Is Your Pill Box Overflowing? Six Reasons to Streamline Your Medications

How many prescription medications are you taking? 

Chances are, if you're over 65, you're taking at least one regular medication (only 1 in 13 don't take any). 


Perhaps you're among the 50% of over-65s who take at least five medications a day.


Whether it's a statin for cholesterol, a blood pressure pill, or an anti-inflammatory for arthritis, you're in good company. But have you ever felt overwhelmed by all those pills? If so, you're not alone.

When Medications Start Feeling Like Too Much

Elizabeth, a concerned senior, told me, "I feel like I am rattling with all these pills inside me!" The variety of pills can create a cocktail of potential side effects that are often hard to keep track of. And let's not forget the anxiety that comes from reading those medication leaflets!

The Hesitation to Question: Do You Dare to Ask?

It’s common to feel wary about questioning doctors or pharmacists. We often find ourselves hesitating, worried we’re stepping out of line or bothering healthcare professionals. 


However, taking multiple medications - also called polypharmacy - can have many consequences. It can be helpful to understand these before you discuss your medications with your doctor. 


Why ‘Rattling With Pills’ May Not Be Your Best Bet

Taking multiple medications - known as polypharmacy - is common but does have consequences.

1. The Side Effect Domino Effect

All medications have potential side effects, some more serious than others.
 

The risk here is that you get caught in a 'prescribing cascade,' where one medication causes side effects, leading to another medication being prescribed to manage the side effects... which in itself causes more side effects. We could go on and on! 

2. Watch Your Step: Medications and Fall Risk

Taking multiple medications increases your risk of falling. If your prescription list has three or more items, your likelihood of a fall jumps significantly. It's something to be aware of, especially when certain medications can cause dizziness

3. The Less Explored World of Drug Interactions

Drug interactions are not as well understood as side effects, but can be just as important. 


Some medications interact with others or affect the levels of the enzymes needed to absorb another medication. The impact of this can be either that none of the drug is absorbed, or that too much is, leading to a sort of overdose effect.


The more medications you’re on, the higher the chances of unexpected interactions. It's like mixing unknown ingredients in a cooking pot; you're never sure what you'll end up with! 

4. Beyond Medications: Herbal and Nutritional Interactions

Your favourite supplements might be causing more harm than good when paired with prescription medications. For instance, popular supplements like St. John’s Wort can clash with blood pressure medications.

5. The Risk of Prescription Errors

Errors can happen, even in the best healthcare systems. Wrong dosages, incorrect medications, or other errors can introduce risks you didn’t even consider. 

6. The Aging Factor: Changing Medication Needs

As we age, our bodies handle medications differently. You may absorb less or become more sensitive to side effects. It's another reason to make sure you're reporting all your side effects and getting regular medication reviews. 

Finding Balance Through De-Prescribing

Recently, de-prescribing has gained attention as a way to minimize the risks of polypharmacy, especially for seniors. It's about fine-tuning your medication list while considering lifestyle changes that can improve your well-being.


This is not about saying that all medications are harmful, or that you don't need the medications you're on. It's about ensuring you're taking the minimum number of medications needed to stay healthy. 


You should never change the dose or stop taking any medications without consulting your doctor. 

A Call to Action: Book a Medication Review

We recommend booking a medication review with your healthcare provider. It’s an opportunity to reassess your prescriptions and ensure they are doing more good than harm. You should be able to do this with your doctor or pharmacist. 

Final Thoughts: Empower Yourself for Better Health

In conclusion, your well-being is too important to leave to chance. If you have concerns about the number of medications you're taking, it's essential to consult with your healthcare provider for a comprehensive medication review. 


Remember, less can sometimes be more when it comes to prescriptions, especially as you age. Don't hesitate to take proactive steps to ensure you're on the safest, most effective regimen. Your future self will thank you.

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All material in this article and video is provided for information and educational purposes only. It is not advice and should not be relied on as such. Always consult an exercise or health professional if you have any health issues and need personalised advice. With this in mind, we hope you enjoy reading our articles and watching our videos.

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