Imagine if you could cure what ails you with one pill per day. Wouldn’t that be great?
You might think so, but I would have to disagree. Let me tell you why.
I have an uncle that’s been sick for as long as I can remember. He’s always overweight and now is obese. He takes pills for everything under the sun and has battled through a few bouts of serious illness while continuing to treat high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, mobility issues, and more.
Put simply, his health is a mess. And part of the reason why is that he feels no need to take care of himself. His attitude has always been, “well, there is a pill/treatment for that.” That attitude has likely led to the increasing severity and degeneration of his mind and body.
So, when I read a study about a new “polypill” that might be able to slash the risk of life-threatening heart problems, I wasn’t necessarily jumping for joy.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that taking a polypill—a single pill that can treat numerous conditions—for one year could cut the risk of heart disease and blood vessel disease by 25-percent. Similar longer studies have had comparable results.
The pill contained low doses of two blood pressure medications, a statin, and a medication that prevents excess fluid retention. In the year-long study featuring 300 participants, it was found to reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 9 mm Hg compared to only 2 mm Hg who received usual treatment. Individuals taking the polypill also say “bad” LDL cholesterol dip by 15 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) compared to only 4 mm/dL in the usual treatment group. Most impressive was adherence—people are more likely to follow medication guidelines if they only have to take one pill.
Still, this is not an ideal scenario for some. If people are taking on a more heart-healthy lifestyle and using the pill to supplement their efforts, that’s great. It’s also useful if you’re a member of an under-served population with limited access to healthcare or healthy options. However, if you’re like my uncle, this pill may just enable poor decisions and unhealthy living.