Generally, the drugs used to treat cardiovascular diseases are classified according to the condition for which they are most often prescribed.
Common classes of drugs include:
Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors known as ACE inhibitors, these medicines reduce the narrowing effect exerted on blood vessels. They are recommended for patients with congestive heart failure as well as hypertensive patients.
Anti-anginal drugs these drugs have the effect of relaxing the muscles in the heart and its blood vessels, thus alleviating the crushing chest pain (angina). Anti-anginal drugs may either be beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers. Beta-blockers prevent hormones which make the heart beat faster and more vigorously from working; calcium channel blockers reduce the amount of calcium entering the muscle cells of coronary arteries, causing these vessels to relax and widen.
Anti-arrhythmic drugs these drugs are used to control disturbances in the heart rhythm.
Anticoagulants these reduce a patients risk of developing blood clots (thrombosis). Blood clots are made up of two elements, platelets (minute blood cells) clumped together and a protein called fibrin. Anticoagulants help prevent fibrin from forming. They are often prescribed for patients with coronary heart disease, who are especially vulnerable to thrombosis in their already-narrowed coronary arteries.
Anti-platelet drugs they are similar to anticoagulants in that they prevent the formation of blood clots. However, instead of targeting the fibrin in blood, anti-platelet drugs decrease the ability of platelets to bind together into clots. Aspirin is the anti-platelet drug most commonly prescribed. It is often recommended for patients with coronary heart disease or atherosclerosis.
Diuretics these are used to treat congestive heart failure, a condition where patients have excessive amounts of water and salt in their bodies. Diuretics help to increase the output of water and salt in the urine.