August 01, 2020

Healthy habits and heart disease

You've probably heard about the importance of exercising daily and maintaining a healthy weight to help prevent and manage heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes and cholesterol. But you may not know about factors that make people less likely to follow this trusted medical advice. Taking medications to treat those conditions is one factor that decreases compliance with lifestyle guidelines, according to a new study published in the Feb. 18, 2020, issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

For four years, researchers followed more than 40,000 people in Finland who were at risk of heart disease or stroke. Those who started taking drugs to treat heart disease or high blood pressure did some things right, including stopping smoking and cutting back on alcohol at higher rates than did those who didn't go on medications. But those taking medications were also 8% more likely to stop following an exercise routine and 82% more likely to gain weight or become obese.

Mayo Clinic experts say the study's findings are a good reminder to people at risk of cardiovascular disease to continue a healthy lifestyle while taking medications. Drug therapy can help people keep heart disease and high blood pressure under control, but reducing or stopping exercise and gaining weight can significantly offset the benefits. Even when taking medications, you generally should consider regular exercise and weight management as part of the "prescription."

If you've been inactive, gradually increase your activity level. As little as 10 minutes a day of moderately intense physical...