It happens so gradually you probably didn’t even notice at first. You go to the doctor, and he gives you a prescription. Then a few months later, another appointment, another prescription.
And then another. And another. Until one day, it dawns on you that you’re choking down a handful of pills every single day.
With mainstream medicine’s focus on treating symptoms instead of the core issues, it’s an easy trap to fall into. The practice has become SO common they’ve even given it a name… polypharmacy.
In fact, experts estimate that nearly HALF of all folks over the age of 70 take FIVE different medications a day. And as many as 12 percent of seniors take 10 or more.
And the problem is getting worse, with prescriptions increasing at an alarming pace. In 1997, polypharmacy was a problem for approximately 17 percent of patients. By 2012, that number had skyrocketed to more than 60 percent.
Seniors BEWARE of these prescription meds
In other words, if this sounds familiar you’re NOT alone.
Even worse, some of the most common drugs seniors find themselves on are also the riskiest. And while you should NEVER stop a medication without having a chat with your doctor, certain drugs are inappropriate for folks in their golden years.
Are you on any of the following medications? If so it’s time to make an appointment to confront your doc about stopping them as soon as possible.
Doctors prescribe anticholinergic drugs to treat a wide variety of conditions including sleep problems, urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, psychological disorders, and muscle spasms.
It’s a very popular class of drugs. And as you may have noticed, a number of the health complaints I mentioned above are ones that become more common as we age. The trouble is anticholinergics have some hefty side effects… ESPECIALLY for seniors.
They can cause dizziness, hallucinations, blurred vision, confusion, urinary retention, and the kiss of death for older folks… falls. But perhaps most shocking of all is that these drugs are associated with up to a 30 percent increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Examples of these drugs include oxybutynin (Ditropan), tolterodine (Detrol), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), benztropine (Cogentin), carbinoxamine (Palgic), chlorpheniramine (Actifed), chlorpromazine (Thorazine), prochlorperazine (Compazine) and hydroxyzine (Atarax)… to name just a few.
The American Geriatrics Society strongly recommends older adults avoid using these drugs. So if you’re taking one, it’s time for a serious talk with your doctor about getting off it.
It turns out benzodiazepines… which are tranquilizers doctors often prescribe for anxiety and insomnia… can mess with your brain too. In fact, a study found using these drugs is associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
And the longer you use them the HIGHER your risk rises. Folks taking benzos for just three to six months have a 32 percent increased risk of dementia compared to people who have never taken the drugs. And that risk shoots up to a shocking 84 percent in people who are on them longer.
Seniors have an increased sensitivity to these drugs. Other side effects for older folks can include cognitive impairment, delirium, falls, and car accidents. And once again, the older adults avoid using these drugs.
Examples of benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), flurazepam (Dalmane), chlorazepate (Tranxene), and quazepam (Doral).
3. Cardiac glycosides (digoxin):
If you have atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) or heart failure, your doc may have put you on digoxin. But if you’re a senior, experts say that might be a mistake.
According to experts, side effects from digoxin are more common in older folks. Side effects can include dizziness, confusion, and hallucinations all of which can lead to falls in older people.
And higher doses, which are common in seniors, don’t provide any additional benefits. But they DO increase your risk of toxicity and kidney complications.
Digoxin is NOT recommended for older folks. Examples of this drug include Lanoxin, Digox, Digitek, and Lanoxicaps. If you’re currently taking one of these, and are 60 or older, talk with your doc about safer alternatives or lowering your dosage.
NSAID pain-relieving drugs are very popular both in prescription form and over the counter. And they’re very risky too.
NSAIDs send your risk for internal bleeding skyrocketing. And GI bleeds and ulcers are even more common in seniors who may also be on other blood thinning medications as well.
Experts say your risk for side effects rises with age. And the American Geriatrics Society strongly recommends older adults avoid using NSAIDs regularly.
These drugs are prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes. They work by increasing the amount of insulin your pancreas releases.
Seniors taking sulfonylureas are at an increased risk for a condition called syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion. SIADH causes you to retain water upsetting the balance of minerals and electrolytes in your body.
But even worse, they can cause dangerously low blood sugar in older adults. Which is why experts recommend seniors avoid them.
Examples of these drugs include glyburide (Glynase and DiaBeta) and chlorpropamide (Diabinese).
With nearly half of folks over 70 already a victim of polypharmacy, chances are you or someone you care about is in danger of becoming one too.
To avoid taking drugs that you don’t need… or which are inappropriate for you… make it a habit to check your prescriptions at least every few months.
And never be afraid to confront your doc about any that seem inappropriate to you. Because when you do, you could LITERALLY be saving your own life.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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