The Dangerous Side Effects of Heart Disease Medications Most People Have Never Heard Of

You probably know by now that heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes over 600,000 citizens die from heart-related illness each year, and over 730,000 have heart attacks.

There’s good news, though — there are plenty of medications that can help with heart disease immensely. But plenty come with dangerous side effects you probably had no idea about. Here’s what they can do to your body, including the side effect that can kill you (No. 9).

1. Swollen tongue

A woman sticking her tongue out

A woman sticking her tongue out | utkamandarinka/iStock/Getty Images

Medication: ACE inhibitors 

If high blood pressure is your main concern, then your doctor may recommend an ACE inhibitor. WebMD explains these medications work to widen the blood vessels and allow the heart to pump blood more effectively. They’re a great choice for many — but they can also come with severe side effects.

Physical side effects are common, but if you experience any swelling at all, contact your doctor immediately. A swollen tongue or neck can be extremely dangerous.

Next: This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it can be severe. 

2. Diarrhea

Elderly man in his bed

Elderly man in his bed | Motortion/iStock/Getty Images

Medication: Antiplatelet drugs

If you’ve had a cardiac event, there’s a good chance you’re taking an antiplatelet medication. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada explains antiplatelets work to make the blood less sticky, as the platelets in your blood can lead to blood clots, clogged arteries, and heart attacks in some.

There are plenty of side effects of antiplatelets you should be aware of, and one of them is an upset stomach. If you’re experiencing diarrhea, make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids, or else you could get dehydrated.

Next: You may have never heard of this side effect, but it can be very dangerous. 

3. High blood potassium levels

Senior patient having consultation with his doctor

Senior patient having consultation with his doctor | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Medication: ACE inhibitors

As stated before, ACE inhibitors can be life-saving for those who need them. But this potentially deadly side effect is one you absolutely need to be aware of before taking these meds.

WebMD explains ACE inhibitors can lead to excess potassium in the blood, which is incredibly dangerous. If you’re experiencing confusion, an irregular heartbeat, tingling in the limbs, or difficulty breathing, these are all signs. Make sure you’re getting your potassium levels checked regularly.

Next: Feeling dizzy? You could have this side effect. 

4. Low blood pressure

Doctor taking senior man's blood pressure

Doctor taking senior man’s blood pressure | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Medication: Calcium channel blockers

Another type of medication that makes it easier for your heart to work is a calcium channel blocker. WebMD reports they slow the movement of calcium in the cells of the heart, helping blood pump more efficiently.

Unfortunately, like all heart meds, calcium channel blockers come with a slew of side effects. While lowering your blood pressure is the idea here, lowering it too much can result in dizziness, confusion, and fainting if you’re not careful.

Next: You probably didn’t realize this over-the-counter drug could cause this to happen. 

5. Intestinal bleeding

Young Woman With Stomach Ache Lying On Bed

Woman with a stomachache |

Medication: Aspirin

Your doctor may suggest a daily aspirin to keep your heart attack and stroke risk low. And while it seems like a harmless drug, aspirin can damage your stomach lining and cause intestinal bleeding, Harvard Health Publishing explains.

If you’re taking a daily low dose of aspirin, pay attention to any stomach discomfort you experience, as it could be bleeding in the stomach or intestines from the medication. It’s also a good idea to take it with food, as this helps to protect the stomach lining.

Next: An issue with your kidneys is a major cause for concern.

6. Kidney disease

Senior man in a hospital bed

Senior man in a hospital bed | seb_ra/Getty Images

Medication: Aspirin

Intestinal bleeding isn’t the only issue you need to be aware of when it comes to aspirin. The National Kidney Foundation explains heavy or long-term use of aspirin can cause chronic kidney disease, which can be deadly.

The National Kidney Center explains chronic kidney disease can be harder to detect than you think. As for symptoms, you may notice changes in how often you’re urinating. You may also have swelling, pain in your legs and sides, or nausea.

Next: This alarming symptom is clearly something to be worried about. 

7. Vomiting blood

Senior woman sleeping

Senior woman sleeping | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

Medication: Anticoagulants 

Because anticoagulants affect the way your blood clots, excessive bleeding can happen in some. Unfortunately, this can be seriously severe, NHS Choices reports. And some who take anticoagulants have even reported vomiting or coughing up blood.

If you notice this symptom, it’s important to seek help immediately. In addition, if you experience any significant trauma to your body while on an anticoagulant, you should also seek medical attention, as you’re more likely to have bleeding troubles.

