Taking Medicine Safely Is Vital to Your Health
If you have a chronic condition, your healthcare provider may recommend lifestyle changes and prescribe medicine to help you manage your health.
Not taking your medicine as directed can make your disease worse, possibly leading to hospitalizations and even death. Researchers report that, among adults with chronic conditions, 30% to 50% of medicines are not taken correctly. This nonadherence leads to about 125,000 deaths a year in the U.S.
Here’s an overview of the type of medicines your provider may prescribe and what can happen when conditions aren’t managed properly:
High blood pressure
Common medicine classes: diuretics, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and others that relax your blood vessels
When not well-controlled: a greater risk for stroke, chronic heart failure, and other cardiovascular events
Type 2 diabetes
Common medicine classes: insulin and oral medicines that control blood sugar levels
When not well-controlled: eye problems, skin complications, nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke
Common medicine classes: statins to help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, and other medications to lower LDL and prohibit cholesterol absorption in the intestine
When not well-controlled: increased risk for cardiovascular events and death
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Common medicine classes: bronchodilators (short- or long-acting) to open the airways and relax the lung muscles and steroids to help reduce inflammation
When not well-controlled: lingering cough, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing
Common medicine classes: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) to correct an imbalance of brain chemicals
When not well-controlled: worsening of symptoms, which might include suicidal thoughts
Managing meds at home
Following your medicine plan is an important part of treating your condition. These tips can help:
Ask your provider for advice if you have side effects that cause problems, have trouble paying for your prescriptions, or are looking for tips to help you stay on track with your medicine schedule.
Make sure you understand when to take each medicine, how much to take, and how long you should take it.
Create a routine that works for you. For example, take your medicines when you eat breakfast or get ready for bed.
Use a daily or weekly pill organizer that allows you to put pills in compartments based on when you take them.