PROTECT YOURSELF If you’re using a beta-blocker, forget about aiming for a target heart rate during your workout; there isn’t one, because your heart rate is being slowed by the drug, explains Danine Fruge, MD, associate medical director of the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami. Instead, use the RPE (rating of perceived exertion) scale, which measures how hard you think your body is working on a scale from 6 (no exertion at all) to 20 (maximal exertion). If you’re healthy, aim for the 13-to-15 zone (“somewhat hard”); if you’re new to exercise or have health problems, try for the 10-to-12 zone (“moderate”). If you’re following a diuretic regimen, drink more fluids than usual before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration. And if you’ve been prescribed a statin drug, ask your doctor if a coenzyme Q10 supplement could counteract the drug’s energy-sapping effects, Hoffman suggests.
If a medication seems to be taking a serious toll on your workouts, see whether your doctor can change the dose or the time of day you take it, or whether you can switch to another drug, Fincham advises. The life-prolonging benefits of exercise are too important to miss out on.
Are You Expecting Too Much from Your Drugs?
If you have diabetes or high blood pressure and you take the requisite medications, you may assume you’re preventing the harm often brought on by these conditions, such as damage to your arteries. Not exactly. “These medications slow down a disease and buy you time—but they don’t completely stop the process,” notes Danine Fruge, MD, of the PritikinLongevity Center in Miami. Damage may not build up as rapidly as it would if you weren’t on medication, but some continues to occur, so you’re still at risk for developing complications and heart disease, explains Robert O. Bonow, MD, past president of the American Heart Association.
If you’re prescribed medication for diabetes or hypertension, you can improve your health further by doing what you can to help your body repair itself. The Rx: Upgrade your diet so it includes more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and low-fat protein; do 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as walking) every day and stay at a healthy weight. “If you take medications and also make healthy lifestyle changes, it’s likely your condition will cause less damage than it would if you just took drugs,” Bonow says.
Originally published in the September 2011 issue of More.
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