Dangerous Trend: Skipping Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Drugs

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While The Doctors Health Press focuses mainly on complementary and alternative medicine, it also recognizes the high degree of importance that pharmaceuticals have for treating illness and extending lives — not to mention following doctor’s orders. It remains an unchangeable fact that doctors reach for a prescription pad often to deal with a patient’s health condition.

 There are some cases where you can take the “I won’t bother, I’ll just live through it” approach, say with a steroidal nasal spray to relieve your sinus congestion. That isn’t a serious disease. But when we’re talking about the state of your heart and the circulation of blood in your body, it is downright dangerous to ignore a doctor’s prescription.

 Everyone knows by now that high blood pressure and high cholesterol are risk factors for heart problems. A prescription for a drug to treat either of these conditions is written so that you can get these levels under control as quickly as possible. This helps you to avoid a major heart or circulatory problem (such as atherosclerosis).

 Yet a new study shows that, incredibly, only 33% of a group of older adults were actually taking their prescribed hypertension and cholesterol drugs. That’s far fewer than half!

 These patients were considered “high-risk” in that their age and risk factors combined to make them susceptible to cardiovascular disease. The study, held in Virginia, included more than 4,000 people over the age of 65. The prescriptions for drugs were set initially at 90 days, then six months, and finally a year. The researchers defined “adherence” to the prescription at 80% — so people had to take only the drugs eight out of every 10 times they were supposed to.

 Even still, after just three months, only 40% of the participants were taking their prescriptions. At six months the number fell further, and by the end of the year, just 33% of people bothered to keep taking these important pharmaceuticals. It was less likely that the patients adhered to taking cholesterol drugs, perhaps because the term “blood pressure” sounds more serious.

 Overall, if patients were prescribed both drugs they were more likely to stick to the prescription — but still more than half did not. Those with existing heart disease were 27% more likely to take the drugs as prescribed, suggesting that for us to bother with medications, it takes a serious cardiac event.

 This is all wrong — failing to take a doctor’s prescription for serious health concerns can have serious repercussions. Never stop a prescription on your own; if you dislike side effects, consult with your doctor about switching drugs.