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Taking multiple drugs can increase your risk of feeling each single drug's potential side effects or negative outcomes. Mixing prescribed medications can be a dangerous game. But proper medication management can help you overcome the challenges multiple prescriptions can present.
A recent survey found more than half of Americans regularly taking an average of four prescription drugs. What’s scarier is 53 percent of them get their prescription drugs from more than one health care provider, which increases the risk of adverse drug interactions. Stanford researchers found the most common multi-drug combinations treating manifestations of metabolic syndrome. These include:
High blood pressure
High blood sugar
Excess body fat around the waist
Abnormal cholesterol levels
But some of these combinations can put you at an increased risk for things like:
Potassium level spikes
Identifying the risks and untangling potential harmful interactions can be difficult. That’s why developing a good medication management plan is so critical to your overall health. Let’s look at some strategies you can employ if your medication list is long.
Keeping the number of doctors and pharmacies to a minimum is better for you and your providers. It makes it easier to do such things as:
Provide good communication
Prevent and minimize problems
It’s also a good idea to use only one pharmacy to obtain medications. This helps to keep your doctors and pharmacist on the same page, ensures appropriate dosage and decreases the chances of adverse drugs effects and interactions.
Ask your primary care physician or pharmacist about your dosage. You want to make sure the dosage is age-appropriate because some medications work better for younger people than they do older adults. You should also ask if it makes sense to start with a lower dose and taper upwards.
Some medications pose a higher risk of side effects or interactions, while others are simply less effective. The American Geriatric Society puts together a list of medications older adults should avoid or use with caution. It’s called the Beers Criteria for inappropriate medication use in older adults. It can help ensure you’re taking medications that won’t do more harm than good.
Anytime you obtain medications you should make sure you understand it’s potential side effects. It’s information that can get you to pay attention to any health changes you may occur after introducing a new medication or combining certain medications.
If you do notice health changes, contact your doctor right away.
A comprehensive medication management plan includes a list of all of the medications you’re currently taking.
You should also make sure the pharmacy label tells you why you’re taking the prescription.
You should take your list with you to every one of your doctor visits. You should show it to your doctor and discuss any new medications you may be taking. This is also the chance for you to find out if mixing any of your medications will cause potential problems.
If you or someone in your family had a bad reaction to any medication in the past, let your doctor and pharmacist know.
By showing your doctor the list, you may also find out you’re taking a medication you no longer need.
Medication adherence is an important part of any health plan. But it’s startling to think that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of Americans taking more than five prescription medications has nearly tripled in the past 20 years. If you’re one of them, talk to your doctor about medication management.
To get additional information on how to treat conditions that affect older adults, try downloading our guide “The Most Concerning Health Issues for Older Adults.” In it you’ll find out which disease affects 25% of all older adults.