Doing Without Drugs

Before you rush off to fill a new prescription or to alleviate a chronic condition with over-the-counter drugs, ask your doctor whether you should first try lifestyle changes.

To Cut High Cholesterol…

Eat less saturated fat (major culprits include red meat and whole-milk products) and trans fats (found in crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, and baked goods). Consult food labels before buying—saturated and trans fats must now be listed.

Eat nuts, garlic, soy, and lentils and beans.

Lose weight, exercise, and if you smoke, stop.

To Lower Blood Pressure …

If you’re overweight, shed the excess pounds. For every two pounds of weight lost, blood pressure falls one point.

Cut your salt intake.

To Relieve Insomnia…

Reduce your intake of alcohol and caffeine, even early in the day.

Get more exercise.

Avoid large meals late in the day.

Take a warm or hot bath at night.

Go to bed at about the same time every night, get up at the same time, and don’t take naps.

Practice meditation or another relaxation technique regularly.

Split Pills for Large Savings

You might think that a high-dose pill would cost more than a lower dose of the same medication. But a pill’s ingredients make up such a small fraction of the cost that most pills are priced pretty much the same regardless of dose. Splitting pills seems such an easy way to cut medication costs that occasionally health insurers have required patients to buy certain drugs in higher dosages and cut them in half. However, pill splitting must be done wisely. Never split a medication without asking your doctor whether doing so is safe. If your doctor okays the split, cut tablets with an official pill splitter, available at most drugstores.


If you already take medications, do not stop them on your own. Consult your physician, set up a plan for trying out lifestyle changes that might help your condition, and get appropriate follow-up care to see whether the condition has improved.

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