By Kathy Hubbard
Last week when I was researching my article on menopause I came across several articles and studies about hormone replacement therapy and opinions on whether or not the benefits outweighed the risks. All said something to the effect that it was up to the woman to decide whether the symptoms were severe enough to warrant the increased possibilities of other health issues.
Today I want to say that it’s always our responsibility to weigh the pros and cons of treatments or medications. It’s up to each of us to be the star player on our health care team. Whether it’s increasing exercise or decreasing calories or quitting smoking or taking our meds correctly, it’s up to us to take the lead.
“To make the best choices and to use medicines more effectively and safely, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is encouraging consumers to become more involved in their health care,” the FDA’s website states.
“When it comes to using medicines, there is no such thing as completely safe. All medicines have risks. FDA approval of a drug simply means that the benefits outweigh the known risks.”
So, who’s on your health care team? Think of physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses and pharmacists as the coaches. You are the one who takes the field. You are the one and only one who can decide whether or not to take the actions they recommend.
The FDA says that the most important thing we can do as patients is to speak up. Tell your team what you’re doing for your health and what you’re willing to change if given the right reasons for doing so.
“The more information your health care team members know about you, the better. Discuss the following with your health care providers: your medical history; allergies and sensitivities; prescription medicines and over-the-counter medicines you take routinely and occasionally; dietary supplements, including vitamins and herbals,” the FDA advises.
They also say to ask a lot of questions and learn the facts. You can only make the most informed choices if you know what to ask and if you learn all you can about the medication(s) being prescribed. Write down your questions and take notes. Ask for written information or look up reputable sources.
“Follow directions! When you are ready to use the medicine, get the best results and reduce the side effects by following the instructions given to you by your prescriber and printed on the label,” FDA says.
And, maybe the most important advice is “Report back to the team. Pay attention to how you feel, and notify your health care team of any problems,” they say.
Let me repeat: notify your health care team of any problems. Why? Because otherwise you’ll most likely just stop taking the medication. Remember there was a reason it was prescribed.
WebMD says, “Prescription drugs heal us when we’re sick, ease our pain when we ache, and prevent or control long-term conditions. But sometimes, even when they do the job they’re supposed to, they have unwelcome side effects.
“Don’t let that make you automatically rule out a medication, especially if it’s an important part of managing a health condition. But you shouldn’t accept unpleasant reactions without question either.”
Isn’t that what we just said? “Some side effects go away over time as your body gets used to a new drug, so your doctor may recommend you stick with your current plan for a little longer. In other cases, you may be able to lower your dose, try a different drug, or add another one,” they say.
Plus they say you should never stop a medicine or change your dosage without talking to your health care coaches. I fear I may sound like I’m preaching, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to be comfortable about what’s happening to your body. You’re the one who has to score a lot of healthy, happy years. Go team!
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.