Beyond medications: 3 essentials for good heart health


Help patients improve their exercise, diet and sleep habits

In brief:

  • Heart health is about more than just taking medications.
  • It requires exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep.
  • Your pharmacy marketing promotions can help patients address these areas and improve their heart health.

Maintaining heart health may start with taking the right medications, but it involves much more. A healthy heart also requires regular exercise, a good diet and adequate sleep. You can be the support your patients need in adopting heart-healthy lifestyles.

Patients start with great intentions

Americans often start a new year with goals to improve their health. However, only 1 in 5 people actually end up meeting their goals.1  

Researchers say a key to making long-term life changes is summed up in one word: joy. Patients must enjoy the change.2 To support patients, remove obstacles to change and provide short-term rewards to keep patients motivated for long-term results.

Make exercise the default

When exercise is a chore, people won’t do it. Here are two ideas to make exercise joyful:

  1. Help patients find the right fit. Promote a variety of exercise activities to your patients until they find one that’s a match. This can include providing maps of local walking or jogging trails. You can also form partnerships where customers get discounts at local gyms, or when purchasing exercise equipment. Or, expose customers to nearby places for yoga. 
  2. Create support networks. Many people are more likely to sustain exercise when they are part of a supportive group. 
    • Create a 30-day fitness challenge for customers. Invite patients to check in online or at your pharmacy for a chance to win prizes. You can maintain this year-round by offering a new fitness challenge every month.  
    • Offer a group walk starting at your pharmacy or host a “Couch to 5K” program with a local fitness trainer.  
    • Review progress with patients. Have them track activity, whether on an app or paper log, that you can review with them when they pick up prescriptions each month.  

The important piece is ensuring that you’re talking with your patients about their exercise goals, obstacles and progress, and celebrating each success. Also, make sure to teach them about aids available at your pharmacy, including footwear, supplements and pain relievers to make it easier to reach their goals.

Offer a menu of diet solutions

Nearly half of all deaths from cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes are linked to diet.3

  • Show customers how to eat better. Partner with dietitians and grocery stores to make eating healthy easier. Provide a cooking demonstration and give participants a coupon from a local grocery store so they can purchase the ingredients and make the dish at home.
  • Offer healthy alternatives. Offer healthy snacks as an alternative to candy bars. Talk with patients about nutrients that may be depleted from their diets and suggest supplements that they can start taking.

Suggest to patients who are changing their diets that they speak with you to ensure that new items like grapefruit or leafy green vegetables aren’t causing problems with medications.

Soothe them to sleep

About 1 in 3 Americans doesn’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and more.4

If your patients say they need more Zs, don’t just reach for over-the-counter sleep aids. Check their:

  • Medications. A number of prescriptions can interfere with sleep, including anti-arrhythmics, beta blockers, diuretics and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).5 If a drug may be the culprit, consult with the patient’s physician about other options.
  • Sleeping conditions. Ask about their bedtime routines, such as ensuring they turn off screens a few hours before going to bed. Offer restful solutions such as earplugs to block noise and essential oils to help them relax.6

Supporting patients in improving their heart health by making them aware of the importance of exercise, a healthy diet and sleep can ensure your patients are maintaining good health. Utilize your expertise and pharmacy products to help give them easy options for effective lifestyle changes. 

Note: The information provided here is for reference use only and does not constitute the rendering of legal or other professional advice by McKesson. Readers should consult appropriate professionals for advice and assistance prior to making important decisions regarding their business. McKesson is not advocating any particular program or approach herein. McKesson is not responsible for, nor will it bear any liability for, the content provided herein.

1 “Will Your Resolutions Last Until February?,” Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times, Dec. 31, 2007. LINK
2 “Psychology Explains New Year Resolutions, Hits and Misses,” Raj Persaud, M.D. and Peter Bruggen, M.D., Psychology Today, Dec. 31, 2017. LINK
3 “Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States,” Renata Micha et al., Journal of the American Medical Associations, March 7, 2017. LINK
4 “The Role of a Pharmacist in Managing Sleep Disorders,” Marilyn Bulloch and M. Kalyn Davis, Pharmacy Times, March 8, 2018. LINK
5 “Medications that Can Affect Sleep,” Harvard Women’s Health Watch, July 2010. LINK
6 “Comparisons for Effectiveness of Aromatherapy and Acupressure Massage on Quality of Life in Career Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” YH Kao, et al., Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, June 23, 2017. LINK