New Year’s resolution: 7 healthy medication habits for 2021

Every year, health goals top the list of New Year’s resolutions, a fact demonstrated by the sheer number of gym memberships purchased every January. People flock to their fitness centers vowing to lose weight and improve their overall health. One vital part of achieving this goal should be resolving to adhere to healthy medication habits.

Medical compliance & safety

What are healthy medication habits? What does that mean? These habits should include medication compliance, safety, and goals.

Healthy habit #1: Take your medications as prescribed

Americans are notoriously terrible at taking their medications. According to the CDC, “approximately one in five new prescriptions are never filled, and among those filled, approximately 50% are taken incorrectly, particularly with regard to timing, dosage, frequency, and duration.”

Why is this? Most people simply forget. But some people have too many pills to keep track of, don’t understand the directions, or decide the meds aren’t working and discontinue use on their own.

It’s essential to take your medications at the correct dosage, at the same time each day, according to the instructions on the prescription. The dangers of non-compliance are numerous. Most simply, the medication will be less effective when not taken as instructed, not effective at all, or infection has a high probability of returning, as is the case when a course of antibiotics isn’t completed entirely.

Healthy habit #2: Develop and implement a strategy

If you’re guilty of missing your meds on occasion, make a plan. Some helpful reminders include:

  • Set your prescriptions near your toothbrush or coffee pot
  • Set an alarm or notification on your phone
  • Use a daily pill container or make pill packets for each day of the month
  • Refill your prescription before you run out

If you still have trouble, be honest with your doctor and find out if other options exist.

Healthy habit #3: Make a list of all your medications

Some medications can be harmful or even fatal if mixed with others, or with substances like alcohol. Make sure your doctor has a list of all your medications and other supplements, including vitamins and herbals you’re currently taking. Also include dosage, the time of day you take it, and the method, such as pill or patch.

Keeping this list up to date will prevent unwanted side effects and unnecessary trips to the ER.

Healthy habit #4: Store your prescriptions securely

Medications should be kept in the original bottle or packaging, and out of reach of children. It’s also smart to keep them out of sight from other family members or visitors, especially if the medication is a controlled substance. It goes without saying that medication should not be shared. The potential for either abuse or diversion (the distribution or sale of drugs to others) is too great to ignore.

Healthy habit #5: Throw out old meds

Discontinued a prescription? Are some of those over-the-counter pills in your closet ancient? Time to get rid of them. Medications become less effective over time, which can pose health risks. Safely dispose of old or expired pills by either bringing them to a take-back program or drop-box. Throwing them in the trash can contribute to drug diversion and environmental contamination and flushing them can contaminate your community’s water.

Healthy habit #6: Develop a follow-up plan with your physician

Setting goals and developing a plan to achieve them is key to your medication management. Keep both a symptom and side effects log to provide your doctor with important details about whether you’re taking the right dosage or even the right medication.

If you’re taking a medication for depression, when did you notice your mood begin to improve? If you’re taking blood pressure medication, check your blood pressure at home or make appointments for routine checks. Don’t self-adjust your dosage or discontinue medication without your doctor’s consent.

Lastly, don’t expect your medication to do all the work for you.

Healthy habit #7: Make necessary lifestyle changes

The healthier you are, the better your medications will work. Physicians often recommend lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, or sleep in addition to the medication they prescribe. Not only are these suggestions often ignored, but many people let healthy habits slide once they begin to take their prescription, thinking their medication will solve the problem for them.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, participants with hypertension decreased exercise and gained weight once they began their blood pressure medication. These actions were, of course, counterproductive to their health goals. Not only will making lifestyle changes boost the power of your medication, but it will improve your overall health.

Use this start of a new year to reflect on your medication habits to see if there are ways you can improve your overall health and medication use. It might also be time to examine your medication payments and see if using Optum Perks can save you money on prescriptions this year. Visit Optum Perks and type in your medications or vitamins to find coupons and save money during your next trip to the pharmacy.