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Tips for Managing Your Medicines

How many different medicines do you take? Most people with heart failure or other heart and blood vessel diseases take several. It’s no wonder you may become puzzled over which medicines to take and when, how much to take, or what symptoms the medicines treat.

To prevent missed or double doses, side effects, and interactions, keep your medicines organized. Try following these tips to prevent problems:

Write it down

Keep an up-to-date list of every medicine you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, herbs, vitamins, and other supplements. Carry a copy of it with you at all times in your wallet or purse. Make a note of the basics about each of your medicines. You can make your own, get a form from your healthcare provider or pharmacist, or download one from the internet. The US Food and Drug Administration offers a medicine form that can be printed and used. See www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/ucm079489.htm for more information.

Here’s what to record:

  • Medicine name (generic and brand name)

  • What it looks like (color, shape, size)

  • What you use it for (such as heart failure or cholesterol) 

  • When to take it (morning, bedtime, or at dinner)

  • How much to take (number of tablets or milligrams) 

  • How to take it (by mouth, injection, inhaled, and with or without food) 

  • Which healthcare provider prescribed the medicine

  • Which side effects to report to your healthcare provider and how to contact your healthcare provider

  • How long to take it

  • When to schedule a follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider

Note whether to not mix the medicine with any other medicines, or with any foods or drinks.

Share the information

Tell your healthcare providers which medicines you take. This includes all prescriptions and any over-the-counter medicines, nutritional supplements, herbs, and other remedies. Keep an up-to-date list of everything you take. Bring it whenever you see your healthcare provider. If you don't have a list handy, bring all your pill bottles to your appointment in a large bag. Your healthcare provider won't be bothered by this. They would much rather go through the bottles than not know exactly what you are taking. Ask if any of the items can cause problems when combined. If your provider makes changes in your medicines, update your list right away whether you are at the provider's office or in the hospital. 

Use a weekly pillbox

These boxes have 7 compartments, 1 for each day of the week. Some have more slots for different times of day, such as morning, midday, and bedtime. If you fill your pillbox at the start of the week, then all week long it’s easy to tell if you’ve taken a dose instead of trying to remember. You also can plan to take your medicine with another routine activity, such as brushing your teeth or having breakfast, so you get used to taking it regularly.

Watch for side effects

Ask your healthcare provider what side effects may occur with each of your medicines and learn what you can do to prevent them. Learn which side effects you should report to your healthcare provider. They may be able to adjust your dose or schedule, or substitute another medicine if side effects bother you.

Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2021
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