Diet Pills Bad for Heart: Why Fitness Trumps Fatness

A very attractive 48-year-old woman was in my office last week trying desperately to lose weight.  At most, she was 10 lbs. overweight, but for vanity’s sake had decided to try one of the 1,000 plans guaranteeing an easy path to shedding pounds in two weeks.  In addition to serious dieting, she was taking an appetite suppressant pill (phentermine) and a diuretic, both potentially harmful medications.

These drugs often have adverse side effects:  racing heart rhythms, palpitations,  insomnia and leaky heart valves have been reported after prolonged use.  The diuretics will make you lose a few pounds (salt and water, not fat) but are associated with  changes in your chemical balance, possibly reducing your blood potassium levels dangerously.

The “drug” approach will almost certainly fail in the long run.  If there truly were a simple way to become thin and beautiful, why are there so many magazine ads and articles and diet books promising this absurdity?

It is best to forget about dieting beyond avoiding the obvious:  lower your carb intake, cut down on sweets, split a dish in a restaurant.

If you’re only modestly overweight and  want to live longer, stay healthier and look better, you must include regular exercise in your life.  When you are younger and raising a family and having a heavy work load, you may have to settle for three to four times a week.  Join a gym or buy a stationary bike.  Over 50, working out six days a week will help to keep you from going downhill as you age.

Your reward will be reduced cholesterol and significantly less likelihood of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.

It is always best to have your doctor tell you what it’s safe for you to do and if possible for you have a trainer early on to prevent sports injuries.

One of the most difficult challenges I’ve had has been getting my patients to change their lifestyles and sticking to it.  After an initial attempt, usually brief, they relapse into their old habits and return the next year weighing what they weighed within five pounds and admitting with a smile that “I really should be dieting and exercising more but ….”

But, in truth, many studies confirm that those patients who have managed to lose only a few pounds but have continued to exercise and become fit are going to gain the health benefits that will counteract the negative side of being somewhat overweight.

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