You And Your Medicines

As you age you may be faced with more health conditions that you need to treat on a regular basis. It is important to be aware that more use of medicines and normal body changes can increase the chance of unwanted or maybe even harmful drug interactions.

The more you know about your medicines and the more you talk with your health care professionals, the easier it is to avoid problems with medicines.
Body changes can affect the way medicines are absorbed and used. For example, changes in the digestive system can affect how fast medicines enter the bloodstream. Changes in body weight can influence the amount of medicine you need to take and how long it stays in your body. The circulation system may slow down, which can affect how fast drugs get to the liver and kidneys. The liver and kidneys also may work more slowly, affecting the way a drug breaks down and is removed from the body.

Because of these body changes, there is also a bigger risk of drug interactions.

Drug-drug interactions happen when two or more medicines react with each other to cause unwanted effects. This kind of interaction can also cause one medicine to not work as well or even make one medicine stronger than it should be. For example, you should not take aspirin if you are taking a prescription blood thinner, such as warfarin, unless your health care professional tells you to.

Drug-condition interactions happen when a medical condition you already have makes certain drugs potentially harmful. For example, if you have high blood pressure or asthma, you could have an unwanted reaction if you take a nasal decongestant.

Drug-food interactions result from drugs reacting with foods or drinks. In some cases, food in the digestive track can affect how a drug is absorbed. Some medicines also may affect the way nutrients are absorbed or used in the body.

Drug-alcohol interactions can happen when the medicine you take reacts with an alcoholic drink. For instance, mixing alcohol with some medicines may cause you to feel tired and slow your reactions.

It is important to know that many medicines do not mix well with alcohol. Keep in mind that some problems you might think are medicine- related, such as loss of coordination, memory loss, or irritability, could be the result of a mix between your medicine and alcohol.

What Are Side Effects?
Side effects are unplanned symptoms or feelings you have when taking a medicine. Most side effects are not serious and go away on their own; others can be more bothersome and even serious. To help prevent possible problems with medicines, seniors must know about the medicine they take and how it makes them feel.

Keep track of side effects to help your doctor know how your body is responding to a medicine. New symptoms or mood changes may not be a result of getting older but could be from the medicine you’re taking or another factor, such as a change in diet or routine. If you have an unwanted side effect, call your doctor right away.

Talk to Your Health Care Professionals
It is important to go to all of your medical appointments and to talk to your team of health care professionals (doctors, pharmacists, nurses, or physician assistants) about your medical conditions, the medicines you take, and any health concerns you have.

It may help to make a list of comments, questions, or concerns before your visit or call to a health care professional. Also, think about having a close friend or relative come to your appointment with you if you are unsure about talking to your health care professional or would like someone to help you understand and/or remember answers to your questions.