failure at Penn, you’ll find:

  • Evidence-based care: Heart failure treatment is always evolving and changing. Our heart failure team stays on the cutting-edge of the most effective care. Many of our faculty help develop national guidelines for the medical management of heart failure within the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association.
  • Maximizing medications: The most recent evidence shows that heart failure patients get the best results when they take the highest tolerated doses of prescribed medications. Our team has the expertise to increase your dosage to the most effective levels while managing side effects.
  • Extensive experience: We’ve treated thousands of heart failure patients, including high-risk patients who have not had success elsewhere. This experience translates to better outcomes for all our patients.
  • Specially trained nurses: Our nurses are specialty-trained in heart failure. Many have been part of our program for decades. Their knowledge and experience give them deep understanding of heart failure medications, side effects and interactions with other drugs. They call you regularly to check in, make sure you feel well, are taking your medications and answer any questions you might have.
  • A vast network of specialists in every field: Some causes or complications of heart failure require treatment from specialists in other areas, such as pulmonary hypertension or amyloidosis. If heart failure is inherited, experts at the Penn Center for Inherited Cardiac Disease will join your care team. Heart failure may also contribute to renal disease, so you may also need kidney care from a nephrologist. Penn’s extensive network of specialists work together to get you all the care you need.
  • Close collaboration with your local doctor: Many patients come to us when their primary care provider or cardiologist wants input from a team of experts. We’ll work closely with your local doctor to make sure you have exactly the right treatment plan. Your primary care physician or cardiologist can often take it from there, or we can manage your care—it’s your choice.
  • Clinical trials: Researchers and physicians at Penn are always seeking new ways to treat heart failure through clinical trials. Our involvement in research gives our patients access to cutting-edge treatment options that are not available everywhere.

Medications That Treat Heart Failure

The American College of Cardiology’s latest guidance indicates that people with heart failure should take the highest tolerated doses of heart failure medications. Penn is one of just a few programs with the expertise for this high level of medication management.

At Penn, we have extensive experience with heart failure medications and how to use them most effectively. If you experience side effects, we know how to manage those too. Our goal is to keep you on the type and amount of medication that gives you the best results.

Heart failure treatment often includes a medication that relaxes blood vessels. The goal is to reduce the heart’s workload. Those medicines include:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB)
  • Angiotensin receptor neprilysin inhibitors (ARNI)
  • Vasodilators

Sometimes treating heart failure also includes treating conditions that cause it, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Depending on other causes and symptoms of heart failure, your treatment plan might also include:

  • Beta or alpha blockers, which block certain signals and hormones that raise heart rate
  • Aldosterone antagonists, which block an artery-tightening hormone
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) to prevent blood clots
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs, which lower the chance of heart attack
  • Diuretics (water pills), which help the body get rid of extra fluids and sodium, making it easier for the heart to pump
  • SGLT-2 inhibitors, the most recent class of medications to show improvement in heart failure

Carefully Monitoring Health and Progress on Heart Medications

Medical management of heart failure is an ongoing process. To make sure your treatment stays effective with minimal side effects and complications, we carefully follow your progress.

Our specially trained heart failure nurses call you regularly to make sure you’re taking your medications and ask about side effects. You’ll have regular bloodwork to monitor kidney function, cholesterol levels, and potassium levels.

This close follow-up allows us to change your medications or dosages quickly and get you the best results.

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