Aging Gracefully: Reducing the Risks of Polypharmacy
By Elizabeth Peterson, MFA
It is no secret that we are living longer. Unfortunately, we are not necessarily living healthier. More and more people have one or more health issues. Many of which are managed by one or more medicines.
These medicines may help to keep health and put off further sickness. But, the more medicine you take, the greater the risk of drug interactions. This is a growing risk among the older adults in the US.
What Is Polypharmacy?
Polypharmacy is the use of many medicines at the same time. This can result in a slow buildup of side effects. Problems may happen with:
It can lead to a bad response to drugs. Treatment may become less useful or stopped. It may also cause other problems that need more care.
It can also be hard to catch signs of some medicine interactions. Symptoms can differ based on the medicine involved. They may also be very common signs, such as:
These symptoms may be mistaken as common aging issues.
Are You at Risk for Harm by Polypharmacy?
These 10 questions will help you check your risk. If you answer yes to any of these, you may be at risk for medicine interaction.
Talk to your doctor or your pharmacist about all your medicine. Mae sure to include any supplements or herbs you are taking as well.
Top 10 Tips for Reducing the Risks of Polypharmacy
The good news is there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Here are some tips to help you:
Remember, if you are worried about your medicine, talk to your doctor. There are many ways that you and your doctors can work together to manage your health care.
American Academy of Family Physicians
Health Alliance Plan
College of Pharmacists of British Columbia
Are you at risk for polypharmacy? Health Alliance Plan. Available at: http://www.hap.org/info/formulary/polypharmacy_risk.php . Accessed on September 24, 2003.
How to avoid polypharmacy. University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Available at: http://www.med.unc.edu/aging/polypharmacy.avoid.htm . Accessed on September 24, 2003.
Patel RB. Polypharmacy and the elderly [abstract]. J Infus Nurs. 2003;26(3):166-169.
Symptoms of polypharmacy. University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Available at: http://www.med.unc.edu/aging/polypharmacy/symptoms.htm . Accessed on September 24, 2003.
What is polypharmacy? Health Alliance Plan. Available at: http://www.hap.org/info/formulary/polypharmacy.php . Accessed on September 24, 2003.
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