Break the Circle of Self

Depression, Pain, Anxiety – the Circle of Self

Break the Circle of Self
The Circle of Self can lead you into a dark self-absorbed place with pain, depression, and anxiety.

I was teaching health profession students this week about mental health and pain. The Circle of Self was a good visual way to capture a current phenomenon. One of the very important things we talked about was the LIMITS of MEDICATION! The students were very insightful about the reasons so many people are struggling with depression, anxiety, and pain. And, the more we talked, the more it made sense that this is a common pattern.

STRESS

We made a list of reasons why the incidence of depression, pain, and anxiety are so common. I would love to hear what you would add to this list. Current themes in our society that contribute are:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased coping skills
  • Social media – most posts are either deceptively positive to look good or very negative
  • News, especially so much bad news
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Expectation of instant gratification
  • Reliance of medications or techniques to ‘just fix it’

THE CIRCLE OF SELF

When someone experiences depression, anxiety, and/or pain, several things tend to happen:

  • Less movement – more sitting or lying around
  • Decreased social activities – stay home more, reject offers to get out
  • Nod off or purposefully take a nap during the day
  • Have interrupted sleep at night
  • Experience pain – either pain when there was none or worsening pain

These changes lead to more and more focus on self. How do I feel? What is happening to me? Why me? Why do I feel this way? Why can’t I sleep? Why can’t I get motivated? Woe is me…

This common pattern of self can also impact heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more.

The role of SLEEP

Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. As we age, more and more things seem to interrupt this sleep. You might need to go to the bathroom more often during the night.   Pain can wake you up or keep you awake. Napping during the day can mess with your nighttime sleep.

Too little sleep can increase your risk of depression. It can also make your recovery from depression most difficulty.

Too little sleep can limit your ability to manage with pain. Pain can feel worse, be more frustrating, and limit your activities more when you’re extra tired. Also, the more you hurt, the hard it is to sleep, and a vicious cycle is started.

The role of MEDICATION

Low amounts of key neurotransmitters in the brain can lead to depression and/or anxiety. There are medications that can help increase the amounts of those neurotransmitters. Note, this process takes about 8 weeks, so starting medicine doesn’t make you feel better right away. Usually your energy gets better before your depressed or anxious thoughts.

In the studies that showed that these medications can help, counseling was also a key part of therapy. The medications by themselves don’t help as much as they do when you also have counseling. It is the counseling that can help you find some different ways to think, stop the negative thoughts, and help you focus on more positive aspects of your life.

For pain, some medications block some of the pain signals going between the site of the pain and your brain. Others decrease the intensity of those signals. The pain medication should match the type and intensity of the pain. This means the same pain medication is not the best option for all types of pain. There have been huge issues in our society of overuse of pain medicine, especially opiate medications. These have a role in some types of pain. Once the pain starts to decline, the medication should be decreased and stopped. In another blog, I’ll review all of the many types of pain medications and when/how to use each.

Breaking the Cycle

Breaking the circle of self
Think of others to break the circle of self.

Medications are part of breaking the cycle for many people. Note, medication is often helpful to start the process. It might not be needed long term. Ask you doctor about how long it will be helpful for you.

Counseling is part of breaking the cycle. Learning to change your thinking patterns is key. Having support is also key.

Then, I want to share something that has repeatedly been shown to effectively break this cycle. Do something for someone else! Focus on self leads into the negative circle that gets tighter and tighter, isolating you from others. To purposefully think about others can help you out of this dark place. Call to check on a friend. Help someone with a project. Visit an older relative or friend. Take a meal to a new parent or someone who is sick. Make a donation. Write a letter to a soldier. Plan a special outing with a friend. Join a club that works on a social issue.

There are many options! The point is to find someone else you can think about and help. Distraction is helpful for pain tolerance, anxiety reduction, and depression treatment. Thinking about someone else helps you out of the dark focus on self.

For more information about breaking the circle of self, contact us at www.medsmash.com/contact or 410-472-5078.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

I believe the circle of self can and does impact all of us. It is one of Satan’s best weapons. How distracted do you get when you are in pain? How about when you are feeling down or anxious? Even a common cold can be very distracting. And, once you are distracted, how hard is it to pull back out of the negative cycle?

Peter encourages us to recognize all of this and to learn to think more like Jesus.

