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Taking Medicines as Prescribed


Topic Overview

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health, and perhaps your life, at risk.

Taking your medicines as your doctor says may include:

  • What time you take them, such as in the morning or evening, or at 8 a.m. or 6 p.m.
  • How much you take, such as 2 tsp (10 mL) or 3 pills.
  • How you take them, such as with water, with food, or on an empty stomach.
  • How long you take them, such as for 2 months or until your doctor says to stop.

Medicine and Long-Term Health Problems

You may be taking medicine for a long-term (chronic) health problem. Some chronic diseases can be controlled, but they usually cannot be cured. You may need to take one or more medicines for the rest of your life.

Here are some examples of common chronic health problems and how medicines help:

  • Medicines for type 2 diabetes can help your body make more insulin or decrease resistance to insulin. Some diabetes medicines slow how quickly your body absorbs carbohydrate. All of these medicines help you manage high blood sugar. Managing your blood sugar can lower your risk of eye, heart, blood vessel, nerve, and kidney disease.
  • Medicines for high cholesterol help prevent cholesterol buildup in your arteries and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Some of the medicines lower the amount of cholesterol your body makes. Others limit how much cholesterol your body absorbs. High cholesterol doesn't make you feel sick. But even if you don't have symptoms, it's important to take your medicine.
  • Medicines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) help you feel better and make it easier for you to breathe. You may be less likely to need to go to the hospital.
  • Medicines for osteoarthritis help with pain and allow you to be more active. Being active can also reduce pain and make joints and muscles stronger. Being active can help slow how fast osteoarthritis gets worse and may help prevent falls.

For some ideas about how you can remember to take your medicines, pay for them, and when to call your doctor, see Quick Tips: Taking Medicines Wisely.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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