Heart-healthy lifestyle modifications are always recommended whether blood pressure or cholesterol medications are prescribed or not.
But in a new study, researchers found that many patients let these healthy habits slip after starting the prescription medications.
They found patients at risk for heart disease and stroke who took cholesterol or blood pressure lowering medications were more likely to reduce their activity levels and gain weight.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Turku in Finland.
The researchers studied more than 40,000 public-sector workers (average age 52, more than 80% female) in Finland who had not been previously diagnosed with heart disease or stroke.
Participants were given two or more surveys in 4-year intervals from 2000−2013. The surveys included a baseline and follow up questionnaire to assess BMI, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and smoking history.
The pharmacy data of participants was also obtained to determine if they began taking the prescribed high blood pressure or statin medications.
Participants’ medication use was categorized by those who began the preventive medications between the baseline and 4-year follow-up surveys, and those who did not start medications.
The researchers found that compared to those who did not start medications, those who did were more likely to reduce their physical activity and were 8% more likely to become physically inactive.
They were 82% more likely to become obese or have an increase in body mass index. They were 26% more likely to quit smoking and reduce their alcohol consumption.
While people often gain weight when they stop smoking, this did not explain the BMI increase found in the study.
Participants who took their medications and stopped smoking gained more weight than those who didn’t take medications and stopped smoking.
The team says people starting on medications should be encouraged to continue or start managing their weight, be physically active, manage alcohol consumption and quit smoking.
The lead author of the study is Maarit J. Korhonen, Ph.D.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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