Diabetes medications can cause dangerously low blood sugar
In healthy people, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that helps process sugar to be used as energy by cells. However, type 2 diabetes is a disease that results from an inability to produce insulin and an accumulation of sugar in the blood. Sulfonylureas are drugs that increase insulin production and lower blood sugar levels. These medications are particularly effective when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise because physical activity helps lower blood sugar levels. However, doctors caution that people with diabetes taking sulfonylureas or insulin should monitor their blood sugar before, during, and after their workout to ensure their blood sugar doesn’t drop too low. Blood sugar monitors can accomplish this quickly and with minimal inconvenience.
Opioids are powerful pain medications that treat moderate to severe pain from surgery, cancer, and other ailments. These drugs work by blocking the pain signals that travel from the body to the brain, causing a euphoric feeling. Opioids need to be taken with caution and at the precise direction of a doctor because improper use can lead to dependency and addiction. Even when taken as directed, opioids can cause a few side effects that could impact your ability to exercise. Opioids can make you feel dizzy and disoriented, increasing your risk of falling or injuring yourself while working out. They also slow your heart rate and breathing, making it harder to engage in demanding exercise activities. Shorter workouts, low-impact exercises, and machines like ellipticals that keep you stable can help you work out safely on opioids.
Seizure medications might leave you dizzy and tired
Anticonvulsants are medications that block or change the way brain cells communicate, preventing seizure activity from spreading in the brain. These drugs are highly effective, reducing seizures in around 70 percent of people who take them. Nonetheless, many people on seizure medications experience side effects that might make exercise difficult or dangerous. Two of the most commonly reported side effects of anticonvulsants are dizziness and fatigue. Both of these side effects can increase the risk of injuring yourself during a workout. In addition, some people on seizure medicine also experience vertigo, which is an extreme feeling of lightheadedness and imbalance that is sometimes described as dizziness. People who experience dizzy spells or vertigo can still work out but are advised to do low-intensity exercises and avoid rapid head movements.
Stimulants are drugs used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some sleep disorders. They are also found in some kinds of cold medicines. Stimulants work by altering the level of chemicals that nerve cells use to communicate with each other. These medications can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, all of which are dangerous while exercising. Working out before taking stimulants can prevent these side effects from impacting your exercise routine. Additionally, a doctor may be able to prescribe and also be able to help you adjust your dosage to reduce the side effects of stimulants and allow you to exercise safely.
Beta-blockers can help people with high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart disease by blocking adrenaline, a hormone that stimulates the heartbeat. When adrenaline is blocked, the heart rate slows down, causing blood pressure to drop. Both heart rate and blood pressure increase during most exercises. Beta-blockers prevent these normal increases. People taking these medications may notice a decrease in endurance and that they feel drained and short of breath while working out. Carefully monitoring activity is recommended to avoid overexertion. Because low blood pressure can cause you to feel dizzy and unbalanced when you sit up or stand suddenly. Some doctors recommend avoiding sudden position changes while on beta blockers.
Taking a stimulant like amphetamine can help you manage symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy, a disorder that causes people to feel excessively drowsy and fall asleep suddenly. These medications increase the levels of the brain chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine plays essential roles in many brain functions, including attention and movement. Sometimes people taking stimulants feel jittery and experience tremors, or uncontrollable shaking, usually in their arms and hands. Fortunately, these side effects can usually be alleviated by adjusting the dosage. Exercising with a tremor is still possible. Lower-impact activities like swimming and tai chi allow people with tremors to stay fit while reducing their risk of injury.
Many conditions, including over-exercise and dehydration, can cause muscle spasms when the muscle suddenly and painfully contracts. Muscle relaxers help relieve these spasms by blocking nerve cells from communicating with muscles and preventing involuntary muscle contractions. The medications, while effective, can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and blurred vision, all of which affect the ability to work out safely. You can avoid these side effects by using other methods to treat muscle spasms, such as ice, a heating pad, or a massage. Muscle relaxers should only be taken for a short period of time, so you might choose to skip the gym while treating muscle spasms.
Sedatives are sleeping aids that help people with insomnia and other sleep issues sleep. So, it’s no surprise that they make you drowsy. However, the effects of the drugs may last longer than intended, leaving you feeling groggy and disoriented even after you’ve had a good night’s sleep. This effect, called a “daytime hangover,” may spoil your workout by making you unable to focus, uncoordinated, and more likely to injure yourself. Avoiding exercising in the morning, when you’re most likely to be drowsy, can help you avoid this side effect. Switching to a different sedative that is not active as long may also help.
