HIV and Cardiac Medications

Updated:Aug 21,2015

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Length: 4:40

Dr. Marshall Glesby, clinical researcher and HIV practitioner, discusses what you can do to reduce your need for additional medications. He also provides insight for when a person might consider additional medication to reach the goals for wellness.

Caring for your overall health

Many patients need to treat more than just the HIV. As you work with your healthcare provider, remember that HIV also places you at greater risk for complications of hepatitis, certain cancers, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.

When it comes to cardiovascular wellness, lifestyle interventions like regular physical activity and healthy eating are important and beneficial for reducing your risks of heart disease. There are times, though, when these interventions aren't enough to reach your wellness goals. People living with HIV may need to consider additional medications.

Here are some types of the medications you and your healthcare provider may consider if your cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugars are not at goal.

Cholesterol medications

Your doctor will likely have a specific goal in mind for your cholesterol numbers. Ask about the target number and what you can do to help reach your goal with good food choices and physical activity. If your cholesterol levels are still not at your goal, medications can help. Some cholesterol medications help your body lower your LDL (or bad) cholesterol. Other medications can help increase the HDL (the good type of cholesterol), which keeps the LDLs from damaging your arteries and circulatory system. By reaching your cholesterol goals, you will reduce your risk for cardiovascular problems and increase your opportunities to live well.

Triglyceride medications

It's also common to have higher-than-normal triglyceride levels, which is a type of fat found in your bloodstream. High triglycerides can often be managed with lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and reducing alcohol consumption, but sometimes people still need to be treated with medications to bring the triglycerides into an acceptable range.

Blood pressure medications

Your healthcare provider will also have a treatment goal for your blood pressure. Ask about it and work to get there. Often reducing salt intake and increasing exercise are the first steps. If your blood pressure is still high, your health care provider may want you to consider a diuretic, a beta blocker, an ACE-inhibitor, an angiotensin receptor blocker, or a calcium channel blocker. Each of these types of medications offer different paths to reduce blood pressure, which can help keep your arteries flexible and in good shape. Cholesterol is less able to get lodged into the lining of flexible, healthy arteries.

Blood sugar medications

Blood sugar management will also have a goal number. If the sugars are too high, food and exercise changes or possibly a medication may be needed. Again, find out your goal and discover the action steps you can take to reach your goal.

Smoking cessation medications

Many patients find that a medication is helpful as they quit smoking.

Are some medications dangerous when taken together?

There are some medications that do not work well together, and your healthcare provider will work with you to determine a good combination that meets your needs and goals. Remember to report everything that you're taking and any symptoms that you're experiencing. Keep in mind, if you are taking over-the-counter supplements for any reason, these can influence the effectiveness of your treatments. Your healthcare provider needs to be informed if you are taking additional vitamins, supplements or alternative treatment methods. Some of these may not blend well with your medications.

What if you prefer to take as few pills as possible?

That's a great plan as long as you and your healthcare provider agree that you are reaching your target goals and that a trial cut-back is a good idea. The wellness goals are most important! Some patients are able to use cholesterol or blood pressure medications temporarily while they learn new habits for healthy living. Good nutrition, physical activity, and healthy weight management are all extremely important and beneficial. The more you invest in good health, the more likely it is that you will need fewer medications and lower doses to live well and reach your goals.