Better than drugs for heart disease

Survive a stroke or a heart attack, and you'll leave the hospital with enough pills to stock a CVS pharmacy.

But there's something you can do that's every bit as good as those meds, maybe even better -- something far more effective at preventing a second heart attack and stroke.

And your own doctor probably won't even tell you about it.

It's having an exercise routine.

Sure, he'll mention exercise -- but he won't emphasize it, and he'll tell you it's something to do in addition to taking your meds.

What he won't tell you is that having some form of exercise routine can actually take the place of those meds.

But it's true, and one new look at more than 300 studies that compared drugs to an exercise routine finds that exercise ties or wins nearly every time. When it comes to diabetes and heart disease, for example, exercise is as effective as drugs at extending life.

And if you've suffered a stroke, getting into an exercise routine is actually better than meds.

The only time drugs win is in heart failure patients, where diuretics are more effective than exercise -- but I think this is the exception, not because exercise doesn't work.

It's because the heart failure itself can make it difficult to get the exercise you need.

If you've suffered heart failure, work with your doctor on a safe routine program your heart can handle -- and if you do need a diuretic, ask about natural alternatives to prescription meds.

And for all other conditions, there's a reason your doctor is loathe to mention exercise as an alternative to drugs: He assumes you're not going to follow through on your workout program.

And, let's face facts here, in most cases it's a pretty safe assumption.

But you can be the exception and get the movement you need for good health -- because it's a lot easier than you think. Just find something you love that keeps you moving. Do it three or four times a week, and there's your exercise routine -- no gym memberships, sports equipment or fancy workout clothes necessary.

And as always, don't quit any meds without speaking to your doctor first.