As science progresses, we are finding new and better drugs all the time to manage high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and all ailments affecting the heart.
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It’s comforting to know there are medications to help manage heart health. It’s also important to remember that taking one pill cannot save us from bad habits.
If only a pill could be the cure-all
“There is no getting around the need for a healthy diet and exercise.”
In 2010, British cardiologists proposed the idea of making statin tablets to fight cholesterol as readily available as fast foods. This tongue in cheek idea generated a lot of discussion in the news and led to the conclusion that no one pill can negate the bad effects of fast food over the long term.
You might liken it to wearing a seatbelt to try to “ensure” protection when you are driving erratically at 90 miles per hour. It may lessen the impact of a crash, but it is not going to save you from getting injured.
“While we have medicines to help control heart problems, they cannot do the job alone,” says Steven Nissen, MD, Chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. “There is no getting around the need for a healthy diet and exercise.”
Boosting your heart meds
Calories consumed must be burned off or we gain weight. Eating calorie-dense foods with limited exercise will increase your waistline and undermine the effectiveness of heart medications.
When we follow a prescribed diet (the diabetic, DASH or Mediterranean diet) and control our weight with exercise, we can even reduce the dose of medications we are taking. In some cases, we may even be able to negate the need for taking certain medications. It is always best to take the least amount of medication you need.
Regular exercise and healthy eating will make you feel better. It will lower your blood pressure and keep your glucose and cholesterol in check. These healthy heart behaviors provide an environment where medications can be most effective in helping your heart.
Action steps to a healthier heart
People frequently make small efforts to eat healthy. They add a low-calorie dessert to their fast food meal—or grab an apple after a fatty meal. These are a start, but they do not make a healthy diet. You need to do more:
- Talk to your doctor about the best diet you can follow to limit your risk factors and optimize your heart health.
- Make an appointment with a dietitian to create an eating plan that meets your goals and works for you.
- Don’t use fad diets to reach your goals – learn a lifelong eating plan.
- Don’t be discouraged if you slip or “cheat” once in a while – get back on your plan with your next meal.
- Start moving!
Remember, there is no medicine or pill that can override the negative impact of poor lifestyle choices on your health.