Americans take prescription drugs to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and countless other medications to treat a variety of ailments. Many are quite common, and numerous Americans take a series of pills to treat multiple conditions each day. The thing is, all of these pills have particular uses, and when mixed with other prescriptions they can lead to some serious side effects.
This is perplexing for a couple of reasons. The first is that lifestyle and dietary measures, for example, can work to prevent or treat most of the conditions people are medicating. High cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, as piles of research have shown, can be treated or prevented by including more exercise and adopting a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods. Such a lifestyle often comes with few, if any, negative side effects and often provide several peripheral benefits.
That’s not to say that medication is not necessary. It can save lives and is absolutely required for some people. But new research published in the Journal of Geriatrics suggests that “polypharmacy”—taking lots of different drugs for different conditions—is not wise.
Doctors, of course, bare a larger share of responsibility than patients when it comes to prescriptions and potential negative side effects. After surveying a variety of doctors, researchers found that 80% of doctors said they recently considered not prescribing a cardiovascular medication because of potential side effects.
They also found that doctors were often not going to order a discontinuation of a prescription if another doctor issued it. No one wants to step on anybody’s toes, after all. Unfortunately, you might have to suffer. Another reason for polypharmacy is that patients may report linking a particular drug and don’t want to give it up.
Whatever the case may be, the risk for severe potential side effects goes up with the number of pills you’re taking. Talking to your doctor about getting off medication, and the lifestyle measures you can adopt, are the best way to reduce the risk of these effects. It’s also important to be very clear with your medical team about what, and how much, you’re taking.
If taking prescriptions, don’t stop without consulting your physician(s). But do explore natural alternatives like boosting activity, eating more antioxidant-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting processed food. When the goal is to get off medication, you and your doctor can establish a safe strategy to reach it.