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Home > Health & Fitness > Healthwise > Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors for Heart Failure
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)
inhibitors block the activity of an enzyme that causes blood vessels to
constrict (narrow). As a result, blood vessels relax and widen (dilate), making
it easier for blood to flow through the vessels, which reduces blood
Preventing blood vessels from narrowing helps improve
blood flow, reduces the backup of blood in the heart and lungs, and decreases
the pressure that the heart's left chamber (ventricle) must pump
These medicines also increase the release of water and
salt (sodium) to the urine, which lowers blood pressure. ACE inhibitors (and
angiotensin II receptor blockers, also called ARBs) also act directly on the
hormones that regulate sodium and water balance in the body.
systolic heart failure, which is caused by left ventricular dysfunction,
will probably be given an ACE inhibitor if possible.1
ACE inhibitors may be used for people with symptoms of heart failure and for people without symptoms.
People who should not take ACE inhibitors include:
ACE inhibitors can:1
ACE inhibitors are often started in
people who have recently had a heart attack and who have a damaged or weakened
left ventricle but who do not yet have symptoms of heart failure. In these
people, ACE inhibitors have been found to reduce death rates when started soon
after the heart attack.1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference
for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all
A cough is one of the most
common side effects of ACE inhibitors. But most people do not get a cough. The cough tends to be a minor
problem for most people who have it. They feel that they can live with it in exchange for the benefits of this medicine.
If you take an ACE inhibitor and have a problem with coughing, talk with your doctor. Your cough may be caused by something else, like a cold. Do not stop taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
If you have a cough that is a problem for you, then your doctor might give you an angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) instead. ARBs are less likely to
cause a cough.
ACE inhibitors may interact with other medicines
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),
antacids, potassium supplements, certain diuretics, and lithium. If you are
taking one of these medicines, talk with your doctor before you take an ACE
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
For tips on taking medicine for heart failure, see:
Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.
You will likely have regular blood tests to monitor how the medicine is working in your body and to see if this medicine is causing problems.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Hunt SA, et al. (2009). 2009 focused update
incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2005 guidelines for the diagnosis and management
of heart failure in adults.
Circulation, 119(14): e391–e479.
July 17, 2013
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Margaret Hetherington, PHM, BsC - Pharmacy
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