Antihistamines block sweat and cause you to overheat
The body releases histamines in response to an injury, causing swelling. Although this can be uncomfortable, it is essential to protect the body from infections and injuries. However, when histamine is overly reactive, it can mistake harmless things like plant pollen, animal hair, or certain foods as dangerous, causing an allergic reaction. Antihistamines stop this reaction by blocking histamines from being released. Some antihistamines, namely diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can also prevent you from sweating. Perspiration, especially while exercising, help you cool off, so blocking and preventing sweating can cause you to overheat. Taking different antihistamines like cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), or fexofenadine (Allegra) are safer options if you’re working out. Also staying hydrated or working out before you take antihistamines can prevent overheating.
In addition to causing overheating, some antihistamines have been shown to impact your body’s ability to recover after a rigorous workout. For example, a study from 2016 found that the antihistamine fexofenadine (Allegra) blocks the genes that help increase blood flow to the muscles after exercise. This blood flow is vital for muscles to recover, and consistent training will help muscles grow stronger. So, while antihistamines might mean less muscle soreness and weakness the day after hitting the gym, they may also reduce the long-term benefits of your workout. The study also found that the use of antihistamines before working out could dampen improvements in resting heart rate that usually results from regular aerobic exercise.
There are wide varieties of antihistamines on the market, including fast-acting antihistamines like Benadryl and newer long-lasting antihistamines like Claritin and Zyrtec. Drowsiness is Benedryl’s most common side effect, so much so that some people use it as a sedative to help them sleep. But even long-lasting, non-drowsy antihistamines can make you feel sluggish and uncoordinated, which can seriously hurt your workout. Scheduling exercise before you take antihistamines can help you avoid these side effects. You might also consider switching to different, non-antihistamine allergy medicine. Alternatives to antihistamines include allergy shots and corticosteroid nasal sprays and inhalers.
Most people reach for over-the-counter medicines to relieve nasal congestion when a cold or flu leaves them with a stuffy nose. Most of the common decongestants in cold medicine contain stimulants, usually pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. These stimulants work by opening up blood vessels, which decreases swelling and congestion inside the nose. However, stimulants can leave you feeling jittery, increase your blood pressure, and raise your heart rate, even causing heart palpitations. Like antihistamines, it may be better to delay taking stimulant decongestants until after your workout to avoid dangerously a high heart rate. Some doctors may also recommend taking cold medicines that contain non-stimulant decongestants, including some nasal sprays.
ACE inhibitors are drugs commonly used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). They work by blocking a molecule that causes blood vessels to narrow. As a result, ACE inhibitors decrease blood pressure by allowing blood vessels to open wider, reducing pressure on blood vessels. With any drug that lowers blood pressure, you must be careful to avoid hypotension (low blood pressure), especially while exercising. ACE inhibitors are also frequently prescribed with diuretics, decreasing blood pressure. People taking either or both of these medications are encouraged to do gradual cool-downs to avoid an excessive drop in blood pressure following a workout. Post-exercise hypotension can occur in anyone but is a particular risk for people taking medicines to manage high blood pressure.
Laxatives are used to treat occasional constipation. There are several types of laxatives, each with a slightly different way of promoting regular bowel movements. Stimulant laxatives do this by causing the muscles of the intestines to contract and move poop through the digestive tract. Although stimulant laxatives are the fastest-acting and often the most effective, they can cause stomach cramps and abdominal pain while working. This may make it difficult or uncomfortable to work out. Skipping the gym until you’re no longer constipated is one way to avoid stomach cramps while exercising. Another option is choosing a more gentle laxative that softens stool by absorbing water into the intestines. These laxatives may not work quite as fast as stimulant laxatives, but they are much less likely to cause cramps.
Dietary supplements may get your heart pumping too fast
Even if you’re not taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs, you could still deal with side effects that might make your workouts dangerous. For example, elevated heart rate is a side effect of several common dietary supplements, including the natural sleep aid valerian and ginseng, a root that is used to boost energy and reduce stress. Taking any substance, natural or otherwise, that raises heart rate requires extra care while working out. Exercising before taking supplements and monitoring heart rate are two ways to work out safely while taking supplements. Remember that while natural remedies may have fewer side effects than some medications, they can still carry risks and should only be taken under supervision from a medical professional.
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