Most doctors who care for older adults are aware of the potential problem of “polypharmacy,” which is the use of multiple medications that can interact and cause side effects.
Sometimes patients end up using several medicines they don’t need because they continue using older medicines that their doctors are unaware of.
I recommend that patients bring in all of their medicines for their initial evaluation, so their doctor can review what they are taking.
When a physician systematically reviews a patient’s drug regimen, both over-the-counter medicines and prescription medicines should be included.
For instance, some people use over-the-counter antihistamines as sleeping aids and don’t realize that they can affect brain neurotransmitters in a way that impairs memory.
Vitamin supplements need to be assessed as well. Just because a supplement is classified as a natural food and not a synthetic drug does not mean it’s necessarily safe for you personally.
Some vitamin supplements can interact with prescription medicines and increase the risk of side effects. For example, vitamin E extends bleeding time.
If a patient is taking drugs such as Coumadin or Motrin, which make them prone to bleeding, the supplement/drug combination could put them at risk for an ulcer or stroke.
As we get older, our bodies don’t metabolize and eliminate drugs as effectively as they once did.
As a result, our brains can become more sensitive to medicines. Reducing doses can minimize the consequences of age-related physiological changes.
Because sensitivity to medicines varies a great deal among individuals, many doctors start with low doses when prescribing for older adults.
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