Researchers evaluated 57 randomized trials testing the effect on mortality of exercise and drugs in four prevention regimens: the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, rehabilitation from stroke, treatment of heart failure, and prevention of Type 2 diabetes. The review, published online in BMJ, involved more than 14,000 patients.
The studies used a variety of drugs – for example, statins for the prevention of coronary heart disease, blood thinners for stroke, diuretics for heart failure, and biguanides like Glucophage and Metaglip for impending diabetes.
They found no difference in mortality between exercise and drug interventions in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease or Type 2 diabetes.
For stroke prevention, exercise programs were more effective than anticoagulants or antiplatelet medicines.
And for treating heart failure, diuretic drugs were more effective than exercise.
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Given the massive cost burden on our health care system for prescription medications used to treat chronic illnesses, this data will hopefully encourage doctors and patients to turn to exercise when appropriate, as an alternative option to manage heart disease, stroke or Type 2 diabetes.