A recent Oregon State study revealed an alarming statistic: One in five older adults take medications that conflict with each other. This occurs because doctors treat one condition at a time, so the medication patients take is only focused on one treatment at a time. A common example is beta-blockers: Prescribed to treat heart disease, beta-blockers can also lead to airway resistance that complicates chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
When you’re recovering from an ailment, the last thing you want to worry about is whether your medication is doing more harm than good. But if you see multiple physicians, you can’t expect your doctors to keep track of all your medication. That’s why it’s important to be your own health advocate.
How do you do this? First, bring an up-to-date list of all the medications you’re taking—including supplements and vitamins—to every appointment you have. Then, make sure you’re asking the right questions. These include:
Why am I being prescribed this medication? To your doctor, the answer to this question might seem obvious, but a detailed explanation can help you to understand how your medication is reacting within your body.
How, when, and over what period of time should I take the medication? You want to make sure you’re taking your medication properly so it can achieve its purpose. Even if directions come on the package, double check with your doctor to make sure you don’t have any special recommendations.
What side effects should I watch for? Many medicine side effects are subtle. When you know what to look out for, you can ensure you don’t mistake a side effect for something more serious.
How will I know if the medicine is working? Knowing what kind of results you’re hoping to achieve by taking your medicine can help you know what changes you can expect in your body.
Will this medication interact with my current medications? This is where that list you wrote down will come in handy. Have your doctor crosscheck your medications to help limit the chances of negative interactions.
Do I still need to take my current medication with my new medication? Even if your new medication was prescribed for a different purpose, it could still eradicate the need for your current medication. Since you don’t want to take any unnecessary medication, this is worth asking.
As your doctor answers each question, don’t be intimidated to ask for more information if you don’t understand the initial answer. You deserve to have all the facts about what you’re putting into your body.
Want to learn more about taking control of your medication? Check out the eBook “Tips for Better Medication Management.”