I’m gonna need a bigger pill case

At a recent physical, my health care provider informed me that my cholesterol, which has always been borderline high, had soared higher yet and that it was probably time to start taking a statin. Statins are a class of drugs designed to reduce cholesterol in the bloodstream. Elevated cholesterol can lead to heart attacks and stroke, something I definitely want to avoid.

While some people can stave off the need for medication by leading a healthy lifestyle, others have a genetic propensity for high blood pressure, cholesterol or other markers that fall outside the norm. In my case, I have a double whammy of high cholesterol and hypo-thyroidism despite the fact that I exercise regularly, eat healthy, don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively, etc.

I had hoped that my lifestyle alone would bring my cholesterol down, but begrudgingly agreed that it was time to treat it with medication. Because of my underactive thyroid, which I’m told is very common in women over a certain age, I’ve been taking Synthroid for many years. So in addition to my thyroid medication, I now have to find room for Atorvastatin in my little pill case.

Fortunately, both of these conditions are relatively easy to treat and the medication is inexpensive. I can also take comfort in the fact that my blood pressure hovers at 100/60 and although I’m not nearly as svelte as I was in my younger years, my BMI has not yet crossed over into the danger zone.

Like many others, I find that with each year, it becomes harder and harder to prevent weight gain.  It’s an uphill battle but I’m not ready to give up. I make it a goal to exercise daily and be conscious of what I eat. It’s the least I can do to stay as healthy as possible as the years go by. It’s clear to me that lifestyle choices and medication can work together for optimal health.

I’m sharing my experience because I believe that people take comfort in knowing that they are not alone in navigating life’s challenges – in this case medication and aging. We know that our bodies aren’t designed to last forever – or to perform at optimum levels once we enter middle or old-age, but the realization that your internal organs are slowing down and need that medication boost is a sobering reminder of our mortality – and it’s good to know we are all in this together.

My son works in a pharmacy and he tells me that many people (specifically the elderly) have a medication list in the double digits – which made me feel better about my situation. He is also a type one diabetic and relies on insulin and a glucose monitor to survive, so who am I to complain about two measly pills?

My daughter, who works as a PA in Internal medicine, assures me that most people my age take a couple of prescriptions to manage what is basically aging related conditions and that these medications will improve long-term health outcomes. It’s great to have family members on hand to answer basic health care questions or take a second look at your labs – but I never thought that I’d be getting medical advice from my kids.

While I currently “only” take two prescribed medications daily, I also take a multi-vitamin (can’t hurt), Turmeric (for inflammation) and CoQ10 which is supposed to help with the muscle soreness caused by statins – but let’s face it, most middle aged people who exercise experience muscle soreness – so the jury is still out on the real cause.

I also stock up on Vitamins C and D when I start feeling run down. This makes for a lot of pill consumption. Are they all necessary? Who knows? But I’m willing to give them a try if it means staying healthy.

In the past, when I shopped at my local Walgreens, I was surprised by selection of pill organizers on display near the pharmacy. Why were there so many choices? Now I understand the need for such variety and why some use multiple pill cases to organize medications by time of day, etc. There’s definitely a science to keeping track of medication. It’s one more thing we’ll learn to manage as we age.

We’re lucky to live in a time when there are so many medications available to treat common diseases and improve our quality of life. And if it takes medication to live a longer, healthier life, I say “bring on the bigger pill case!”

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