blue bulletin from bcidaho

Heart disease and the importance of medication

woman taking medicationDo you know how to protect your heart? The American Heart Association says that cardiovascular disease, also called heart disease, is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. 

The term cardiovascular disease refers to a group of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels in the body. But not all cardiovascular diseases are heart diseases. Heart disease specifically involves the vessels that supply blood to the muscles of the heart. The most common form of heart disease in the U.S. is coronary artery disease.

With heart disease, plaque builds up on artery walls, causing them to narrow, which restricts the amount of blood that can flow to the heart. This can result in a heart attack or even heart failure. 

Risk factors of heart disease

Heart disease is caused by a variety of factors, some of which are out of your control, such as your family history, race or age. But there are other risks that you can reduce based on certain lifestyle choices, such as eating healthier, exercising more and not smoking. Depending on your lifestyle, you may be at risk of certain health conditions that increase your risk of heart disease.

High blood pressure (hypertension) and unhealthy cholesterol levels (hyperlipidemia) are two risk factors that can raise the risk of coronary artery disease.  High cholesterol can be caused by a poor diet, lack of exercise or smoking. High cholesterol causes plaque to build up in arteries and limits the blood’s flow to the heart. Your blood pressure is how hard your blood is pushing against artery walls as it flows through the body. Narrow artery walls can increase blood pressure.

Making healthy lifestyle changes can help you lower your risk of heart disease. But you should also work with your provider to make a care plan if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. Your provider may recommend medications to help you lower your risk of heart disease.

Follow your provider’s directions

Follow your provider’s directions on how often you should take the medication, when you should take it, and how much you should take. Some medications work better at certain times of the day or before or after meals. But some medicines don’t work as well when taken with certain kinds of food, like grapefruit. If you’re not sure about how you should take your medicine, ask your pharmacist.

Ask questions about medications

Be sure to ask your provider questions about any new drugs they prescribe for you. It’s important to know why your provider is prescribing it to you, how it is supposed to work, and what could happen if you don’t take it.

Talk to your provider if you notice any side effects

Sometimes medications cause side effects. Talking to your provider about how you feel after taking the medication will help your provider understand if they need to make any changes to your dosage. They may also suggest a different drug if you still notice side effects. Your provider or pharmacist may also have tips on how to avoid these side effects.

Don’t stop taking the medication

You should talk with your provider before you stop taking a medication. Some medications should be slowly lowered in dosage before you stop taking them. There may be other medicines you can try instead. Your provider will know which choice is best for you.

Find a provider

Having a provider who you can go to regularly is an important part of making sure you’re healthy. Blue Cross of Idaho members can find an in-network provider by logging in to their member account and selecting Find Care. You can search for providers by location, specialty and more.


Written by: Tanya Wilson, a Clinical Quality Specialist and Registered Nurse at Blue Cross of Idaho. Tanya has more than 30 years of combined nursing experience across many clinical areas ranging from surgical to hospice care. She empowers people to take an active role in their healthcare. 

Posted: March 5, 2023