For Each Prescription You Take, Consider Adopting a Healthy Habit
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
Prescription drug use in America is high.
According to Medscape, 44 percent of all Americans take at least one prescription medication, and 17 percent of Americans take three or more prescription medications.
The act of taking multiple medications (including prescription drugs) is sometimes referred to as “polypharmacy.” And polypharmacy is especially common in the elderly community.
“The average American in his mid- to late 60s today takes up to 15 prescription drugs a year, according to a stunning expose by The New York Times. This same news story reported this total doesn’t even count the number of over-the-counter (OTC) products senior are taking,” according to this recent Medical Daily report.
Medicine is great. And if a competent healthcare professional prescribes a medication (or multiple medications), it is most likely in the best interest of your health to take the medicine as instructed. However, medications are not “magic pills” and we may need to do more to address our health condition.
Be proactive if you take medications.
According to a recent Medical Xpress report, recent research has suggested that healthy lifestyle habits can reduce the risk of death, including in people who take multiple medications.
The study looked at data from more than 20,000 people. At the beginning of the study:
- 44 percent of the participants were taking four or fewer prescription medications
- 39 percent were taking five to nine prescriptions
- 17 percent were taking 10 or more prescriptions
“Researchers evaluated the number of medications taken, level of participation in four healthy behaviors and all-cause death rates,” according to the report.
Medication was being taken to treat issues such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, cognitive impairment and more. The four healthy behaviors included exercising, not smoking, avoiding long periods of being sedentary and following a Mediterranean diet (which emphasizes eating lots of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables and heart healthy fats such as avocado and nuts).
After about a 10 year follow-up with the participants, the researchers found that “a healthy lifestyle decreased the risk of death regardless of the number of medications a person was taking” and “the higher the number of healthy lifestyle habits a person had, the lower their risk of death.”
“It's important for the public to understand that there is never a bad time to adopt healthy behaviors. These can range from eating a healthier diet to taking a daily walk in their neighborhood. A healthier lifestyle buys more time," said one of the lead researchers.
This is very powerful and inspiring, because it shows that we have the ability to improve our health even if we have serious conditions that may require taking multiple prescriptions. What is also great about this is that you don’t necessarily have to make very drastic changes. As mentioned, a walk around your neighborhood and eating more fruits and veggies may “buy more time.”
It is important to note, however, that some people may need to make even more drastic changes. Maybe you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day or eat fast food or processed foods daily. These are dangerous habits that I would advise changing immediately. It is also important to never underestimate how dangerous sitting for long periods of time has the potential to be. If you have a job that requires sitting for prolonged periods, make a habit of getting up every 30 minutes and getting more steps into your day by taking the stairs and parking farther away from the door when you go to the grocery store. There are always ways to fit more movement in. Do a few squats during commercial breaks while watching your favorite TV show.
Be aware of prescription drug use and nutrient depletion.
A major and often overlooked side effect of prescription drug use is nutrient depletion. We all need critical nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates and water) for everything from metabolism, energy and repair. We also need an adequate amount of these essential nutrients for the best immune defense possible and to help protect us from common health issues such as heart disease and depression.
It is very important that you be proactive and make sure you understand which nutrients are being depleted by the medications you take. I highly recommend testing your vitamin and mineral levels periodically if you take medications. Taking routine nutrient tests is key. If the test reveals you have too little or too much of a certain vitamin or mineral, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
An example of prescription drug use and nutrient depletion may involve the drug metformin, which is commonly prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes. Metformin is known to deplete vitamin B12 and coQ10. Both of these nutrients are important for heart health. So being deficient in these nutrients may increase your risk for heart disease. Discuss the possibility of nutrient depletion and medication use with your doctor. And to learn more about this, check out this pH Labs blog.Amp it up!
To really amp up your healthy lifestyle, check out these six “doctors” who can really help.
And remember that you always want to avoid a drug interaction.
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.