|The vitamin K in kale can decrease the effectiveness of the common blood thinner, warfarin!|
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Common Drugs Responsible for Most ER Visits by Seniors
A new study shows that two diabetes and two blood-thinning drugs account for two thirds of all emergency room visits by older Americans. The biggest culprit was the drug warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven), commonly prescribed to prevent blood clots, which was responsible for one third of emergency hospitalizations. The other medications are insulin, antiplatelet drugs like aspirin and Plavix, and oral hypoglycemic agents.
Why Seniors are at Risk
There are probably many reasons that seniors are at risk. Anyone who has an aging parent, friend or relative know how difficult it is for them to take medications correctly. To make things worse, doctors tend to overprescribe drugs to seniors. According to the authors of this study, 40% of U.S. adults over 65 years of age take 5 to 9 medications and 18% take 10 or more! No wonder seniors experience so many adverse drug reactions. Our kidneys, liver and other filtration organs in our bodies were not designed to handle this many foreign and toxic chemicals. In addition, no drug company can ever adequately test the vast combinations of all these medications.
If you are concerned about drug combinations that you or a loved one are taking, there are a number of websites where you can enter the drugs and they can tell you if there is an issue. Some of these include:
Drugs.com Drug interactions Checker (includes interactions of chosen drug(s) and food).
AARP Drug Interaction Checker (includes over-the-counter drugs, herbs and supplements).
Drugstore.com Drug Interaction Database (includes prescription, nonprescription, herbs, vitamins and supplements.
Food and warfarin (Coumadin)
I wasn't surprised to see that warfarin was the drug most responsible for ER visits. It's difficult to get the dosage correct and it's effectiveness can increase or decrease significantly depending on what you eat and drink. According to Dr. Sheldon Sheps of the Mayo Clinic, vitamin K can reduce the effectiveness of warfarin so you need to carefully monitor how much of this vitamin you consume daily. He recommends that people taking warfarin avoid eating or drinking large amounts of:
* Brussels sprouts
* Collard greens
* Mustard greens
* Green tea
(Unfortunately, these are all incredibly important foods in our diet.)
On the other side of the spectrum, some foods increase the effect of warfarin which can lead to bleeding problems. Dr. Sheps recommends avoiding or limiting these drinks when taking warfarin:
* Cranberry juice
(Be especially careful during the holiday season when there is no shortage of cranberries and alcohol!)
Watch Out for your Loved Ones
If you have a loved one who is a senior, take the time to find out how many prescription drugs they are on and ask the doctor if they are really necessary. Years ago, when my mother-in-law came to live with us in a near-by nursing home, she was on about 15 medications. When we asked the staff why she was taking each one, they didn't have a good answer. Many times they prescribe drugs as a precaution and to avoid future lawsuits. By the time they carefully examined her medications, they reduced them to just a handful of prescriptions.
Once my uncle came to visit and he brought out a huge plastic bag of prescription drugs. I went on one of the drug interaction websites and discovered than several of the drugs he was prescribed should not be taken together! But he had several different doctors and they obviously weren't talking to each other.
So take things into your own hands. Challenge each prescription. Make sure they are taken regularly and consistently and check for interactions with other drugs, vitamins, herbs and food.