We are just days into the New Year, and if you’re one of the millions of Americans who made a resolution, you may want to keep reading.
Staying healthy is always one of the most popular resolutions each year, but where can we get some help to stay on track with our goals? Dr. John Vinson with the Arkansas Pharmacists Association was in studio to go over some helpful hints for getting healthy this year with help from your local pharmacist.
The most important resolution anyone should make for 2018 is to take care of the overall health and one of the biggest ways to do that is to take your prescription medications for as long as they’re prescribed and in the intervals and dosages that are prescribed. Medication adherence seems like such a simple no-brainer, but the truth is many people stop taking their medications if they think they’re feeling better or they skip a dose frequently which can have really negative results. According to a study by the New England Healthcare Institute, there is a $290 billion burden of avoidable healthcare cost due to medication non-adherence. To put that in a different perspective that means in America we spend almost $2 on adverse effects of medication problems for every $1 spent on actual medication. Patients have to look at adherence to prescription medication as an investment in preventing costlier care down the road. For example, every additional $1 spent on diabetes medications helps save $7 on other services from diabetes related complications.
There are two strong options to help you if you’re having trouble staying adherent to your medication. First, special packaging allows your pharmacist to group your medications by time of day that they’re taken, instead of by pill type. For instance, a blister card is a card that has all your morning medications grouped together so that when it’s time to take your medicines, you pop them out of the pouch and take them all together instead of taking pills from several different pill bottles. Also, medication synchronization allows you to sync all of your prescriptions to be picked up on the same day, which can help deter you from skipping a few days of your medication when you run out because you’re waiting to pick up a different prescription a few days later.
Another thing to think about in the New Year is making sure you are up to date on your immunizations. There’s a reason pharmacists are known as the most accessible healthcare professional and you will notice that when you get your immunization because you won’t have to make an appointment and you won’t have to have a preliminary examination by another healthcare professional. You can walk in to your local pharmacy right now and get an immunization in just a few minutes, and most insurance will cover those immunizations completely. Things like influenza, pneumonia, meningitis and HPV are just some of the
immunizations a pharmacist can administer. And if you think it’s too late to get a flu shot, remember that flu season lasts from October through May so if you haven’t gotten a flu shot or a pneumonia shot, go get one soon.
There are many vitamins and supplements that could be beneficial to you and your health, and in some cases, may be prescribed in addition to your prescriptions due to some medicines like statins depleting nutrients in your body. Your local pharmacist can help you choose which ones are right for you and can verify that those vitamins or supplements don’t interact with your medication. Pharmacists are medication experts so if there’s ever a question about something you’re taking or considering taking, talk to your pharmacist. Also, remember that some vitamins and supplements contain gluten so if that affects you, make sure you talk about with your pharmacist.
First you need to identify whether you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, because that will determine which direction you need to go. There are some OTC medications that your pharmacist can direct you to for each issue. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, you might want to try an antihistamine such as Benadryl, Tylenol PM, Zzzquil, or Unisom products. This is especially helpful for younger adults. Remember though, if you have glaucoma you should stay away from any antihistamine products.
If you fall asleep right away but are having trouble staying asleep, you can try using Melatonin, which enhances sleep cycles and works well for adults, the elderly, or someone who is dealing with jet lag.
It’s important to have good sleep hygiene – getting 7-9 hours of sleep is recommended as a decrease in sleep quality is linked to an increased risk for heart problems and obesity, so maintaining good sleep quality should be a priority to stay healthy. Also, your bed is for sleeping, not working and not watching TV for long periods of time as those activities can train your mind to be more alert while in bed, causing sleep disturbance.
In addition to what your pharmacist can provide, there are some smartphone apps that can benefit your sleep quality. The first is called Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock and with that app you plug your phone in and keep it on the edge of your bed. The app will monitor your movement during the night and will awaken you when it senses that you are in the lightest sleep. Also, if you find yourself staring at a screen a lot during the evening, f.lux is an application that reduces blue light on your computer. Research has shown that being exposed to blue light from a device can
delay sleep by about an hour. If you’ve got an iPhone, there’s a feature called Night Shift that does this same thing.
With smoking cessation, there are three nicotine products that your pharmacist can go over with you, but it’s really going to come down to your preference. Nicotine gum is a good product to start with because it helps with satisfying not only the nicotine but the oral cravings as well. One thing to remember with the gum is that there is a specific way to use it. This isn’t your traditional chewing gum. Your pharmacist can help you with those instructions. Second is the nicotine lozenge, which will have varying dosages based on when you start smoking in a typical day. Now the lozenge is just a typical lozenge so there aren’t any specific instructions, but there could be some side effects with the lozenge including an upset stomach so it’s really going to come down to your personal preference. Finally, the nicotine patch is a great option if you don’t want to have to think about it during the day, you just stick a patch on in the morning and then go about your day and it does the rest. One important thing to remember about the patch though is that there are varied patches with different lengths of time to wear them, so if you put a 16-hour patch on in the morning, by the time the next morning comes around you may experience some morning cravings. Another interesting side effect of the patch that’s worth mentioning is an increase in dreaming.
One more thing we should bring up is that a lot of times people think if they switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes they think it will be easier to quit, but there’s no evidence of that and e-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA so you really don’t know what you’re getting because there are no rules for e-cigarettes.
If you’re having trouble quitting, just remember you can always try again. It may take up to an average of 8 attempts to quit smoking, but it’s an important challenge to tackle because smokers die an average of 13 years earlier than non-smokers. If quitting seems too daunting or you don’t think it would be worth it, just remember that within a year of quitting, your smoking-related risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke are reduced to less than half of the risk of a smoker.
If you’re looking for something to keep you motivated to quit, try the app Smoke Free which measures not only how many days since you quit but how much money you have saved which is a great incentive to staying smoke-free.