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Medications serve a purpose. They reduce serious symptoms and prevent hospitalizations. They speed up recovery times. They can even save lives. As wonderful as it is to have access to medication to treat acute illnesses and chronic conditions, some people rely on them too much – and this includes doctors.

As one Harvard University Center of Ethics blog points out, 128,000 people die each year from the very drugs that are prescribed to them. Nearly 2 million people are hospitalized each year from properly prescribed drugs. Prescription drugs cause a major health risk in some individuals, ranking 4th along with stroke as a leading cause of death.

4 Questions to Ask Your Physician

In many cases, medications are essential to treating illnesses and chronic conditions. But, it’s a good idea to review your medication list on a regular basis to ensure that what you are taking is necessary. Being overprescribed is never a good thing. Below are four questions we recommend asking your doctor.

1. Does my condition need to be treated with medication, or are there lifestyle changes that can be made?

People are quick to take medications because they don’t want to alter their lifestyle. But, if you continue accepting medicines as they come, you could end up on many more than you need.

Before accepting prescription drugs, ask your physician if there are lifestyle changes you can make. For example, studies show that exercise can be just as effective at treating mild depression as antidepressants. Diet and exercise can manage diabetes and lower your risk for heart disease.

2. Are there older medications that I can use in place of a newer one?

New medications are often promoted on TV and paid ads, so patients are more likely to ask about them, and doctors are more likely to recommend them. However, newer drugs haven’t been tested as thoroughly and could lead to problems down the road. When possible, stick to medications that are older and well-established. They tend to be just as reliable.

3. Am I taking medications to treat the side effects from other drugs?

It’s unsettling to think that you could be on several medications just to treat the symptoms of a different drug. But, this happens more than people realize. Individuals who take NSAIDs are more likely to have stomach troubles or high blood pressure. Some antidepressants cause weight gain. Weight loss drugs or thyroid medications can be hard on the heart. If this is the case, it can be better to address the underlying condition and start eliminating drugs.

4. Should I be taking all the medications on my list?

When seeing your doctor, review your medications list. Ask about each drug and if you should still be taking it. It’s common for people to stay on drugs longer than they need to. Unfortunately, many doctors won’t spend time on your medications unless you force them too. Be your own advocate and make sure that the medication regimen you’re on is best.

Maintaining your health and wellness gets increasingly important as you age. Be sure to keep on top of your medications and work with a health care provider that is invested in your health!