By Charles Cox PT, DPT
According to the Georgetown Health Policy Institute, 66% of all adults in the United States are on a prescription drug. That number should surprise you! Even more surprising is how many prescriptions are filled annually as the relative age increases. The average number of annually filled individual prescriptions for those aged 65-79 is 20 medications! Considering these high numbers of medications, it is important that individuals taking multiple medications educate themselves on the effects of the medications they are taking on their bodies and how the medications interact.
There are a few basics that anyone can learn and grasp which will help you, your prescribing physician, and your pharmacist decide which medications are right for you. Being on 4 or more medications is called “polypharmacy” and it is imperative that individuals who are in this category understand the basic concepts to protect themselves and maximize their health outcomes!
The body processes, stores, and excretes medications in different ways and it is important to know the differences. The primary thing to know is the difference between water-soluble and fat-soluble medication. This basically refers to how the medication is metabolized, transported, and stored. Knowing this may help with better understanding intake schedules which is important for safe consuming since not all medications are metabolized at the same rate! Taking a drug too soon or too late can be detrimental to your health, so a schedule can optimize your outcome and prevent adverse effects!
Another important aspect of taking medication is to be aware of adverse side effects, most importantly allergic reactions. Anaphylaxis is your bodies allergy response to a medication that it deems as a threat to your body, so it kicks your immune system into high gear to protect at all costs! This would be great if it were not life threatening, which is why it is important to recognize these signs before things become worse! Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis you should watch out for when starting a new medication include swollen tongue, airway constriction, weak and rapid pulse, and skin reactions such as pallor or rashes. If you have any of these signs you should call your doctor right away!
Being a responsible consumer and educating yourself about the medications you take is important in being safe and optimizing your health. Remember to follow your doctor’s and pharmacist’s directions regarding when, and how often to take your medications. If you have questions you should always ask! Also remember that the best medication you can take is physical activity because of the amazing effects it has on all aspects of your health! If you are looking for somewhere to get started, a Physical Therapist can help guide you through the process and collaborate with you on a plan of care that is tailored to your specific and individual needs!