Five Simple Heart-Healthy Tips: A Pharmacist’s Perspective

During American Heart Month, you’ll see many valuable articles about maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle. American Heart Month is observed to raise awareness on the importance of a healthy heart and to encourage healthy habits that help reduce the risk of heart disease.

“You’ve heard time and again from your physicians and nurse practitioners that diet, exercise, regular check-ups, and compliance with medications are all excellent ways to address cardiac health,” said John Uplinger, RPh, a Trinity Health retail pharmacist. “While this is absolutely true, for a change of pace, I’d like to offer five simple, practical steps every person can take to promote overall health and especially heart health, even during an emergency.”

1. At all times, keep an up-to-date, printed list of medications and supplements you take with you.

Whether you keep them in a backpack, wallet, purse, or pocket, such lists are very valuable for first responders in an emergency. Although you may already keep a list of medications on an app on your phone, first responders cannot override the security systems on your phone to access that information. So, for now, a printed list is best.

​​​​​​​And don’t forget to update it annually after your check-up with your primary care provider. Indicate the name of the medication and the daily dosage.

2. Know your personal and family health history, your allergies, and your blood type.

If you have annual checkups, you are familiar with your own history. For example, you may know that you have high blood pressure, but may not know that your parents or grandparents did, too, and that stroke may “run in your family.” So, it’s best to have those conversations when you can with your family members.

When creating your medications/supplements list, also add a simple phrase about your health, your blood type, and any allergies to make it easier for first responders. For example:

  • Type 2 diabetes patient with high cholesterol, no allergies, blood type A positive
  • I am pregnant, allergic to shellfish, peanuts, and sulfa drugs, Type O negative

3. If you are on prescribed medications, check with your pharmacist before purchasing over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

Your pharmacist will be able to tell you about any drug interactions or side effects in OTC medications. For example: Did you know that if you have high blood pressure, ibuprofen may not be recommended? You should check with your doctor or pharmacist first. Some cold medications can raise blood pressure, as well. When in doubt, ask your pharmacist.

4. Many pharmacies have free machines for checking blood pressure.

Take advantage of checking your blood pressure, even if you have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure. High blood pressure can be a silent killer, so it can’t hurt to check occasionally.

If you are uncertain about what your numbers mean, your pharmacist can explain it to you. Getting high results once may not be a concern, but if it persists, check with your primary care provider.

5. If you are a smoker who wants to quit, your pharmacist is an invaluable resource.

There are many products in the marketplace for smoking cessation. Your pharmacist will be able to check with your insurance company to ensure your prescription is covered and can offer the pros and cons of various smoking cessation medications. If you can quit smoking, your heart will thank you.

Pharmacists are a valuable member of your health care team.

The next time you are in the pharmacy and have a question about medication, please don’t hesitate to ask. Learn more about our available pharmacy services by calling or visiting the location nearest you.

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