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Managing Medications

Even individuals who have no signs of ill health can take many prescribed and over-the-counter medications to treat common conditions such as arthritis pain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and acid reflux. As people age and develop chronic diseases, the list of medications frequently grows long. But regardless of the number of medications a person takes, adverse side effects are always possible, and the risks increase dramatically as the number of medications rises.

While adverse reactions to medications occur frequently, noncompliance with prescribed medication regimens is probably even more common. Studies have shown that as many as 50 percent of patients fail to take their medications as prescribed. The problem is even greater for older adults, in large part because they are likely to have multiple chronic diseases and thus are prescribed many medications.

The most serious danger of failing to take a medication as instructed is that the disorder or condition for which it is prescribed will not be well controlled, and thus an individual will be at risk of developing more serious medical problems. Another danger is that if people take some medications improperly, they may develop new medical problems, such as mental confusion or injuries sustained from a fall due to an imbalance related to adverse effects on brain function.

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