• Know Your Medications & How to Take Them


    If you have heart disease or have had a heart attack or stroke, you probably take medicine every day. You are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 percent of Americans take at least one prescription medication every day. If you’re over 65, have heart disease or other ongoing health issues, you may take a handful of pills every day, especially if you count over-the-counter medications and supplements.

    The high cost of medication, as well as keeping track of what you take, how much to take, and when to take it, can be challenging. But if you have heart disease, medication can make you feel better and it might save your life. It is expensive, but frequent trips to the doctor or the hospital emergency room, can cost you more in the long run.

    To make it easier to face the cost and inconvenience of taking medication, think of each pill as a life-saver or a life-enhancer instead of a nuisance. Ask yourself, “What does this medication do for me? How is it saving or enhancing my life?” If you don’t know, read the label. If you still aren’t sure, ask your doctor or ask your pharmacist. Once you understand, write the purpose down for future reference on the Know Your Meds Worksheet, give a copy to anyone involved in your care, and keep a copy with you.

    Take All Medications as Directed by Your Doctor

    Taking your medication is one of the most important ways you can treat your heart disease and prevent heart attacks and strokes. That’s why your answer to the following question is so important:

    Q: When can you stop taking your medication?

    A: Not until the doctor who prescribed it says it is safe to do so.

    Without exception, the answer to that question is the same, even in the following scenarios:

    DO NOT stop taking your medications (without checking with your doctor first) even when:

    • Another doctor says it’s okay
    • You can’t afford them anymore
    • You experience an unpleasant side effect
    • You forget
    • You are having a dental procedure
    • You are having elective surgery
    • You feel fine
    • You heard on the news that your medication doesn’t work
    • Your best friend told you that she heard it was dangerous
    • You ran out of medication
    • You’re on a trip and accidentally left it at home
    • You’re sick and you can’t keep them down

    If you do stop or accidentally miss a dose, check with your doctor about what to do next.

    Develop a Medication Routine

    When you take your medication make sure you are also consistently taking the prescribed amount as often as you should. If you’re not sure, check with your doctor or pharmacist. Consider using SecondsCount’s Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Medications as a tool.

    Do you already have a routine? Can you answer the following questions without checking the medication labels?

    • How many pills do you take each day?
    • Can you name each one and the reason you take it?
    • Can you identify each one by color and shape?
    • Which ones do you take more than once a day?
    • Which ones do you take less frequently than each day?
    • What other types of medication do you take (for example, injections or liquids)?
    • Can you name the doctor who prescribed each one?
    • Can you name the purpose for each prescription medication, supplement, and over-the-counter drug that you take?

    How did you do? Knowing which pills you take and why you take them will remind you why they are so important, which may also help you remember to take them. Why not take a few minutes now to create a Know Your Meds Worksheet. Taking your medication as prescribed may improve the quality of your life and help you live longer. Isn’t it worth it to you and your family?

    Still Not Convinced?

    Here are two more arguments for taking your medicine as prescribed:

    • You might avoid the cost and inconvenience of more trips to the doctor’s office and the emergency room
    • You can take better care of yourself without depending on others

    Of course, even if with the best intentions, it can be difficult to take all your medications as directed, especially if you have a lot and they change from time to time. If you’ve ever taken an extra dose, forgotten to take a dose, or you take four or more pills at different times throughout the day, maybe it’s time for you to get some better tools.

    Make It Easy on Yourself

    You’re not the only one who has trouble remembering to take their medications, so suggestions and solutions are practically endless. Some cost money and some you can do on your own for free. Here are a few tools that you might find useful:

    Medication Dispensers—Much like your medication, pill dispensers come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on how many pills you take and the number of times you take them throughout the day, you can probably find a pill dispenser for your situation. Or, you can also find the most basic ones with one compartment for each day of the week. Other available features include security locks and recorded messages telling you it’s time to take your pill.

    Medication-Dispensing Systems—Some systems are programmed by the company who sells them. You load the dispenser with the medication and the company programs it to notify you when it’s time to take your medication. Push a button and the medication is dispensed. If you don’t respond to the alarm and push the button, the system will call your designated person to make sure you’re okay.

    Reminder Systems—If you already have a pill dispenser but you need a way to remember when to use it, you might consider a reminder system. Of course, you could have someone you know remind you each time, but you might find devices that vibrate, flash, ring, or even speak to you when it’s time to take your pills are more reliable. If you have a mobile phone or smart phone, you can set it to remind you with an alarm or vibration.

    Pen and pencil—These never go out of style! But then again, if you use a computer you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time. Use your pencil (or computer) to create a grid showing the dates and times you need to take your medication with room to make a check each time you take them. This system is especially useful for remembering to take medications stored in different locations, such as the refrigerator. Use SecondsCount’s Med Minder as a template to create your own medication tracking system.

    If you are interested in any of these systems and don’t know where to find them, ask your pharmacist or doctor for help and don’t give up until you find the right tool that works for you. When you do you can enjoy the priceless benefit of more time and less on your mind.

    For more suggestions about managing your medications, see the SecondsCount Manage Your Meds Checklist.