Be Heart Healthy and Lose Weight!

Let’s Talk About Medications

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on November 11, 2008

j-s-ellingtonJanie Ellington


I want to share with everyone a great resource. Janie Ellington is a pharmacist that runs the blog – Let’s Talk About Medications. I’m an “Ask the Expert” for The Health Central Network and frequently see questions related to medications. Medications are not my specialty, which is why I’m sharing this resource with you. I’ve posted a recent interview with Janie below.

1. What is your current position?

I am a registered pharmacist. I manage an in-house pharmacy for a nonprofit pediatric clinic for children of low-income families who do not have health insurance. We are only open weekday mornings. During the cold and flu season, our patient load requires that we stay into the afternoon a bit, but I still have some time for other pursuits. That’s where my article writing and blogging comes in.

2. What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

Over my career as a pharmacist, I have come across so many misconceptions with regard to medications and general health concerns and I have wished I had an opportunity to clarify some of those issues for the public on a wider scale than just the one-on-one that I get when I counsel when dispensing a new medication. I enjoy helping people who want to take more responsibility for their health and to understand how to use medications safely.

3. What services can you offer to someone struggling to be heart healthy?

My best advice to people who are struggling with any health concern is to educate themselves as much as they can. I have found that people who fail to take responsibility, by learning about issues concerning their health, often have worse outcomes overall. I would encourage people to participate fully in their own care.

My interests in health in general are not limited to prescription drugs. I also enjoy studying and writing about the benefits of natural approaches.

4. Are you able to benefit individuals struggling with weight loss?

In general, I do not agree with taking medications for weight loss. If they are used, it should be for a very short time while you are learning new habits. I have been a pharmacist for thirty years and I have not seen people have health improvements due to these drugs. On the contrary, weight loss drugs can be addictive and otherwise go against the goals for good overall health. Taking a drug to help with weight loss denies the role that self responsibility plays in any health concern. You simply cannot continue bad habits and expect good outcomes. Dieting and taking medications for that purpose usually creates a vicious cycle which seems to add more fat and less muscle as the years go by.

5. Do you have a forum where questions can be submitted?

Yes, I would especially enjoy answering questions about health issues that I have written about in my blog. Go to http://www.pharmacymatters.blogspot.com/ to view articles I’ve written and submit questions via email. I can only answer specific questions based on what is known about the drug you are taking. Without access to your health information, I cannot effectively answer questions specific to your treatment.

6. What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with high cholesterol or blood pressure?

I think most doctors assume that people don’t want to change their bad habits. That’s pretty much what I have seen over the years in patients who are sickest. Further, doctors are not wellness experts. They are trained to treat disease.

The first step after diagnosis would be to ask your doctor if it would be safe for you to have a trial period to get your cholesterol and/or blood pressure under control through natural means. Educate yourself. There are so many approaches to cholesterol control, including plant sterols, increased fiber intake, eating better, and the list goes on. Blood pressure can often be controlled naturally too. Exercise, weight loss, stress reduction measures, proper salt intake and many other lifestyle changes can be tried before one goes on prescription drugs. Drugs can create problems of their own. They change the ecology inside the body’s systems and there are side effects and drug interactions to consider, not to mention the increased cost.

If you are willing to educate yourself and value your health and take pride in what you can do on your own, you are on your way to better health and a great feeling of accomplishment.

Thank goodness we have effective medications for people who must have them to lower cholesterol and/or blood pressure. Even if improving your diet and lifestyle doesn’t get you all the way to your goals, and your doctor still recommends drug therapy, you can start therapy armed with some valuable tools to help your medications work better and to get better results. If you do start on drug therapy, make it your goal to know more about the drugs you are taking than your doctor or pharmacist does. When you read a long list of side effects, such as you will find with cholesterol and blood pressure medications, bear in mind that all drugs have side effects.

Find out what the most common side effects are and what to be on the lookout for. Certain drugs have side effects that can be dangerous. Know if that is the case for the drug you are taking and how to recognize its onset. If you have a worrisome side effect, report it to your doctor. Sometimes a different drug within the same class of drugs will not cause the same side effects. Everyone, and their reaction to every drug, is different.

I hope you’ve found this information useful and visit Janie’s blog to learn more.

All the best,

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN



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