Medication Management Tips

How many different medicines do you take? Most people with heart failure or other cardiovascular illnesses take several. It’s no wonder you may become puzzled over which medicines to take and when, how much to take, or what symptoms the drugs treat.

To prevent missed or double doses, side effects, and drug interactions, keep your medicines organized. Try following these tips to avoid problems:

Write it down

Keep an up-to-date list of every medicine you take.  Carry a copy of it with you at all times in your wallet or purse. You can make your own, get a form from your healthcare provider or pharmacist, download one from the Internet ("My Medication List"), or keep a list on a free website that you can access from any computer anytime. Make a note of the basics about each of your medicines.

Here’s what to record:

  • Medicine name (generic and brand name)

  • What you use it for (such as "heart failure" or "cholesterol") 

  • When to take it (morning, bedtime, or at dinner)

  • How much to take (number of tablets or milligrams) 

  • How to take it (by mouth, injection, inhaled, and with or without food) 

  • Which side effects to report to your health care provider 

  • How long to take it

Make sure you note whether to avoid mixing the medicine with any others or with any foods or drinks.

Share the information

Tell your healthcare providers which medicines you take. This includes all prescriptions and any over-the-counter drugs, nutritional supplements, herbs, and other remedies. Keep an up-to-date list of everything you take. Bring it whenever you see your healthcare provider. If you do not have a list handy, bring all your pill bottles to your appointment in a large bag. (Your healthcare provider will not be bothered by this; she or he would much rather go through the bottles than not know exactly what you are taking.) Ask whether any of the items can cause problems when combined. If your healthcare provider makes changes in your medicines, update your list immediately whether you are at the provider's office or in the hospital. 

Use a weekly pillbox

These boxes have 7 compartments, 1 for each day of the week. Some have additional slots for different times of day, such as morning, midday, and bedtime. If you fill your pillbox at the beginning of the week, then all week long it’s easy to tell whether you’ve taken a dose instead of trying to remember. You also can plan to take your medicine with another routine activity, such as brushing your teeth or having breakfast, so you get used to taking it regularly.

Watch for side effects

Ask your healthcare provider what side effects may occur with each of your medicines and learn what you can do to avoid them. Learn which side effects you should report to your healthcare provider so he or she may be able to adjust your dose or schedule, or substitute another drug if side effects bother you.