If taking medication is new to you, there may be a lot to remember. You may have questions. For example:
- Why are you taking it?
- What time should you take it?
- How often do you take it, and how many pills should you take?
- Can you take it with food?
- What are the possible side effects?
You play a key role in developing your medication treatment plan. You should work closely with your health care team to do so. These could include a primary care professional, cardiologist, nurse, pharmacist and others.
To get the most benefit from your medications, it’s important to take them exactly as prescribed. If medication isn’t taken the right way, it may not work properly. It also could cause side effects or you could counteract one medicine by taking it with another.
But you have an important role in making sure those medications work.
Making your medication work better
Here are some tips for helping your medication work more effectively.
- Take your medication as directed. Be sure to follow all the instructions for taking your medicines. Don’t skip or take more of the medicine as this may cause harmful effects. Tracking your medication in an online tool can help you keep track and set reminders to take your medication(s).
- Keep your medication organized. It isn’t unusual for heart patients to have several different medications, making keeping track difficult. Learn ways to manage your medication and keep track using easy tools or our printable medication tracker (PDF). You also can use a pill dispenser that helps sort your medication or a weekly pill organizer.
- Take your medicine even if you don’t have noticeable symptoms. When you have the sniffles or a fever, you know you’re probably sick. But many cardiovascular conditions don’t have symptoms that you can identify without a medical test or blood pressure reading.
- Continue taking medicine even if symptoms seem to have “gotten better.” People may discontinue their medication once they have improved their cholesterol or blood pressure numbers. However, the medication may be what is making the cholesterol or blood pressure levels go down, and if they stop taking it, their numbers go back up.
- Tell your health care professionals and pharmacists about all the medications you are taking. Drug interactions can change the way a medication works, making it more effective, less effective or worse, combine to create a dangerous mix. Maintain a list of all the medications you’re taking, including drug names and dose. Many people won’t mention a drug they take because it’s not a heart medicine. The prescriber needs to know about all the other drugs you’re taking.
- Make sure your health care professionals and pharmacists know about other supplements or over-the-counter drugs you may be taking. Your health care professionals need to have the whole picture of what you’re taking so they can create a plan for the most effective treatment and identify possible interactions. Inform your health care team of all the over-the-counter drugs and herbal and/or nutritional supplements you are taking, including the names and dose. If you have high blood pressure and are on prescription medication, consult your health care professional before taking any over-the-counter medications or supplements.
- Be aware of any food interactions. Check whether your medication should be taken on a full stomach or an empty one. That could affect how well your body absorbs it. What you eat and drink may also make a big difference. Drinking alcohol, for example, could change how well your liver processes medications. Even eating healthy can sometimes create a dangerous interaction between your medication(s) and the food and/or beverages you consume. Learn more about food and medication interactions.
- Be aware of potential side effects. Medication routinely comes with detailed information about possible side effects. Familiarize yourself with the major ones and stay vigilant when starting a new medication so you can quickly identify bad reactions. An upset stomach, dry mouth and drowsiness are common medication side effects, but many people don’t realize they may be coming from a medication. Be sure your health care professional knows if you’ve had any bad reactions or allergies to medication.
Medication is only one part of your treatment plan.
Taking medication as directed is important, but it’s not the only action needed. Lifestyle changes, such as following a heart-healthy diet, not smoking and getting physical activity, play a key role in getting your health back on track.