We all want to promote a healthy cardiovascular system to prevent one of the most common causes of death and disability we face as we grow older.
Doctors try to help by measuring risk factors and providing treatments to reduce the risks. While many medications are available to help, they also carry risks of toxicity, many of which such as muscle changes or diabetes are well known, while others such as cognitive decline or cancer risk are hinted at but not clear (keep in mind that nearly all the statin studies show more reduction of CV deaths and events than overall, leaving open the question of why the CV risk reduction did not lead to the same overall risk reduction).
Lifestyle approaches have always proven very helpful for risk reduction, but much more difficult to implement in the modern American socio-economic workplace and over-scheduled lifestyle environment.
A recent study of the difference exercise makes beyond simple weight control suggests but does not prove that it is better than statin therapy for reducing CV risk, though certainly we know it carries minimal risk compared to medications.
If your doctor has found that you have elevated risk factors for cardiovascular disease it’s critical to compare the benefits, risks, alternatives and unknowns of lifestyle change to the use of medications, and to share the decision on which treatment plan to undertake.
Insurers and the government currently apply enormous pressure on doctors to use medications to reduce CV risk. That certainly can help manage the overall health of the population they must manage. But any individual should chose the balance they want to strike by collaborating with their doctor to make a decision that honors their own values and goals. The study linked above shows that diet and exercise can provide an effective alternative to medication.
Exercise has many proven benefits, so regardless of your medical decision regarding CV protective medications, don’t let the false sense of security a trim physique or prescribed medication provide mitigate committing to it.