“It’s not too late to take control of your health, it’s never too late to get started on something new,” Carolyn Worthington creator of “September is Healthy Aging® Month” shares. Now in its second decade, the annual health observance draws attention to practical ideas and inspiration for adults aged 45 and older.
One of the most beneficial ways to take control of your health as you age is staying proactive about your use of medications. The Administration on Aging (AoA) reports that 30 million women and 24.1 million men in America were age 65 in 2019. Of adults aged 40-79, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that 70 percent of them use at least one prescription drug.
Medications can help us live longer and healthier lives, but misunderstanding and misusing medicines can lead to serious consequences.
Most Common Medications for Older Adults
The CDC finds that among adults aged 60-79 in the United States, the following are the most used prescription drug types:
- Lipid-lowering drugs 45%
- Antidiabetic agents 23.6%
- Beta blockers (reduces heart disease or high blood pressure) 22.3%
- ACE inhibitors (reduces high blood pressure) 21.3%
- Proton pump inhibitors (reduces stomach acid production) 16.9%
Problems with Medications as We Age
In general, older adults face an increase in diseases or conditions that coexist, known as comorbidities. Examples include experiencing joint pain and arthritis while also dealing with heart and blood pressure issues. The more health challenges a senior has, the more vulnerable the individual is to taking multiple medications, which can lead to a mix-up in what drug to take, when to take it and at what dosage.
Elderly adults also process medications differently than younger adults. This may mean a drug will cause a stronger effect than anticipated. A diabetes medication, for example, could lower blood sugar too much in a senior, causing a fall or decreased mental clarity.
The elder population is also at risk for common side effects when taking medicines, especially when taking several medications. Older adults who take prescribed or over-the-counter medicines are more susceptible to the side effects of falling, fluctuations in weight (loss or gain) and cognitive changes that affect processing information or overall memory.
How to Take Medications Wisely
Medicines are commonly divided into three categories: prescriptions; over-the-counter liquids, pills and creams; and dietary supplements (i.e., vitamins, herbal remedies). When you visit with your doctor, make sure you list all three types of medicines that you take.
- Ask for a medication review with your clinical pharmacist.
During your in-person or telephone appointment, talk through your allergies and any side-effect problems you’ve had with your medicines. If you’ve experienced dizziness, rashes, itching, nausea, confusion, mood changes or trouble breathing after taking a medicine, be sure you tell your think clinical pharmacist.
- Find out if you need to change or stop taking any medications.
When you add a new prescription medicine, you may need to adjust your current prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs. For example, it’s dangerous to take aspirin while on blood-thinning medication.
- Discuss any obstacles to taking prescribed medications.
If you are a senior on a fixed income or have other financial concerns, you may find it challenging to afford your prescriptions. If finances are stretched, you may skip doses or skip even filling a prescription. Or, if any cognitive issues or general forgetfulness occurs, you may not remember to take your medications on time or at the right dosage. Your think clinical pharmacist can help assess these obstacles and recommend practical solutions to keep you safely and regularly taking your medications.
- Note any special instructions on how to take your medications appropriately.
Your clinical pharmacist can walk you through how and when to take your medications. Be sure to read all labels and included instructions. Some medications you need to take with food or at specific intervals. Do not hesitate to ask your think clinical pharmacist to explain things so you clearly understand.
- Enlist help in organizing medications.
Often for older adults it is confusing to keep track of various medications and their appropriate dosage and timing. It can be difficult to manage taking different drugs at different times. You may need to enlist the help of a family member or caregiver to oversee your medications. Using a pill box or pharmacy-packaged medications can be a true lifesaver.
- Stay engaged with your overall health every day.
Many of the health problems that older adults experience can be alleviated with changes in diet, exercise, rest and mental well-being. Think clinical pharmacists approach your whole health and want to help optimize your use of medication. We also work closely with our doctors, physical therapists and other healthcare providers to help ensure you are getting the best individualized care that works for your body and your lifestyle.
In our younger years, we tend to live a faster-paced life and do not take care of ourselves as generously as we could. Some of us think we are invincible and any health problems will come much later in life. But before we reach age 60 and beyond is our time to live a healthier life . . . intentionally each day.
The think clinical pharmacy team is here for you to make referrals to other resources for healthier aging not just during healthy aging month but every month of the year.
As Carolyn Worthington reminds us, “It’s not too late to take control of your health, it’s never too late to get started on something new.” Why wait? Start your something new, your better health today.
LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR MEDICATIONS BY SPEAKING WITH YOUR CLINICAL PHARMACIST
Think makes it easy to receive both preventative care and treatment for a wide range of health conditions. From aching hips to painful digestion, our healthcare providers and specialists are here for you.
Our walk-in clinic treats anyone, even those who are not a think patient or do not have a primary care provider currently. To learn more about our comprehensive healthcare services, visit our Services page online and choose your own think medical professionals by visiting our Meet Your Doctor page.