Taking Your Medication

As part of a plan for you, your doctor may determine that you need prescription medication in addition to lifestyle changes.

An older Latino man is sitting at a table sorting through prescription medications.

Taking medications as prescribed is key to recovery post-stroke and recurrent stroke prevention. It’s important to understand the difference between medication adherence and medication compliance.

Both play an important role in managing your condition or risk factors. Yet, of the 66% of people in the U.S. who have been prescribed at least one medication, only half of them take them as prescribed.

Medication adherence

Medication adherence is filling new prescriptions or refilling prescriptions on time.

Medication compliance

Medication compliance is taking medications on schedule and as prescribed.

Your Treatment Regimen

Actively discuss all aspects of your treatment regimen — including diet changes, exercise and medications — with your health care team.
Doctors, nurses and pharmacists can help you avoid problems associated with taking too little or too much of your medication. They can also help you avoid dangerous interactions or side effects between other medications or foods in your diet.

Your health care professionals will keep working with you to adjust your treatment plan if you have serious side effects. Ask your health care team questions to help you take an active part in your health.


Print out these questions and take them to your next doctor’s appointment.

  • What is the name of the medication?
  • Is this the brand or generic name?
  • What is the medication supposed to do?
  • How and when do I take it, and for how long?
  • What foods, drinks, other medications or activities should I avoid while taking this medication?
  • Is there any written information available about the medication?
  • What happens if I miss a dose of my medication?
  • How often will I have to get the medication refilled?
  • How will I know that my medication is working?
  • What are the risks of taking this medication?
  • What are the risks of NOT taking this medication?
  • Are there less expensive medications for my condition?

Talk to your doctor and pharmacist if you have concerns.

Getting it right

While you might have fears and concerns, the long-term health consequences of not taking your medication can often be worse than any medication side effects. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Everyone involved has the same priority — putting your health first.

  • Treatment to prevent future strokes can be tailored to individual situations. Work with your doctor to decide on the best treatment plan. This plan should consider your wishes, goals, concerns and circumstances.
  • Taking medications as prescribed is critical. Follow your doctor’s instructions. Prescription medications only work if we take them.
  • Take your medications at the same time every day and link them to some other activity you do daily, such as brushing your teeth. Taking a pill every other day or splitting your pills in half to make them last longer can be dangerous.
  • You may need more than one prescription. If you take several pills, use a pill box to organize them. Use a medication tracking chart or an alarm to help remind you to take your medications.
  • Be patient if it takes time to find the right dose. People can respond differently to medications. Many people go through a trial period to find out which medications work best with the fewest side effects. If taking your medications is not making you feel well, be sure to talk to your doctor. They may switch you to a different medication. Make sure to follow directions. For example, you need to take some medications with food.
  • If you are having a hard time affording your medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. There may be solutions such as assistance programs or generic forms of medication.
  • Tell all your doctors about all the over-the-counter and prescription drugs you are taking. Some drugs and supplements may interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications. Filling all your prescriptions at one pharmacy can also help avoid drug interactions.
  • Even if you’re feeling fine, NEVER cut back or quit taking the prescribed medication without consulting your doctor. Medication and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference. However, it’s the combination of these factors that’s working, not just lifestyle alone.
  • Track your treatment. Download a printable medication tracker (PDF)
  • Learn about the lifestyle changes you can make to work with your medication.