A simple fact of life is that a majority of people over 50 take at least one prescription medicine. Unfortunately, many of them consider reading the warning labels as a waste of time.
According to a study done by researchers at Kansas State University, not knowing what foods and beverages to avoid while on Rx drugs is the biggest mistake that can be made. A quick cheat sheet on some of the most prevalent Rx drugs for the over-50 crowd follows:
Blood pressure drugs and potassium-rich foods: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 54% of those between the ages of 55 and 64 have high blood pressure, and nearly 2/3 of those over 65 do. If you are one of them, you may be controlling your blood pressure with an ACE inhibitor. These meds can raise your potassium levels which can cause your heart to beat irregularly, leading to cardiac arrest in severe cases. To keep levels from rising even higher, potassium-rich foods like bananas, spinach and other leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and salt substitutes that contain potassium should be limited.
Brand name drugs include: Monopril, Zestril, Univasc. Most generic ACE inhibitors end with the letters “pril.”
Some cholesterol meds and grapefruit: The CDC states about 71 million Americans have high cholesterol, and about a third of them take statins to control it. If you’re washing your Lipitor, Mevacor, Zocor or Lipex (generics are atorvastatin, lovastatin or simvastatin) with a glass of grapefruit juice – STOP! Grapefruit can prevent the drug from being broken down by the liver, increasing the risk that it will accumulate in your body to toxic amounts, according to Lauren Aleksunes, Pharm.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University.
Blood-thinners and leafy greens: People who are at a high risk of developing blood clots or who have had heart attacks are sometimes put on warfarin, a drug that thins the blood so it can circulate more easily. Experts recommend limiting leafy greens to a (same size) single serving a day because they contain Vitamin K, which can block the effects of warfarin, putting you at risk of developing a blood clot. Garlic, ginger, cranberries and cranberry juice can increase warfarin’s blood-thinning abilities, so should also be limited.
The brand names for warfarin are Coumadin and Jantoven.
Antibiotics and dairy: If you have an infection, such as a kidney infection or Lyme disease, for which your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, avoid eating dairy for a couple of hours after your daily dose. Calcium binds to the antibiotic and prevents your body from absorbing it. Instead it remains in your intestines and winds up in the toilet the next time you have a BM – a waste of your money. However, the antibiotics children take for ear infections or strep don’t have the same dairy restriction. It is okay for them to have milk or yogurt after they’ve taken a spoonful of antibiotics.
Brand names include: Sumycin, Dynacin, Monodox. Generics include tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline.
Anti-anxiety meds and alcohol: According to The New York Times, there were nearly 50 million prescriptions of Xanax filled in 2011, making it one of the best-selling Rx drugs on the market. (Anti-anxiety meds like Ativan and Valium are also big sellers.) These drugs act as sedatives and bind with the brain’s natural tranquilizers to calm you down. When mixed with alcohol, the side effects intensify and you feel drunker, sleepier and have trouble remembering things. It can also slow down your rate of breathing.
Brand names include: Xanax, Klonopin,Valium, Ativan. Generics include alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam.