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By Lana Bell
For Senior Voice 

Aging changes how your body absorbs medications


We’ve talked before about how our bodies process medications, alcohol and other substances differently as we age. So … what do we need to do with this information?

Here are a few strategies to manage this change:

Conduct a review

Once a year, ask your provider to review your medicines and ask if she or he recommends any changes.

The review should:

• cover whether you’d benefit from a change in dosage for drugs you’ve been taking for a while, and

• include a check to see if any medications you’ve started taking in the past year have been causing you problems, perhaps from side effects or interactions.

Note new symptoms, side effects

Be sure to tell your provider about any changes you’ve experienced. Make a list so that you don’t forget to mention anything.

• Ringing in the ears can be caused by medication, allergies or another condition.

• Constipation is a common side effect of many medications, especially narcotic pain relievers, as well as an age-related condition in general.

• Dizziness can be caused by medication, changes in blood pressure or heart function.

• Depression can occur, especially if you are dealing with a chronic disease.

• Appetite can be affected by medications.

You may have developed new age-related symptoms that you don’t have to live with. Incontinence can be treated with medication, for example. A burning in the stomach could be GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which is also usually treatable.

Bringing up any such changes in your comfort and quality of life during your annual medication review gives your provider a chance to discuss possible treatments with you.

Be especially careful to avoid driving while medicated; we’ll talk more about that next month.

Reliable medical information on your smartphone

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has a mobile site that has searchable information on health topics, medications and supplements, a medical dictionary, health news, a parenting page and a link to clinical trials on drugs and treatments:

Have a question?

Please email us at if you have a medication question you’d like answered, or to request a pill dispenser, wallet-medication list, or magnifying glass.

Lana Bell is a state pharmacist with the Alaska Pioneers’ Homes.


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