In the world of modern medicine, prescription drugs are a crucial treatment method that physicians use in healing patients. These drugs provide treatment for various illnesses from infections, such as hepatitis C, to more common diagnoses such as diabetes. Across such a wide variety of diagnoses, the effectiveness of prescription drugs is not widely contested once they hit the market. While the purpose of some drugs is to serve as a form of treatment, such as drugs that fight infections, many are used to alleviate symptoms. In other words, the underlying problem responsible for symptoms is not attended to by these drugs. One such example can be seen in the case of hypertension medications. There are two types of hypertension: primary and secondary hypertension. Focusing on primary hypertension, this diagnosis refers to high blood pressure that is not caused by the result of another medical condition . Primary hypertension can be caused by factors such as stress, age, alcohol and tobacco use, diet, or a combination of all of these factors . Essentially, medications such as Atenolol, a non-vasodilating beta blocker drug, do not treat the causes behind hypertension such as stress, aging, or toxins from alcohol . Rather, Atenolol treats the symptoms of high blood pressure by decreasing the force with which the heart pumps . Despite the effectiveness of Atenolol in reducing blood pressure, studies have shown that Atenolol does not reduce mortality . If prescription drugs such as Atenolol are not a suitable long-term option in reducing mortality, what are the alternatives that physicians can turn to?
The answer: “prescribing” lifestyle changes. While it may be an unpopular choice for many patients to hear, lifestyle changes are able to address the underlying problems behind their symptoms. Examples of lifestyle changes that could treat hypertension include consuming less sodium in one’s diet and weight loss. Specifically, consuming less sodium will cause one’s blood pressure to decrease because high sodium consumption causes extra water to be stored within blood vessels . Weight loss can also prove to be a valuable lifestyle adjustment for common diagnoses such as hypertension, elevated blood sugar, elevated blood cholesterol, and even non-physical factors such as mood and energy.
Lifestyle changes, however, have their own limitations. In cases where the patient has a blood clot that requires immediate attention, the gradual changes of lifestyle adjustments alone are not enough. Other circumstances where lifestyle adjustments would not be feasible would be adjustments associated with aging, as symptoms of aging include decreased vision and a decreased amount of minerals present within bones . Additionally, prescription of lifestyle adjustments may encounter other challenges such as a patient’s lack of motivation. Part of patients’ resistance to lifestyle changes could be attributed to their expectations that the physician should provide a treatment that has immediate effects on their symptoms, rather than providing slow and preventative advice.
In short, while prescription drugs are effective in providing immediate treatment for alleviating symptoms of infections and diseases, they do not address the underlying causes of these preventable diseases. Prescribing lifestyle adjustments is the best treatment for preventable symptoms of these illnesses, but challenges such as patient apathy to changing their habits push physicians to prescribe medications in order to prevent symptoms from worsening. Thus, patients should make a more earnest effort in adjusting their lifestyle, rather than heavily relying on chronic prescriptions for preventable diagnoses.