Recent Blog Articles

How to manage seven common conditions without medication

April 1, 2008

We’ve gotten used to taking pills for everything that ails us, but medications have side effects and cost money. The April 2008 issue of the Harvard Health Letter takes a look at how to manage seven common conditions without taking medication. It takes some discipline, but in many cases, the nonpharmacological approach can do as much as pills.

Here’s a brief look at the conditions and treatments:

Arthritis: There’s a good chance that losing weight will make arthritis less painful. Combine weight loss with exercise and you may have less pain and more mobility. Even for those who don’t need to lose weight, exercise that doesn’t put “load” on the joints reduces pain.

Cholesterol: Your LDL level may drop by 5% or so if you keep foods high in saturated fat off the menu. Additional soluble fiber may reduce LDL levels as well. So can margarines fortified with sterols.

Cognitive decline: Memory training and other “brain exercises” seem to help healthy older people stay sharp. But physical exercise may benefit the brain more than mental gymnastics.

Depression: Studies have shown that regular physical activity can have a potent antidepressant effect.

Diabetes: Regular physical activity is a powerful brake on blood sugar levels as well, because exercised muscle becomes more receptive to the insulin that helps it pull sugar in from the bloodstream. Eating fewer sweets and easy-to-digest carbohydrates also helps control blood sugar levels.

High blood pressure: Losing weight, getting more exercise, and eating less sodium all lower blood pressure.

Osteoporosis: Weight-bearing exercise puts stress on bones, and bone tissue reacts by getting stronger and denser, fending off osteoporotic processes. Extra vitamin D and calcium top the list of dietary recommendations.

Also in this issue:

  • Loss of smell: causes, treatments
  • Risks, benefits of pets
  • By the way, doctor: Too much vitamin D? Why is my mitral valve leaking?

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.