February is American Heart Month.
When most people think of February, they think of Valentine’s Day. However, it is also American Heart Month. This month, make it a point to educate patients on how pharmacists can keep their hearts healthy for whatever Valentine’s Day, February, and the rest of the year may throw at it.
American Heart Month seeks to promote awareness of just how much heart disease affects us all, as it is the #1 killer of Americans. While this can and should be alarming, there are a lot of things that pharmacists can do to help prevent its occurrence or minimize the complications that may arise from established heart disease. Pharmacists can help patients recognize risk factors they may not even be aware of and collaboratively work with physicians to optimize medications for our patients’ best heart health.1,2
Heart disease includes many diverse conditions that often require lots of different medications to treat. Some of the main contributors to the development of heart disease include hypertension and dyslipidemia. If either of these is left untreated or undertreated, they can progress to serious and potentially fatal outcomes, including but not limited to a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.3 Finding and managing effective and appropriate treatment approaches for the individual patient can aid in the minimization and progression of such impactful consequences.
Identifying the right medication for a patient is not always about efficacy though and medications used for heart conditions have a wide variety of features that may impact the ability to safely use them in certain patients. Some of these are relatively well known in the medical community, such as avoiding ACE inhibitors in patients with angioedema. Yet, some medication features may be less recognized by prescribers. For example, it is well recognized that thiazide diuretics should be avoided in patients with gout, but many physicians may not know that losartan has uricosuric action that would actually benefit these patients by reducing uric acid levels.4 Pharmacists can identify and recommend changes to administration and monitoring parameters that are essential to optimal cardiac medication use such as the need to administer the two daily doses of immediate release isosorbide mononitrate seven hours apart to prevent nitrate tolerance or that patients taking diltiazem (especially geriatrics) need to monitored for constipation.
Pharmacists and pharmacies also offer heart healthy services, such as blood pressure and cholesterol screenings to help identify problems or monitor current ones, education sessions to teach patients the benefits of eating right, and smoking cessation counseling. Together, the pharmacist and patient can ensure that a healthy heart keeps pumping into the future.1,2
This article was written with Christopher Wren, PharmD Candidate, Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University.