By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) – We Americans do like our medications.

A new survey by Consumer Reports estimates more than 55 percent of us take a prescription drug on a regular basis. And perhaps the word “drugs” is more accurate since the average number of daily prescription medications is four. We’re not talking antibiotics or short term meds here; these are regular on-going prescriptions.

generic pills Most Americans Seem To Love Prescriptions. How About You?

(credit: CBS)

That is a lot of chemicals to be putting in your body, and sure, while most are helpful and necessary, it sure does seem like a lot of things to be swallowing each day. (And that doesn’t include vitamins or supplements.)

With one or 20 medications, you need to be think about a few things when you fill that Rx, including the issue of side effects. And obviously the more your take, the more you can get.

Then there is the interaction issue to consider. Some drugs simply don’t mix and match very well.

These drugs also need to be filtered somewhere by the body, which means your liver and kidneys often are working overtime to metabolize these mediations.

Finally, there is the obvious issue of cost. It sure can add up quickly.

So the next time you visit your health care provider, there are a few things you may want to ask or do:

– Have a medication check-up. Bring all of your medications with you. Pile them into a bag so we can see everything, from everybody, that you are taking.

– Bring those vitamins and supplements, too.

– Ask about side effects. For example, sleeping poorly, have an upset stomach, or really dragging? Your meds may be to blame.

With a new prescription: What are the most common side effects? When should I call about something? What happens if I have a glass of wine or a beer with this?

How are those kidneys and liver working? Your doctor should be preforming regular blood tests to make sure that the medications aren’t putting a strain on your system.

Ask “Do I really need this medication?” For example, what else could you be doing to hold off adding another pill — perhaps a lifestyle change is the better answer.

Ask “Is this a lifetime medication?” Many are not. For example, we used to say blood pressure medication would need to be taken for the rest of your life. But what happens if you lose some weight and start working out? Maybe you could chuck those pills.

Is a generic medication okay? Most of the time, the answer is yes. But sometimes, for more serious conditions, the name brand is the best brand.

Bottom line, medications have allowed us to live longer and better lives than our ancestors. But a pill is not the antidote to sitting on the couch with a bag of chips. The fewer, the better.

Choose wisely, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

We always talk about being “natural.” Well, this is one area where there is a chance to go down that road.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida


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