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Managing Chronic Health Conditions for Your Best Ride

Managing Chronic Health ConditionsWe exercise for many reasons: fun, socializing and sometimes because a loved one makes us, but many of us also have the added goal of getting healthy. While exercise does make our bodies healthier, it is important for people to be aware that their current health issues can affect or be affected by exercise. Diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, psychiatric conditions and even seasonal allergies can affect the way you should train.

Seventy percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug. When you start to exercise, it is important to talk to your doctor about the side effects of the medications you are taking. Alysia Bedgood, M.D., primary care sports medicine physician affiliated with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute, says, “Physical activity helps by naturally lowering your blood pressure and blood sugar, but when taking blood pressure or diabetes medication these can actually become too low.”

Diuretics or “water pills” and antihistamine allergy medication can make you more prone to dehydration or electrolyte issues on both those hot and cold Texas days. Fatigue can be a result of beta blockers for blood pressure and heart disease, chemotherapy, allergy and antidepressant medications. Antibiotics can get you back on the bike faster but may lead to loose bowels or sensitivity to the sun and certain drugs called flouroquinolones can put you at risk for tendon ruptures. Cholesterol medications can increase muscle pain and when pain is severe or persistent, it should not be ignored as it may be related to muscle breakdown and not just the 50-mile hill hopper you just did. Most people don’t consider supplements or diet aids as drugs but they often include stimulants that can increase heart rate and cause jitters. Being aware of what can happen can help you to prepare ahead of time and recognize any issues before they become dangerous.

It’s not only what you put in your body that is important but also the conditions around you. Regarding proper hydration, Dr. Bedgood warns, “Dehydration can occur on days that are hot but also on cold windy days as the cold and wind pull moisture from the skin. Another Houston favorite that affects hydration is humidity. On humid days our sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly and the body’s ability to cool itself is decreased.”

She advises that people with thyroid disease, MS, diabetes or kidney problems may not be able to regulate their temperature and hydration as well others. Making sure you are well hydrated before a ride and having hydration available at all times can go a long way. A quick way to check your hydration is to make sure your urine is clear to light yellow before even getting on the bike. Humidity and areas of high pollution can also make it more difficult for those with asthma or other lung diseases to breath. Riding indoors on humid or Ozone Action Days is best, but if you are unable, make sure to have appropriate medication available at all times.

Lastly, whether you are healthy or exercising with medical conditions, the most important tip is to know and listen to your own body. Dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pain should be checked out immediately. The more you know about your body and how it reacts to medicines, the environment and just exercise in general, the more fun and benefit you can get from your ride.