4 Common Medications That Spike Your Heart Attack Risk, According to a Pharmacist

These popular drugs could seriously threaten your heart health.

Practicing a heart-healthy lifestyle might seem like an obvious thing to do. After all, the heart moves blood through your body, controls your pulse, and maintains your blood pressure—among other vital functions, explains the Cleveland Clinic. It's no wonder that doctors recommend different ways to boost your heart health, from cutting back on sodium to making physical exercise part of your routine.

Another important component in living a heart-healthy life is being aware of which medications can spike your risk of a heart attack. Some of them may seem obvious, such as stimulants like Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall, which "are commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), [but] are also increasingly being prescribed 'off-label' to older adults," explains WebMD, which adds that these drugs can cause heart problems. "Researchers found that on average, older adults starting on a stimulant showed a 40 percent increase in their risk of heart attack, stroke or ventricular arrhythmia within 30 days."

Read on to find out about four other popular medications that you may be surprised to learn can also increase your risk of heart problems.

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Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Pills of aspirin and advil on white background
payphoto / iStock

You may not be familiar with the term non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but you probably know these medications by the brand names Advil, Motrin, and Aleve, among others.

"NSAIDs block the production of certain body chemicals that cause inflammation," explains the Cleveland Clinic. "NSAIDs are good at treating pain caused by slow tissue damage, such as arthritis pain [and] also work well fighting back pain, menstrual cramps and headaches."

However, NSAIDs can cause major problems, including having a negative effect on your heart health.

"NSAIDs increase the risk of having a heart attack by decreasing prostacyclin production, an inflammatory marker, which can lead to an increase in blood pressure and plaque buildup causing blockages in the heart," cautions Katlyn Holt, PharmD, a clinical pharmacist and assistant lecturer at The University of Toledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. "The most important advice I can give to patients is to avoid them if they have conditions that can be worsened by NSAIDs, such as kidney disease or heart failure, and if they do choose to use NSAIDs, to use them at the lowest dose that works for the shortest amount of time."

Diabetes medications

Diabetes medication

The connection between diabetes medications and heart health can be confusing. "In recent years, there have been new diabetes medications discovered that may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, but studies show some may actually increase your risk of a heart attack," explains Holt. "Diabetes medications like glipizide (Glucotrol) and glimepiride (Amaryl) belonging to the sulfonylurea class, and long-acting insulin sold under the brand names Lantus, Basaglar, and Levemir have been associated with increased risk of heart attack due to weight gain, drops in blood sugar below normal levels, and insulin resistance."

Holt points out that management of diabetes is crucial: "Balance is essential because untreated diabetes can also increase your risk of a heart attack due to damage to blood vessels," she says. "It is important to discuss with your doctor your current diabetes management as well as any risk factors for cardiovascular disease before discontinuing medications."

Antifungal drugs

Pills spilling out from container.

"Antifungal medications like fluconazole (Diflucan), itraconazole (Sporanox), and ketoconazole are commonly used to treat nail, vaginal, or mouth fungal infections," says Holt. "The FDA has issued a warning for these medications due to their ability to cause abnormal heart rhythms, which may lead to heart attack."

According to an article in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation, the antifungal medications Itraconazole and Amphotericin B have been connected to heart problems. "Itraconazole has been associated with occasional reports of cardiotoxicity, including hypertension, premature ventricular contractions, ventricular fibrillation, and new-onset and worsening heart failure (HF)," says an article in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation.

"Antifungals that are administered directly onto the nail bed, skin, or intravaginally have less of a risk since they are not as well absorbed by the body compared to an oral version," advises Holt.

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Minoxidil solution

Man using minoxidil on scalp to treat hair loss.
Dharmapada Behera/iStock

Minoxidil solution is used to treat hair loss, so it might surprise you to learn that it can have adverse effects on your heart health.

"Minoxidil belongs to a class of drugs known as vasodilators," explains WebMD. "Minoxidil solution and foam are used to help hair growth in the treatment of male pattern baldness" as well as women who have thinning hair.

However, Medline plus warns that minoxidil can cause heart problems such as angina (chest pain). "If chest pain occurs or worsens while you are taking this medication, call your doctor immediately," they advise.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

CORRECTION: Tylenol (acetaminophen) belongs to a class of medications called analgesics (pain relievers) and antipyretics (fever reducers). An earlier version of this story misstated this. We regret the error.

Luisa Colón
Luisa Colón is a writer, editor, and consultant based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, Latina, and many more. Read more
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