If you are starting drug therapy to control high blood pressure or to lower blood cholesterol, don’t let that be an excuse to forgo heart-healthy behaviors. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking are among the key lifestyle modifications that health experts recommend for prevention of cardiovascular disease, regardless of whether medication is prescribed. But a Finnish study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that these healthy habits often fall by the wayside when people go on statins or antihypertensive drugs.
Researchers followed more than 40,000 middle-aged people who were initially free of cardiovascular disease, surveying their weight, activity level, smoking status, and other lifestyle factors every four years between 2000 and 2013, during which time about 10 percent of were prescribed statins or antihypertensive drugs. Compared to those who did not go on medication, those who did were more likely to reduce their physical activity and gain weight. In fact, the initiation of drug therapy was associated with a near-doubling in the risk of obesity, compared to not initiating therapy.
A step in the right direction: Among the smokers in the study population, those who started drug therapy were more likely to quit.
“Because initiation of antihypertensive or statin therapy appears to be associated with some negative lifestyle changes, expansion of pharmacologic interventions toward populations at low cardiovascular disease risk may not necessarily lead to expected benefits at the population level,” the researchers wrote.