1 Peter 4:1-2 MSG

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

In these complex times, we are bombarded with information that can keep us stressed, anxious, and/or depressed. Paul tells us to not focus on these things. He encourages us to focus instead on what comes next. How much time do you spend thinking about your future in Heaven?

2 Corinthians 4:14-18 MSG

 We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

Thinking about others, loving others as much and in ways we love ourselves, and putting others before ourselves are common themes in the Bible.

Philippians 2:3 ESV

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Romans 12:10 ESV

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

1 Peter 3:8 ESV

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

I’m praying we can all keep our focus outside of ourselves. Love others and keep your eyes on the future – eternity in Heaven!

Blessings,

Michelle

Problem Medications sending people to the ER

emergency
Don’t let problem medications send you to the emergency room

Problem medications are leading to an increasing number of emergency department visits. And more and more of those are ending up being admitted to the hospital. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in November 2016 revealed these findings. The study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control.

For every 1,000 emergency department visits, four are for people over the age of 65 with problem medications. In the last decade the number of people going to the emergency departments with problems with their medicines has gone up at least 10%.

The types of medications most often involved are opioid pain medicines, diabetes medicines that lower the blood sugar, blood thinners (anticoagulants), and antibiotics. There is still a significant use of medicines that have been long-recognized as a poor choice in people over 65. [I am still seeing that in my patients as well. Pain medication, anxiety and mood therapy, and anticholinergic (drying) medication use have been issues in nearly all of my referrals in the past 2 months.]

Why are there more medication-related emergency visits?

Part of the reason for this increase in emergencies could be the growing number of people over 65. But, that can’t be the only explanation.

Speed – Healthcare is moving and being provided at a very fast pace. The time your doctor gets to spend with you is very limited. Often the reason for your visit takes all of the time. This doesn’t allow for a thorough review of all of the rest of your health and your medicines.

Fragmentation – Your doctors, pharmacists, nurses, therapists don’t have enough time to talk to each other. When one doctor doesn’t know what the other one is doing, problem medications can be prescribed.

Incomplete information – Your doctors don’t often know what you REALLY do at home with your medicine. I have identified thousands of instances where medication is taken differently than prescribed. This can be for many reasons. Sometimes medications are stopped without telling the doctor. Sometimes extra doses are taken. Sometimes medications get confused such that each is taken incorrectly. Other times vitamins, herbal supplements, over-the-counter medications, and other substances are taken without the knowledge of the doctor or pharmacist. These are just a few of the examples of how medication can be different than what your doctor thinks it is.

Specialized knowledge – Only a small percentage of people aged 65 plus receives care from a specialist in healthcare for people in this age group. There are not nearly enough geriatricians and board certified geriatric pharmacists to oversee the prescribing for these adults.

Don’t let this statistic apply to you

What can you do to avoid being one of these people in the emergency department because of problem medications?

First, make sure your doctors (all of them) and your pharmacist know absolutely EVERY medication you take AND how you actually take them.

Second, ask your primary care doctor AND your pharmacist to carefully review all of those medications for:

  • Interactions
  • Lowest possible doses
  • Continued need for each medication
  • Safer options available
  • Removal/replacement of any medication known to be problem medications in people over 65
  • Assurance each is working as planned

Third, contact the board certified geriatric pharmacist at Meds MASH for a thorough medication review today. All findings will be shared with your healthcare providers so all can work together to keep your medication regimen safe. You can reach Michelle at www.medsmash.com/contact or by calling 410-472-5078.

Mistakes, oversights, misinformation, incomplete information, misunderstandings occur in all aspects of life. They certainly exist in healthcare. NO healthcare provider wants imperfect care, but it certainly happens. This is why a multi-check system where several people work together in your care is superior to independent practice. Different providers with varying backgrounds and perspectives can catch and fix issues before they ever reach you.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Is healthcare the only place where mistakes, oversights, misinformation, incomplete information, or misunderstandings happen? Of course not.

Can this happen in the church? Oh, yes! I’ll bet we could all share several stories.

Pastors, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, professional speakers, authors, and media personalities are all fallible. We are all human. Jesus makes it very clear we are far from perfect. No matter how hard we try, we will never be perfect.

Romans 3:23 (ESV)

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Does this mean you should consider all spiritual teaching as wrong? No!

It does mean you should check what you see, hear, and read and compare it with the absolute truth – the Bible.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Remember playing communication games in elementary school?   Games like telephone showed us how easily we can misconstrue information. Now, remember any class from your school days. Did you capture absolutely every word you teacher said? Did you ever miss important information because you weren’t paying attention – even for a second? Did you ever get an exam question wrong because you misunderstood the information?

