Menopause Corner
Menopause Corner

Wendy Hoffman blogs about menopause and women's health—particularly focusing on how diet and nutrition can positively affect a woman's life around the age of menopause.

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Prescription Medications Should be Taken with Care

Take prescription medications with careIt’s not uncommon for forty- and fifty-something women to be taking as many as two or three prescription medicines daily, not to mention weekly or monthly bone-building drugs to prevent osteoporosis. While medications to alleviate joint pain, or control blood pressure and cholesterol are certainly important, you should also be aware of their potential side effects and long-term consequences. Too often, a prescription is given to a patient without this important discussion.  Does this sound familiar?

The recent announcement by the FDA requiring makers of statins - or cholesterol-lowering drugs - to add diabetes and memory loss warnings to their labels should serve as a reminder that the decision to take prescription medications shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Statins, such as Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor are now taken by tens of millions of people worldwide putting it among the most prescribed drugs ever.  But I bet that most people are not aware that two side effects -- elevated blood sugar and cognitive problems, such as poor memory and confusion --have been reported for years. I don’t know why our nation’s health regulators chose to issue this new alert now, 25 years after the first statin was approved, but I’m glad to see that the FDA is looking out for the public’s welfare by making us aware of the risks.

What does this mean to us?

It’s easy to obtain prescriptions for most any condition whether it’s depression, joint pain, high blood pressure and acid reflux.  But next time your physician takes out his prescription pad, ask him or her these three questions: 

  • Does my condition warrant the use of these drugs now? Or am I in a borderline or “pre-disease” situation (pre-hypertension and osteopenia are examples of this)?
  • What common side effects has he or she observed in other patients taking this drug? 
  • Would it be wise to first see if lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, meditation, or supplements could benefit me instead?

To be sure, statins, like many other drugs, can be life savers for many people. But the decision to take prescription medicine should be based after thoughtful consideration of the short- and long-term consequences.  Your physician should help you make this important decision.

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About the Author

Wendy writes about women's health in midlife.