Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Five Excuses Guaranteed to Drive Your Cardiologist Nuts
How to break the unhealthy cycle of excuses and help your heart.
As a cardiologist, I know that as much as 85 percent of the heart disease that I see every day could be prevented if my patients consistently chose a healthy lifestyle and took their medications (when needed) for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. This means that it is my responsibility to explain the rationale for prescription medications and to educate my patients about the importance of a healthy lifestyle which includes:
- a heart smart diet
- regular exercise
- not smoking
- maintaining a body weight in the normal range
By taking these straightforward measures, lives can be preserved, misery prevented, and dollars saved.
As simple as it sounds, I know it is not always easy to make the right choices every day. Our lives get complicated, work and family duties interfere, and sometimes it’s just easier to take the path of least resistance. That’s understandable, and when those things happen, we need to work out a plan to get around these barriers to good health. What frustrates me, and many of my colleagues, are the passive type of excuses that leave little room for change or discussion:
- I can’t exercise because it’s too hot/too cold/too rainy/name your excuse. The weather will always be with us, and it makes no sense to cross off half of the year simply because Mother Nature is doing her work. It’s your heart and your health we’re talking about, so find something you can do indoors.
- I can’t exercise because my leg/arm/foot/hand is hurt. As someone who has suffered through a broken arm, broken leg, and a serious rotator cuff injury, I know that our injuries can create challenges. I also know that there are usually things we can do to stay fit and avoid hurting the affected extremity. Certain injuries and conditions may indeed preclude exercise, and you should always check with your doctor first, but don’t give up on yourself.
- I don’t eat anything and I keep gaining weight. First off, you need to be truthful with yourself. If you keep a food diary, you may find that you are eating more than you realize. There is no question that our metabolism drops as we age, and we simply can’t eat like a teenager forever. If there really does seem to be a problem, check with your doctor, and be sure that your thyroid is functioning normally.
- I didn’t fill that prescription because the news/my friend/the internet said it was dangerous. If you have concerns about a new medication, ask your doctor to explain the expected benefits and potential risks. If you still don’t feel comfortable with the drug, let your doctor know. Perhaps there are other options. Just don’t ignore a condition that needs to be treated, because chances are that it won’t go away, and will probably get worse without medication.
- I can’t afford my medicine, so I’m not taking it. This is a tricky one. Some medications are ridiculously expensive, and if you don’t have insurance, it can be very tough. This is almost as frustrating for your doctor as it is for you. However, there are many meds that can be had for $4 per month, and you should ask your doctor if one of those might work for you. If you’re truly needy, some pharmaceutical companies may have assistance programs. More often, it’s a matter of co-pay cost, and in that case, there may well be a drug available at a lower co-pay that will work just as well. The point is that you need to engage your doctor in this discussion, and not simply ignore the problem.
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