Next: Calcium channel blockers can cause this super scary side effect. 

8. Trouble breathing

Man about to use an inhaler

Man about to use an inhaler | Martin Barraud/OJO Images/Getty Images

Medication: Calcium channel blockers

If you’re on a calcium channel blocker, the side effects are typically mild — especially compared to other heart meds on the list. With that said, there is one scary effect you should know about. You may experience coughing, wheezing, or issues with breathing and swallowing, says Everyday Health.

If you notice this side effect, your doctor may be able to adjust your dosage to alleviate the issue.

Next: This horrifying condition can really occur. 

9. Gangrene

Doctor examining senior man

Doctor examining senior man | Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images

Medication: Anticoagulants (Warfarin)

As far as anticoagulants go, the medication Warfarin is quite common. But skin necrosis has been seen as a side effect in some taking this specific med. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology reports another possible adverse reaction to Warfarin is venous limb gangrene.

The good news is those who’ve had gangrene from Warfarin have typically had other coexisting conditions that put them at a higher risk. Ask your doctor if you’re at an increased risk for skin issues if you’re on this medication.

Next: Your physical health isn’t the only concern. 

10. Depression

Wife comforting senior husband

Wife comforting senior husband | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Medication: Beta-blocker

There are many medications that can reportedly cause depression, and beta-blockers can too. AARP notes these meds are usually used to treat high blood pressure, and they work by stopping the effect of adrenaline on the body.

Researchers aren’t totally sure how beta-blockers can cause depression, but it is one of the most commonly reported adverse effects of the med. For those over 50, it might be a safer bet to use a calcium channel blocker instead.

Next: Your muscles may take more of a hit than you expect. 

11. Muscle damage

Senior man in pain

Senior man in pain | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Medication: Statins

You’ve surely heard of statins if you have high cholesterol or if you’re at a higher risk for a heart attack. These meds work by helping your liver remove cholesterol from your blood, thus benefitting your heart. Unfortunately, they come with many side effects — one of which is muscle pain or damage.

Mayo Clinic explains muscle pain stands as one of the most common side effects of statins. For some, it’s just mild discomfort — but others may experience actual damage from the meds. And in some cases, this muscle damage can be life-threatening.

Next: This other side effect of statins is also quite severe. 

12. Liver damage

Photo of a liver within a woman's body

Photo of a liver within a woman’s body | Tharakorn/Getty Images

Medication: Statins

It’s not just muscle damage you need to worry about if you’re on statins. Mayo Clinic explains liver damage is also possible, as the statins can cause inflammation in the liver.

There’s good news, though: Liver problems from statins are rare. And there’s a possibility the inflammatory effects are mild enough that you can continue taking the med even if you do experience them. Even so, don’t be surprised if your doctor requests a liver enzyme test before you start statins or shortly after you begin them.

Next: Noticing heartburn? You might have this side effect. 

13. Acid reflux

Middle-aged businessman suffering chest pains

Middle-aged businessman in pain |

Medication: Calcium channel blockers

Known by its proper name, gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD can be seriously painful (or in severe cases, damaging). GERD occurs when stomach acid or bile backs up into your esophagus and causes irritation. And Everyday Health explains calcium channel blockers can cause this to happen.

Calcium channel blockers relax the blood vessels — but they also delay your food from being passed through the stomach. This can then give you painful symptoms of GERD, like heartburn.

Next: Yes, one type of medication can really give you this condition. 

14. Type 2 diabetes

Checking blood sugar levels for diabetes

Checking blood sugar levels for diabetes |

Medication: Statins

It’s hard to believe a heart medication can help cause Type 2 diabetes, but it’s true. Mayo Clinic explains statins can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. This can eventually cause you to develop diabetes.

It’s a small risk, however — and if you need the help of statins, the pros certainly outweigh the cons here. But the Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning for statin users regarding diabetes, so you’ve been warned.

Next: Men need to pay attention to this side effect.

15. Erectile dysfunction

Senior couple sleeping

Senior couple sleeping | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

Medication: ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and beta-blockers

Perhaps it’s not the most dangerous on the list, but this side effect can severely impact your life. WebMD explains there are many medications that help with heart disease and can also cause issues with erectile dysfunction. Typically, the meds used to treat high blood pressure are the ones that will affect you the most.

If you notice your medication is giving you issues, talk to your doctor. You may be able to switch to one that will work better for you.

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