How to Be Your Own Health Advocate


It’s your body and no one will or should care as much about it as you do.

Today’s enlightened movement toward integrated medicine adds a new complexity for most people, including practitioners. So, the responsibility must be yours.

Dismiss the conversations about taking more control of your health management — the time has come to be in charge of it!

Even doctors with the best intentions are faced with seeing more patients for less time than ever before and are bombarded with information on new drugs by pharmaceutical reps while being briefed from multiple sources on how those drugs interact with each other.

The fast-swinging door on today’s operating rooms have resulted in shocking stories about patients going in for one procedure, only to come to and discover another had been performed in error … or worse, the wrong limb was amputated.

If catastrophic errors of this magnitude can occur, we need to recognize that highly frequent medical practices, typically taken for granted, can be more susceptible to error…with consequences equally as grave.

Are Your Medications Doing More Harm Than Good?

Two out of every three patients who visit a doctor leave with at least one prescription for medication, according to a 2007 report on medication safety issued by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Close to 40 percent of the U.S. population receive prescriptions for four or more medications. And the rate of adverse drug reactions increases dramatically after a patient is on four or more medications.

Each year, about 106,000 people die from the side effects of prescription drugs, according to David Kekich, author of Life Extension Express. That does not account for the hundreds of thousands of problems from side effects not resulting in death … and is about three times greater than the number of deaths from car accidents in the U.S. each year.

Just last month, I discovered an error missed by three doctors who had separately reviewed and discussed my prescribed medications with me. The first of these physicians had prescribed Diltiazem while I was taking Lipitor® (atorvastatin calcium).

Experiencing pain in the area of my right kidney weeks later, I did some searching and found one of the many easy-to-use resources online for checking the interaction risk of drugs. I discovered an interaction warning for the two drugs, stating … “When combined, they may react causing acute kidney failure.”

Discuss Natural Options with your Doctor

One of the most prudent things you can do is discuss natural alternatives to taking prescribed medicines with your healthcare provider. Although more and more doctors are receptive to this type of discussion, only a small percentage have received sufficient, if any, education regarding alternative or integrated options.

Case in point; when I’d asked a physician about the potential value of creatine in improving my heart health; he responded, “You’ll probably find better information about it online than I can give you.” I like and respect that doctor, he just knew he wasn’t equipped to address that question.

As your own advocate, in charge of your healthcare, you can facilitate these discussions by printing information you’ve researched and reviewing it with your doctor. The Life Extension website contains thousands of pages of valuable information backed by over 30 years of research as a world leader in uncovering breakthrough approaches for preventing and treating the diseases of aging.

How to Take Medications Safely

If prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications are a part of your life, there are lots of things you can do to take these in a safe and responsible manner.

  • Always read drug labels carefully.
  • Learn about the warnings for all the drugs you take.
  • Keep medications in their original containers so that you can easily identify them.
  • Ask your doctor what you need to avoid when you are prescribed a new medication. Ask about food, beverages, dietary supplements, and other drugs.
  • Use one pharmacy for all of your drug needs.
  • Keep all of your health care professionals informed about everything that you take.
  • Consult your pharmacist, informing them of: everything you use including vitamins, herbals, and prescription and nonprescription medications.

Keep a record of all prescription drugs, OTC drugs, dietary supplements and herbs with you at all times, but especially when you go on any medical appointment. It could also be valuable, in case of a medical emergency. For example:

Being unaware of what medications you may be taking could result in an Emergency Room doctor prescribing something that negatively interacts with a current prescription.

For example, Coumadin/Warfarin is a strong anticoagulant; should you be in an accident requiring emergency surgery, your risk for excessive bleeding could be dangerously, even fatally, high and you’d certainly want the attending doctor to know.