Did you know, by the time you reach your 60s or 70s you're likely to be taking at least a half dozen medications even if you're in relatively good health? Add to this any herbal remedies or supplements in your regimen and your odds of having some problems with medication interactions greatly increase.
This is the big reason you should know and understand all of the medications you are prescribed how they interact with food other substances. Some medications are used to treat a variety of ailments. Propranolol for example, is used to treat hypertension and heart attacks. But it is also given to patients suffering migraine headaches, glaucoma and even certain psychiatric issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
All medications have side effects and interact differently with each other, including supplements and some foods. It's vitally important that your doctor and pharmacist are aware of everything you're taking. If it's not specifically food, it should be on a list. That list should include everything, including the dosage and how often you take them:
• Prescription medications • Non-prescription medications • Vitamins and supplements • Herbal remedies • Powders • Suppositories/enemas • Topical medications
Why herbals and topical meds? The rise in popularity of herbal medicine is of concern to medical professionals, not that herbal remedies are inherently dangerous, but with so much being purchased online, it's almost impossible to know exactly what you're getting. And even if your herbal meds come from reputable producers, there can be bad interactions.
Also, some patients are reluctant to admit taking anything their doctors and pharmacists haven't prescribed.
Example: Red yeast rice extract has been sold over-the-counter as a natural cholesterol-lowering agent. There has been a legal and industrial dispute as to whether red yeast rice is a drug or a dietary supplement, involving the manufacturer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical industry.
Red yeast contains statin-like compounds. Statins can harm the liver. Taking red yeast along with pharmaceutical statins, or with other herbs and supplements might increase your risk of liver damage.
Topical applications for skin conditions are not so suspect, but it's a good idea for your doctor to know everything.
I recommend that my patients make this list in pencil, so it can be updated anytime.
Apart from updating your doctors and pharmacist, it's best to keep this list in a variety of places and - with you at all times. If, for some reason you become temporarily incapacitated, the list speaks for you, when you cannot. This is critical for older people who suffer a higher percentage of falls and stroke.
I also recommend seniors have that list with family members and in the home that can be accessed quickly by emergency personnel. Having this list with you will save precious time in an emergency room and could be a life and death situation.
Record any drug allergies, side effects or sensitivities you have. The American Association of Retired Persons is among many organizations that provide standard medical information lists that can help you - help health care professionals in minimizing adverse drug interactions.
Jackie TeBeest is a Nurse Practitioner with Family Medical Associates on the St. Mary’s Medical Center campus. She can be reached at 816-228-1000.