As we get older, we will likely be taking more medications than we are used to. It’s natural for older people to develop more than one chronic disorder, leading to the need for multiple medications to treat conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and others.
In fact, among people who are above 65 years old, 90 percent take at least one drug per week and more than 40 percent take at least five different drugs per week.
While there are many benefits to these medications – improved longevity, functionality and quality of life – there are also risks you should be aware of. Your body’s reactions to drugs changes over time.
Older people are more than twice as susceptible to the side effects of drugs as younger people. Those side effects can also be more severe, affecting your quality of life and leading to more visits to the doctor.
This has to do with the way a drug interacts with your body. That process is called ADME:
1. Absorption – how the drug gets absorbed into your bloodstream.
2. Distribution – the movement of drugs throughout the body.
3. Metabolism – the transformation of a drug within the body so that it can be excreted by the kidneys.
4. Excretion – the removal of the substance from the body.
Each of these steps is affected by age in different ways:
: Changes in the digestive system affect how fast medicines enter the bloodstream.
: Changes in body weight can influence the amount of medicine you need to take and how long it stays in your body.
: Your circulatory system might slow down, which can affect how fast drugs get to the liver and kidneys.
: Your liver and kidneys might work more slowly, affecting the way a drug breaks down and is removed from the body.
: As you age, the amount of water in your body decreases and the amount of fat tissue increase, leading to higher concentrations of drugs that dissolve in water since there is less water to dilute them and lower concentrations of drugs that dissolve in fat because there is relatively more fat tissue to store them.
Because of these age-related changes, many drugs tend to stay in an older person’s body much longer, prolonging the drug’s effect and increasing the risk of side effects.
While all these risk factors can seem intimidating, there are many things you can do to manage your medications as you age:
: Ask your healthcare professional to write out a complete medicine schedule, with directions on exactly when and how to take your medicines.
: Buy all your prescriptions from one place and ask the pharmacist about any potential side effects.
: Use memory aids, such as a medication organizer, to take drugs as instructed.
: Keep a list of all drugs being taken, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, and medicinal herbs.
: Talk to a doctor before they make any changes in the way you take a drug.
**If you need assistance with any of the above steps, we can help. Call 972-372-9775**