Q: I can't stay on schedule with my high blood pressure meds. My doctor keeps hounding me. Is it so bad not to take them regularly? — Gracie P., Hull, Mass.
A: You can skip a rock, skip school or simply skip for exercise . But skipping your meds is bad for your health; it allows your blood pressure to rebound to its previously high, potentially dangerous levels.
Overall, not taking prescribed medications costs the U.S. $177 billion annually in avoidable hospitalizations and other health care costs. Almost 33 percent of folks don't collect their prescribed medications from the pharmacy, and 25 percent of those with uncontrolled high blood pressure (like you) don't take their medication regularly.
Why does this happen? Cost matters: 23 percent of uninsured people ages 18-64 skip their medicine to reduce costs; 14 percent on Medicaid do, as do 9 percent of those with private insurance.
If that's the problem, ask your doc about a less-expensive or generic med, or find out if there's an over-the-counter preparation that would work as well. And for gotta-have-'em pharmaceuticals, check out www.Rxassist.com, or contact the manufacturer to see if there's a program to reduce your cost.
But what if you're not taking your meds because you're afraid of the medication or in denial that you need it? High blood pressure contributes to 1,000 deaths a day in the U.S. You need to talk with your doc about your condition and the medication so you really get why you need to take it.
But there's another approach to take: We've got a plan that may let you reduce the amount of medication you take or get off it completely.
1. Start a deep-breathing, nice-and-easy walking program: 30 minutes a day. Gradually build to 10,000 steps a day.
2. Eliminate the five food felons from your diet: all added sugar and sugar syrups, most saturated fat and all trans fats, and any grain that isn't 100 percent whole.
3. Consider working with a nutritionist or an exercise physiologist to keep you motivated.
Take this plan to your doc and watch everyone's blood pressure drop at the same time.
Q: My husband had gastric bypass surgery, and his type 2 diabetes has been gone for four years now! Will it stay gone for the rest of his life? — Marianne Z., Little Falls, N.Y.
A: In one bariatric surgery study at Dr. Mike's Cleveland Clinic, about 50 percent of the patients saw complete remission of type 2 diabetes, and that's remarkable. We now know that's because, after gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery, chemical markings on genes associated with obesity get reset, and then resemble those of a healthy, normal-weight person. You can't change your actual genes, but you can flip on/off switches that allow them to be expressed or not.
In one study of overweight women who had bariatric surgery, 11 of 14 genes that previously had obesity markers reversed themselves three months later. The genes resembled those of normal-weight women. And when your genes express themselves as those belonging to someone who's lean, you tend to eat, sleep and exercise as a lean person would. Studies show these changes and results endure.
But bariatric surgery isn't the only way to change which of your genes is on or off. If you have type 2 diabetes and eat the same small, frequent, fat-free portions that people eat post-bariatric surgery, you'll see many of the same benefits in terms of weight loss and lowered blood glucose readings. And getting healthy without surgery is always the optimal choice.
Still, we're glad your husband's had his old set of genes retrofitted for a healthier lifestyle. Encourage him to get a new pair of jeans that fits his new self and make sure he eats well, sleeps well and takes you with him on his brisk walks every day. That way his genes (and jeans) stay fit for a long time.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.