Exercise In A Pill: Medicate Me Healthy

by Claudius J West

couch-potatoAs mentioned elsewhere, I don’t find myself in front of a T.V. often. The last time it happened, I saw an advertisement for a pharmaceutical pill called Celebrex.

What are the pill companies, in this case, Pfizer, selling?

A gray-haired man and woman exit their car at a trailhead. He doesn’t look happy to be there, but thirty seconds later, he’s chipper, yakking it up with another gray-haired couple, being social, taking in the beautiful mountain-lake view. As the voiceover unrolls what seems like two minutes worth of warnings about possible side effects, our guy is breathing deeply, lifting his chin, and clearly enjoying the wilderness trail.

Hold the phone—did I hear the voiceover mention the possibility of death, twice?

I checked Internet sources for side effects and found that, like all NSAIDs, Celebrex may contribute to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, holes in your stomach or intestines, that, indeed, may result in sudden death.

Long term use can get you liver damage, renal failure (bye-bye kidneys), or lots of other nasty problems.

Consider my favorites:

  • black, bloody, or tarry stools. That’s enough to scare it out of me all over again.
  • coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds. “Come here a second. Do you think this bloody vomit of mine looks anything like coffee grounds? If it does, I just might be in trouble.”
Celebrex is sold to give relief from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual cramps, and other pains associated with inflammation. No doubt, it has a noble purpose. Because of it, our gray-haired friend was walking around outside like a healthy 50 year old. That’s a good thing.
I wonder, though, if viewers wanting the pill might confuse Celebrex making it possible for them to exercise with exercise itself.”Look at that guy. He took a pill and now he’s walking around and exercising. I’ll take that same pill and go exercise, too. If I don’t make it to the exercising part, well, it’s probably just as good for me. If not, I’ll take two pills to make up for not exercising.”Exercise in a pill. It’s not here, yet, but it’s on its way, I feel sure.

Mom Update: Take That Trophy Off The Mantel

My mother has always been proud of the fact that, at age 73, she doesn’t take any medication. Zero pills. In over-medicated America, that’s a rare accomplishment.

After her last doctor’s visit, though, she’s now on four different pills: a statin (Lipitor), a beta blocker, a blood pressure medicine (Losartin), and a diuretic to counteract the water retention of the beta blocker.

It seems her  resting heart rate is so high that one of her heart valves can’t flip open and closed fast enough to keep up. That results in “regurgitation” (blood slipping back into the chamber it came from) and is known, in this case, as a leaky valve.

The drugs are meant to slow the heart down and make the flow of blood more substantial.

mantelGreat news, right? No blockages, no need for stents or bypass surgery or anything painful.

And don’t we all know that athletes have fantastically low resting heart rates, sometimes, as in the case of Lance Armstrong, in the 30s? They get that way because their hearts are so strong that just a few solid contractions are enough to push the blood everywhere it needs to go.

My mother’s heart, however, is weak. In order to shoo the blood along, it needs to beat 125 times a minute and that’s just when she’s sitting still. Her heart is like a fainting-prone school marm trying to coax sullen teenagers through hallways where they don’t want to go.

The problem is, even 125 bpm isn’t enough, which is what led to my mother’s shortness of breath. Her body was telling her: Our cells aren’t getting enough oxygen, so send more oxygenated blood.” Her lungs did their bit and sent the oxygenated blood to the heart for distribution, and that’s where the slowdown occurred.

More great news: the heart is a muscle and can be made stronger with exercise. When I heard the news, I celebrated with a hour long walk.

If my mother wants her bragging rights back to being medication free, all she needs do is strengthen her heart with exercise. Easy-peasy. She doesn’t even need a gym membership.

But the doctor gave her a prescription for physical therapy. Instead of going to the gym, or for a walk around the neighborhood, she will be going to the hospital three times a week.

I could be cynical and say the doctor is raping the healthcare system, but I don’t think I need to go that far.

It makes pragmatic sense for my mother, and for many others, to be put in a position to have to show for an appointment rather than deciding whether she feels up to exercising, today.

walking lunge with bar

Not a cambered bar, but you get the idea.

Also, in a hospital, a college-trained professional will train her, rather than, say, a gym  personal trainer. That isn’t to say that some personal trainers aren’t college-trained, just that some of them have methods and agendas uncongenial to training 73 year old women. At least, that’s what I witnessed at my gym. The only time I ever saw anyone doing walking lunges with a cambered bar slung over their shoulders was during their first week with their new personal trainer. Once but never again. Lunges would have been the end of Mom, or, at least, the end of her going to the gym.

Keep exercising, Mom. It’s only for a little while. Soon, there’ll be a pill you can take for that.

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