The Villages Voice - June 2015

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Bicycling is Good for Everyone…You, too!

by Diana and Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

Bicycling is Good for Everyone…You, too! Diana and Gabe Mirkin, M.D.   When you see people riding bicycles around The Villages, be nice to them. Besides having an enjoyable outing, they are trying to prevent diseases and prolong their lives.   Lack of exercise increases risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and many types of cancer.   Bicycle riders are also helping YOU by reducing the cost of inactivity-induced disease in North America.  Obesity-caused diseases alone cost us more than $175 billion per year, and some of that cost is passed on to everyone.  Bicycle riders are helping to reduce these frightening numbers:   * 70 percent of our population is overweight, * 91 percent have or will develop high blood pressure, * 40 percent have diabetes or pre-diabetes, and * more than 40 percent will die of heart attacks.   Know the Side Effects of Your Medications Seventy percent of North Americans take prescription drugs, 54 percent take aspirin, 27 percent take statins to help lower cholesterol, 18 percent take medication to lower high blood sugar levels and 43 percent take drugs to lower high blood pressure, such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors or diuretics.  If you are a bicycle rider (or do any kind of exercise), make sure you know about the side effects of your medications.  They may hinder your exercise program or cause harm if you fall.   Aspirin and other anti-clotting medicines can be dangerous if you fall off your bike and hit your head.  You can bleed into your brain and die.   Statins can cause muscle pain that leads many people to stop exercising.  They also raise blood sugar levels and increase diabetes risk. If this is a problem for you, check with your doctor. Sometimes you are better off stopping the statins and continuing your exercise program.   Beta blockers for high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats can slow your heart rate so much that you will tire much earlier when you exercise.  They can also raise blood sugar levels.  Exercisers who take beta blockers should ask their doctors if they can switch to other drugs that will not slow their heart so much.   Ace Inhibitors lower high blood pressure by relaxing muscles around arteries. If you get into an accident and bleed, you are at increased risk for dropping your blood pressure too much and going into shock. They also increase risk for dizziness during and after exercising.   Diuretics make you urinate more, lower blood volume and make you tire earlier during exercise.   Medications to lower blood sugar can sometimes cause blood sugar levels to drop too low. Since more than 98 percent of the energy for your brain comes from circulating blood sugar, low blood sugar can make you dizzy and cause you to pass out.  Diabetics should always carry a sugar source with them when they ride.   If you ride a bicycle or exercise regularly and take any of these medications, I recommend that you let your companions know about any issues you may have.  Medic-alert identification can help in emergencies.  Always ride safely and keep on exercising!  Your body will thank you.   Diana Mirkin is a nutritionist and gourmet cook.  Her husband, Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a well-known and published sports medicine physician.  They hosted a nationally broadcast radio program on health issues for many years.  They continue their vocations with a free weekly electronic magazine on health, nutrition, and fitness (  They are “retired” and love life in The Villages.