I like this version from The Message:

Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)

God Has Set Things Right

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

These issues continue in healthcare and in spiritual teaching. Just like in healthcare, studying and learning from several spiritual sources will help you identify misinformation and reinforce the truths found in scripture.

John 8:32 ESV

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 16:13 ESV

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

John 17:17 ESV

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

The trust does exist, and you can find it.

John 14:6 ESV

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (emphasis mine)

Blessings,

Michelle

Emergencies and Medications – Are You Prepared?

ready-emergency-supply-list
Remember medications and medical equipment in emergencies.

Hurricane Matthew has wreaked havoc on the Caribbean and now part of the southeastern US. Millions of people evacuated while millions more ‘weathered out’ the storm in shelters and secure buildings. In all of those scenarios, daily life was drastically altered.

When you take chronic medications, they are a part of your daily routine. When that routine is upset, medications can be missed. Or, in the excitement, they can be taken more than once.

In emergencies, you might forget to grab them as you evacuate. Or, the emergency can take place right as you are taking your last dose. Then what?

Preparing for Emergencies

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a program called Ready. You can find it at www.ready.gov. One of the many valuable resources is a list of items to include in an Emergency Supply Kit. You can get the full list here. The items that I want to emphasize are:

  • Prescription medications – at least 3 days; more depending on the emergency
    • Include inhalers, eye drops, and patches
    • Include the medications you only take when you need them
    • Include any ‘just in case’ medications such as an epinephrine injectable or migraine therapy injectable if one has been prescribed for you
    • Supplies such as syringes for insulin
  • Glasses
    • Take your glasses even if you usually wear contacts
    • Take the supplies for your contacts
    • Take your reading glasses if you just wear those as needed
  • Feminine supplies
  • Urinary incontinence supplies
  • Ambulation devices – such as a cane
  • Sturdy shoes – you might be in a situation where you are not walking on an even surface
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Warm, dry change of clothes and a blanket (in a water proof bag if in wet conditions)
  • Written list of:
    • medications
    • allergies, including what happens if you take that medication or eat that food
    • medical conditions

The available lists provide step-by-step guidance on what and how to prepare for emergencies. There is another good one available through the Centers for Disease Control found here. Note, if you live in an area where natural events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, or wildfires are not uncommon, it will help to pack these emergency kits before the danger season. You will save yourself tremendous time and stress.

Prescription Medications

I have one more important fact about your prescriptions and associated medical supplies to share. When the threat of the emergency is known ahead of time, and you are nearly out of medication, make getting your refills a priority. You will not be alone trying to get more medication. Your pharmacist and their staff will appreciate the advanced notice. You will save yourself a lot of time and frustration waiting in long lines to get medication when you need to be doing so many other things to prepare. In the high-risk seasons, be extra vigilant about dwindling medication supplies.

I do want to share that I hear heroic stories of pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and others assuring their patients have what they need in the worst of circumstances. I am grateful for such dedication!

For more information about emergency preparedness, contact us at www.medsmash.com/contact.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

I have had two songs going through my head this week as I’ve prayed for the people in the path of Hurricane Matthew. One is ‘Eye of the Storm’ by Ryan Stevenson. You can find a link here. The other is a song that is frequently sung by the Maryland State Boychoir, ‘The Storm is Crossing Over’. One of the moms posted this recording.

It’s interesting how often STORMS are found in the Bible. In nature they can be ferocious and devastating. And wow, isn’t the same true of the storms that brew up inside of us?

Remember in Matthew (and in Mark 4) when Jesus was taking a nap in the boat?

Matthew 8:23-27 ESV

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Do you often feel weak and helpless in these storms? There’s no doubt we will face them. Again, you find reference to them all through the Bible. So, how do we prepare for them, survive them, and move on from them?

2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Besides Hurricane Matthew, one of the ‘storms’ weighing heavy on my mind right now is all of the war, turmoil, and conflict in the world. A dear friend is active duty as of this weekend and will be deployed this week. He has a loving wife and young children. And we all know he is not alone in this situation. I am holding in prayer those deployed, those in all layers of leadership, and those on the ‘other side’ who don’t want to be doing this and are caught in an ugly situation.

Psalm 46:10 ESV

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Nahum 1:7 ESV

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Praise be to God, our strength in the storm.

