As a pharmacy student, the past six years of my life have been dedicated to learning about prescriptions and over the counter medications. Today, we are constantly exposed to drug advertisements, groundbreaking new treatments, and friends claiming a supplement changed their lives. The article below shares important information about the risks and benefits of using medications and supplements to improve your health.
1. There is No “Cure All” Pill
If a drug claims to cure your every ache and pain, turn you into a supermodel, or enable you to live forever… then it’s probably not worth buying. Although scientific research has made huge advancements in drug therapies over the past few decades, there are still many unanswered questions. The body is composed of over 70 trillion cells, almost 80 organs, and about a billion things that can go wrong. Sure, I’d love a medication capable of curing my every ailment, but I’ve accepted this type of quick fix won’t exist during my lifetime.
Before you turn to medications for immediate relief, try to identify the cause of your problem. For example, if you have a headache, taking acetaminophen should alleviate your symptoms. But what if your headache is caused by work related stress? Then in this situation, there’s a good chance your headaches will continue until you resolve the underlying issue.
2. Medications Can Save Your Life
Before the discovery of antibiotics, millions of individuals died from minor wound infections and common illnesses, such as a strep throat. In fact, effective drug treatments are one of the main reasons many of us are alive today. Even those individuals diagnosed with once deadly diseases, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer, now have the opportunity to live long, fulfilling lives thanks to new and advanced therapies.
Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars every year researching, manufacturing, and studying medications in order to improve the health of patients around the world. In 2012, almost 40 new medications were approved for use in the United States (the most in over a decade). Do you know a type 1 diabetic, a breast cancer survivor, or someone with a bad heart? If so, then you know first hand the importance of effective drug therapy.
3. Nothing Comes Without Risks
Just last month the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new warnings about a type of medication, called statins, used by millions of Americans to decrease cholesterol levels. Some individuals taking these medications have reported memory loss and may be at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. It’s extremely important to know what medications you are taking and why they were prescribed. You should always make sure the benefits outweigh the risks of anything you put into your body.
Additionally, as with life, when you fix one thing you sometimes create a problem somewhere else. This is commonly the case for many weight loss medications and dietary supplements. While ephedrine-containing supplements may help you lose a few pounds, they also increase your risk of heart related issues. I recommend reading all warning labels for over-the-counter products and supplements before using them. Additionally, it may be a good idea to research the product for any serious side effects before including it in your daily routine.
4. Supplements Fill Nutritional Gaps
While a healthy diet can provide your body with all of its essential nutrients, supplements can be used to fill any nutritional gaps. Some of the most commonly used supplements include multivitamins, calcium, and vitamins B, C, and D. Both calcium and vitamin D support bone health and vitamins, such as C and E, serve as antioxidants used to prevent cell damage.
Supplements are actually classified as foods, not drugs, which mean they do not need to be proven safe and effective before they are marketed. Although supplements may be labeled as “natural”, they can still pose severe health risks.
Additionally, vitamins A, D, E, and K can cause serious side effects if taken in excessive amounts. It’s best to speak with your doctor or pharmacist before taking over-the-counter medications to ensure they are both safe and appropriate for use.
5. Drugs Don’t Work Unless You Do
Sorry dad, but you are a perfect example of this one. My dad takes his blood pressure medication every morning with breakfast, which is typically a ham and cheese omelet with a side of hash browns. If you asked him about the last time he worked out, he would probably say never. And to make matters worse, he didn’t own sneakers until I bought him a pair last year!
It’s tempting to think a pill can solve all of our health problems. I mean wouldn’t it be easier to just “take two with breakfast” than to spend hours at the gym every week? Even new prescription weight loss medications are supposed to be used in combination with a reduced calorie diet and about 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week.
The bottom line is there is no short cut to creating a healthy life. Advancements in drug therapies will continue to improve our health and supplements may improve overall well-being, but there is still no substitute for a clean diet and an active lifestyle!
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Alyse Scaffidi is the founder of Bite Sized Fitness. She is a Doctorate of Pharmacy student and knows how hard it is to make time for your health. Check out the sites below for more motivational tips, delicious recipes, and ideas for healthy eating.