2. Take time to assess how risk-sensitive you are. How much risk are you comfortable with? Do you consider yourself a risk-taker in some situations? Are you willing to accept some risks associated with a particular treatment, but not other types of risk? These kinds of questions can help you decide how much risk you're willing to accept when discussing certain medical treatment options. Your comfort level with risks and benefits associated with your medical care is critical to your decision-making process.
3. Ask a lot of questions. Because your health history is unique, you'/ll want to know how a certain medication will benefit you specifically. Likewise, your health care professional can provide more specific information about how medication or treatment options may affect you. All medication can cause side effects; be sure to ask specifically about side effects associated with any medication prescribed for you. Likewise, share any personal information your health care professional should know when considering treatment, such as what other medications you may be taking or health conditions you may have.
4. Make an effort to go behind the headlines. A recent study of the mass media reported that nearly one in four news stories about health research and older women omits crucial information. Discuss any research news you have questions about with your health care professional.
Maximize the Benefits of Drug Treatments
For almost any given medical condition, there are many pharmaceutical treatment options. The tips that follow can help you communicate with your health care professional so that she or he will be able to prescribe the treatment that best suits your medical needs:
- Share information about all medications you are currently taking (including prescriptions drugs and over-the-counter remedies as well as herbal supplements). Medications can interact with each other to cause uncomfortable or harmful side effects or may reduce effectiveness of one or more of the medications you take.
- Tell your health care professional if you are pregnant, or planning to be pregnant in the near future. Some medications pose special risks for pregnant women. There are also things you can do before you become pregnant to ensure the health of your baby such as consuming adequate amounts of folic acid, or folate, a B vitamin that can be found in some enriched foods and vitamin pills and has been shown to prevent serious defects in the fetal brain and spine. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women who could possibly become pregnant get 400 micrograms (or 0.4 mg) of folic acid every day.
- Be sure you know or ask about the benefits of the medication she or he is prescribing.
- Ask about any of the common side effects associated with the medication being prescribed, as well as any potentially serious side effects.
- Ask your health care professional or pharmacist if there is a time during the day that you should take the medication to maximize benefits and minimize possible side effects (for example, should you always take it with meals, or before bed?).
- Sometimes starting a new medication can be worrisome. Be sure to voice all of your concerns to your health care professional so that she or he can identify other information about the medication that may lessen your doubts.
Once your health care professional has, with your input, decided on a pharmaceutical treatment that is right for you, there are several tips that you can follow to get the most from your medication:
- Always take a medication as prescribed — the dosage (daily amount and frequency) of a medication has been proven to provide the safest and most effective therapy. This information is indicated on the label.
- Follow any special instructions, such as "take with full glass of water."
- Take the medication for as long as your pharmacist has indicated, even if you no longer notice any symptoms.
- Never take someone else's medication, even if your symptoms seem to be identical.
- Contact your health care professional if the common side effects that you are experiencing are causing you any discomfort or disrupting your life.
- Contact your health care professional immediately if you experience any serious side effects. Severe pain, heart palpitations, breathing difficulty or abnormal bleeding are examples of serious side effects.
Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)