PUMPING IRONY: Don’t Worry, Start Moving

TV commercials are constantly urging old guys like me to “ask my doctor” about cholesterol-lower drugs. We’d be better off ignoring them.

When a guy reaches advanced middle age, I suppose it’s natural to begin worrying about your longer-term health prospects. Little things begin to crop up occasionally that remind you of your mortality.

This is, of course, an excellent time to commit to a regular fitness regimen and take a close look at what you’re eating and all the things in your life that are causing undue stress. (It’s never too late. Really.) Mostly, we ignore this stuff and just do what we’ve always done because, well, it’s hard to change. And most of us just assume that if something serious crops up, we can just go to the doctor and get a prescription for some kind of pill that will make things all right again. Even if there’s nothing really wrong with us.

Here’s a case in point:

As most of us know, heart disease is the number-one killer of Americans, and “bad” cholesterol, we’ve been told, is the primary cause of heart disease (though some have argued that cholesterol is getting a bad rap), so Big Pharma has developed a type of drug, called statins, that reduce all that “bad” cholesterol so we don’t have to change our eating habits or start exercising.

And because everybody’s got to make a living, Big Pharma promotes the use of statins pretty much incessantly in TV commercials. Geezers like myself see these ads and get to wondering whether their old ticker is really as healthy as they think it is. So why not get over to the doctor and get a prescription? It’s a whole lot easier than working up a sweat at the gym or avoiding the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

Doctors are more than happy to oblige folks in these cases. A new study out of Cornell University showed that one in five people exposed to statin ads were likely to be using the drug — even though they were considered to be at a low risk for a heart attack.

I can’t fault the doctors, to be honest. People are paying good money for health insurance, and I suspect they expect to come away from every visit with something more tangible than a suggestion that they start working out and eating more kale. Besides, better safe than sorry, right?

Well, there’s actually a fair amount of debate around the cholesterol question and some real concerns about the side effects of statins. And, rather than worrying about your heart attack risks, I might suggest that you get up off the couch and move around a little. Twenty minutes of moderate exercise every day can make a world of difference, no matter how old you are. It might even help to regulate your appetite and quiet your cravings for fast food.

So stop worrying and start moving. It could prevent a heart attack. Without any drugs.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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