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Stroke Smart Magazine

May/June 2008

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Take Charge of Your Health: Manage your Medicines

By Jonathan Bitz

Medicines can save lives and improve health. But when medicines are not managed properly, they can do just the opposite.

That’s why it is so important for stroke survivors and caregivers to educate themselves about their medicines, says Dr. Todd Semla, President of the American Geriatrics Society.

Semla suggests that patients learn everything they can about their medicines, including:

  • How will the medicine help my condition and how will I know if it’s working?
  • How long should I take the medicine?
  • Is it necessary to take it at the same time everyday?
  • Should the medicine be taken with food?
  • How will this drug interact with others I am taking?
  • Will drinking alcoholic beverages affect how the medicine works?
  • Can the medicine be crushed for ingestion?
  • What should I do if I miss a dosage?
  • Will the medicine impact my daily activities?
  • Should I call my doctor if I have side effects?

Patients should double and triple check with the doctor or pharmacist about the medicines that are prescribed. And take notes.

It also is important that stroke survivors educate their doctors, especially when they have multiple doctors. Only when doctors have a complete picture of a patient’s health can they prescribe the proper medicines for that person. Some drugs are intended to prevent recurrent stroke in survivors, for example, but can actually increase risk for future stroke in patients with specific health conditions.

Medicines come in many different forms and can be taken in many  ways. For example, stroke survivors who suffer from dysphagia, or problems with swallowing, may have trouble getting their medicines down. When doctors know this, they can apply alternate remedies.

Drugs can interact with each other in ways that may not be good for overall health. Semla suggests that patients bring a list of all medicines to doctor visits so they don’t forget to discuss anything. This includes herbal pills and natural remedies.

Finally, patients also have to know themselves. Medicines can behave differently in different people. Patients need to carefully watch their reactions to the medicines and report any complications to their doctor.

When it comes to medicines, take charge. Follow your doctor’s advice and keep taking  medicines even if you feel fine.

Did You Know ...
... that having a stroke puts you at greater risk for another stroke? Within five years of a stroke, 24 percent of women and 42 percent of men will experience a recurrent stroke.

National Stroke Association has partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb Sanofi Aventis to develop the STARS (Steps Against Recurrent Stroke) program to let you know that you can reduce your risk for a recurrent stroke. Here’s how you can be a stroke smart star:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Keep blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes under control.
  • If you have an irregular heartbeat, a condition called AF, work with your doctor to control it.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Increase physical activity.

My Turn
Use National Stroke Association’s discussion guide to determine how you can manage your medicines. The guide includes a list of questions to discuss at your next stroke support group meeting, with your family, or independently. Go to www.stroke.org/myturn to download this or other guides.



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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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