Know the name of your medications.

Write down a list of your medications, with their dose and frequency. This can be used as a reminder, and can be utilized if you're unable to tell medical personnel in the case of an emergency. This will be particularly useful if you see more than one doctor.

Take your medications until they're gone. This is particularly true for medications such as antibiotics. If you are prescribed two weeks worth of pills, don't stop them in a few days "because you're feeling better". These medications need to be taken for the total duration of time that they're prescribed to completely clear the infection to keep it from coming back.

Keep on taking your medications. Don't just quit if your refills run out. You or the pharmacist should call the doctor's office for a refill. Medications for most medical conditions (other than temporary conditions such as an infection) need to be continued. I have had more than a few people stop their medicines for high blood pressure or high cholesterol when the first set of refills ran out - their blood pressures and cholesterols went right back up!

In general, it is more important to take the pill than to take it at just the right time! Schedules such as "one hour before or two hours after a meal" are simply too complicated for most of us to follow. It is better in most cases to get the medication taken than to miss it all together while trying to do it "perfectly".

Try to take your medicines in conjunction with some other regular daily activity, such as that first cup of coffee, breakfast, dinner, or brushing your teeth before you go to bed. Turn this into a habit that is to your advantage.

Know what to do if you forget a dose. This is different for each different medication. Ask your pharmacist or physician.

Read the label each time you get your medication to make sure that there have been no accidental changes made by the pharmacist. Look at the pills to make sure they look the same as the old ones. If you have questions about these matters, contact your pharmacist immediately.

Ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter medicines. Despite the fact that they are available without a prescription, they may have definite risks, especially for patients with heart disease, or those on several medications.

Don't mix pills in bottles with other pills - keep them in their original container (unless you place them in a dispenser).

When you travel, plan ahead! Get enough medication to take over your vacation. Get a dispenser and make sure you have enough. Carry your medications with you or on your carry-on. don't pack them in the suitcase that may get lost. You may even wish to carry a second set of pills in case the first is lost or damaged.

Don't take another person's medication, or give them yours.

If you have a hard time "keeping your medicines straight", then:

Bring your medications in their bottles to the doctor for your doctor visits. That way they can be checked exactly. Don't just bring a day's worth of pills in a little container . . . there's just too many that look alike to allow them to be identified.

Side effects: Ask your doctor about side-effects that might occur. The list of medications in the "package insert" is regulated by the FDA, and many side effects are listed which occur only rarely or are of questionable relationship to the medication. In my experience, most patients do not have adequate experience to interpret these complex, and overly legalistic, documents. Almost every symptom imaginable is listed for every drug. Many medical guides do not offer much more assistance. Regardless of "what the books say", if you feel your medication is causing a side effect, discuss it with your doctor. Don't ignore it, and don't just stop the medication!

If you have questions, ask! There really are no stupid questions. You will not be the first to ask.

Tell your doctor about any over-the-counter medications you may be taking.

Keep a record of any medications you may have had in the past that didn't work, or didn't agree with you. Be absolutely sure to remember any medications that caused serious reactions. Consider obtaining a bracelet that alerts people to these serious reactions (you may also list important medical conditions and medications such as diabetes and insulin).

Other ways to help be sure you get your medications taken:
Keep a calendar near your pills. Mark down when you’ve taken them.
Buy a wristwatch with an alarm. Set it for when you are to take your medications.

If you are on more than one medication, try and get them "synchronized" in terms of when they are refilled.

Ask your physician if you can have generic medications.

Watch the number of pills in your bottle and the number of times you can refill the prescription. Get refills before you run out (your doctor will appreciate it!).

If you do need to call your doctor for refills, have their names and doses ready. Also, have the name and phone number of your pharmacy handy.

COPY 1997 HeartPoint  


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This site presents material for your information, education and entertainment. We can assume no liability for inaccuracies, errors, or omissions. Above all, material on this site should not take the place of the care you receive from a personal physician. It is simply designed to help in the understanding of the heart and heart disease, and not as a diagnostic or therapeutic aid. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Please feel free to browse the site and download material for personal and non-commercial use. You may not however distribute, modify, transmit or reuse any of these materials for public or commercial use. You should assume that all contents of the site are copyrighted. COPY 1997 HeartPoint