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Heart disease health centre

ACE inhibitors

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have had a heart attack. It tells you about ACE inhibitors, a treatment used for heart attack. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Do they work?

Yes. Taking an ACE inhibitor may help you survive a heart attack.

What are they?

ACE inhibitors are drugs that are used to treat heart problems. They help stop your blood vessels getting narrower. This makes it easier for blood to flow through them.

ACE inhibitor is a shortened version of the drugs' full name: angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.

Angiotensin is a chemical made by your body. It helps keep your blood pressure within the normal range. Usually, it works well. But if you've had a heart attack, or if your blood pressure is too high, angiotensin puts strain on your heart. ACE inhibitor drugs stop angiotensin from raising your blood pressure.

Some common ACE inhibitors (and their brand names) are listed below.

How can they help?

If you have had a heart attack, taking ACE inhibitors may save your life and help you live longer. [54] You're more likely to be alive after your heart attack if you take an ACE inhibitor than if you have a dummy treatment (placebo). [54] To get the most benefit, you should take an ACE inhibitor within 24 hours of your heart attack starting.

How do they work?

Researchers are still not sure why ACE inhibitors help people live through a heart attack. They think that these drugs may limit the size of the scar that is left on your heart, help your heart recover, or prevent damaging chemicals from being released by your body. They may also improve the supply of blood to your heart muscle and so help get more oxygen to your heart.

Can they be harmful?

Yes, like most drugs, ACE inhibitors have side effects. There can be short-term side effects and long-term side effects. [32] You shouldn't take ACE inhibitors if you're pregnant or planning to get pregnant. These drugs can harm your unborn baby. [55]

Short-term side effects

These usually happen within the first week or so after you begin treatment. If you've had a heart attack, the two most important side effects to know about are:

Long-term side effects

If you take ACE inhibitors for a long time, these are some of the side effects that you may have:

Last Updated: December 18, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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