Now that you know that taking medications as directed by your doctor is a very important part of staying healthy and preventing a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke, here are some factors to consider as you move forward with taking long-term medications.

Knowing your medications and how to take them

Keeping track of your medications and when to take them can be overwhelming. A good place to start is to know what each pill looks like and what it’s supposed to do. It will help you make sure you’re taking the right medication and remind you of its importance. If you're on multiple medications, a pill box, available in grocery stores/pharmacies, may be helpful. Pill reminder apps are also available for your smartphone. 

Poor metabolizers (nonresponders)

Clopidogrel (Plavix), an antiplatelet medication, can be less effective for a small percentage of the population who carry a particular gene. Unfortunately, there are no specific signs or symptoms to help determine whether you’re at risk. Complying with your doctor's recommendations is the most important thing you can do.

Medication safety

It’s very important that your primary care physician, cardiologist, and any other doctor providing care and treatment knows about all medication you take, including prescription drugs, supplements, and over-the-counter medication.

Reading medication labels

Your medication labels provide important information about how much to take and how often as well as important information taking it with other medication. 

Affording your medications

One of the most common reasons for people not taking their medication is the cost. Yes, it can be very expensive, but don’t be embarrassed to admit that you’re concerned about the cost. It’s in your best interest to explore ways to afford the medication you need and to save money where you can with generics, discounts, free samples, assistance programs, and clinical trials. 

Using your pharmacist as a resource

You might be surprised to learn that a pharmacist can answer many of your most pressing questions about your medication, including questions about insurance, generic drugs, interactions, safety, discounts, storage, and disposal. You might save a few dollars by going someplace new or ordering from online pharmacies, but you won’t have the support, information, and peace of mind that you will have with a pharmacist you know by name and reputation. Your pharmacist can also inform you of the cost savings related to alternate drugs in the same class of drugs. 

Tips for caregivers

Managing multiple medications isn’t easy, so it helps to have a caring team. Take the time to learn about all the medications your loved one is taking. Maybe you can offer some suggestions to help them remember when to take their pills.

The most important thing to remember about medication is taking it as directed by a doctor. Even if you hear something negative about it on the news or someone tells your loved one to stop taking it before a procedure, check with a doctor first before reducing or stopping a medication.

Age, side effects, and drug interactions

If you do take more than a few medications, it’s important to go over them at least once a year with your doctor to eliminate any that are unnecessary and to identify drug interactions. And don’t forget to include supplements and over-the-counter medications. Access to your own electronic health record (EHR) lets you update your medications.

As a senior, taking care of yourself can become even more challenging, and you’re at a greater risk for problems with your medications such as depression, constipation, and confusion. Also, some side effects, for example dizziness, can lead to other problems such as losing your balance, falling down, and hurting yourself. Older adults also have more problems than younger people with certain drugs. Check Beer’s Criteria for medications that people over 65 should avoid and always check with your doctor.

Physical limitations

Finally, it’s important to remember that your hearing, vision, and memory may not be what they used be, which can interfere with communication among you, your doctor, and any other caregivers. So, whenever possible, ask questions and repeat instructions to ensure you understand everything correctly.