You would never know it by watching the TV commercials for the cholesterol drugs but medical reports overwhelmingly recommend lifestyle and dietary changes before the drugs are prescribed. Here is a sample of a few of those articles:
American Journal of Cardiology in 2004, “National guidelines have promulgated therapeutic lifestyle changes as a standard of care in the management of conventional (coronary heart disease) risk factors.”
Journal of the American Medical Association 2003, “Managing diet is the key to treating all common lipid disorders.”
New England Journal of Medicine 2002, “Lifestyle changes and treatment with metformin (a diabetes drug) both reduced the incidence of diabetes in persons at high risk. The lifestyle intervention was more effective than metformin.”
Journal of the American Medical Association 2003, “For most patients, dietary intervention should be the first line of therapy (perhaps for 6 to 12 weeks) before introducing pharmacotherapy for hyperlipidemia.”
Many primary care doctors do not trust their patients to follow recommended dietary or lifestyle changes and will insist that the patient take a cholesterol medicine. It takes significantly more time for the doctor to discuss lifestyle changes than it does to write a prescription. In fact many doctors are unaware of the articles mentioned above and are just as influenced by pharmaceutical promotion, as are their patients.
The low cost treatment of a Mediterranean diet consisting of poultry, fish, minimal red meat, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes has been well documented in the medical literature to be effective for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. The components of these foods have effects that no medicine can match for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, blood sugar and inflammation. Often, if this plan is followed, many medicines can be lowered or even stopped.
These same lifestyle changes are now recommended immediately following a heart attack and are to be prioritized as high as prescription medicines according to the journal Circulation in February of this year.
The low technology approaches documented in the medical journals do not get the exposure of the drug treatments and both doctors and patients continue to be influenced by the advertising especially the tagline, ”when diet and exercise aren’t enough take…” In fact diet and exercise ARE enough in the majority of people if they are given a chance.
Hunter Yost M.D. has a private practice in NW Tucson. www.hunteryostmd.com