Blessings,

Michelle

Image source: http://www.ready.gov    

 

 

 

 

Your amazing liver

Your Amazing Liver – what does it do exactly?

Your amazing liver
Your liver breaks down medication and many other functions.

You have a liver. Do you have any idea what it does? I would venture a guess that most people don’t.

The liver sits in the upper right quadrant of your abdomen. When your doctor presses on your abdomen and puts fingers up under your ribs, that is what is being checked. Usually they won’t feel it or maybe just feel the very edge.

The liver has several functions:

  • Clotting factors in your blood are produced
  • Proteins in your blood are produced
  • Triglycerides and cholesterol are made
  • Stores vitamins
  • Removes toxins, such as ammonia, from the blood
  • Processes nutrients from our food
  • Regulates sugar in the blood
  • Metabolizes (breaks down) alcohol and medications

Of course it is the medication part that I am anxious to talk about.

What does the liver do to medication?

There are several types of enzymes in the liver.

These enzymes change the form of medications. They usually break medications down to a less active form. This also allows the medication to be processed and then to leave the body. If this slows down, then the medication stays in active form longer giving the medication a bigger effect and making it last longer.

Different medicines are broken down by different enzymes. Most of these enzymes are cytochrome P450 (CYP450)enzymes. There are several different CYP450 enzymes, each impacting different medications.

Some people have genetic differences that change those enzymes. For instance, a particular enzyme can be less active in some people based on their genes. This will make that medication more active, sometimes even toxic, for that person. It is becoming more common for people to be tested for any genetic changes that can help guide best medication use.

When there is more than one medication that is metabolized by the same enzyme that can change how those medications are broken down. This is where it really gets complicated. Some medications will induce the enzyme, or make it more effective. Others will inhibit the enzyme making it less effective. While others compete for the activity of the enzyme. These actions and interactions impact how well the medicine works and the amount of side effects it will have.

Even tobacco, some food, and herbs can impact the enzymes.

So, when your pharmacist is filling your prescription, there is SO MUCH more they are looking at than just getting the right number of tablets in to the bottle. The potential interactions need to be carefully screened each time any of your medicines are changed.

AND, this screening can only be complete if your pharmacist also knows what herbs, vitamins, over-the-counter, and other substances you take.

Pay attention to the extra instructions on your medicine label. These liver enzymes are often the reason for special instructions such as ‘avoid grapefruit’ or take at particular times of the day (to separate from other medications).

If you would like to know more about the liver and how liver enzymes impact medications, contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Just as the liver has a very specific function within the body, each element of the armor of God has a specific function.

Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

To take advantage of the full protection available to you, put on each piece of armor. Keep each functioning in its most complete and efficient form through prayer and reading the Bible.

If you’ve so much as glanced at the news in the last few weeks, you know that the ‘power of this dark world’ seems to be out in full force. People are hurting people all over the place.

Go out into this hurting world with your truth, righteousness, faith, assurance of salvation, and the Word securely in place.

Now is the time to have some scripture memorized or in your phone where you can reinforce your own understanding or reach out to others in an instant. That sword of the Spirit might be just what someone needs.

I’m praying for the hurt, the evil, the grief, the biases, the fear that separates us from each other and from turning to the love of God. May you be a light in this darkness.

Blessings,

Michelle

Image source: National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Who knows your WHOLE regimen of medicine?

Pharmacy 005 copy
Let your doctors and pharmacist know your WHOLE regimen.

Which of your providers or pharmacists knows your WHOLE regimen of your medicines? When you go to your doctor you are likely asked about the medications you take. Some practices will ask you to include that information on a piece of paper on a clipboard in the waiting room. Some will hand you a computer with a list of questions that include your medicines. Still others will have the person checking you in ask you about your medications.

Do you take a list of all of your medications with you to the doctor?

Your doctor needs to know the names, the strength, the dose, and exactly how you take each medication.

Rather than try to memorize and remember all of this, make a list before you leave home.

  • Some people take pictures of each medication label and keep them in their phone.
  • Some people use the ‘Medical ID’ app on their smartphone.
  • Some people keep a list printed and in their wallet where it can be easily found by emergency personnel if needed.

Do you include all medicines prescribed by all doctors?

Many of the people I meet think their doctors talk to one another and coordinate their care. Although this is the desire of your doctors, it often does not happen. Your doctors and other providers find it hard to catch up with one another. Even if they work for the same health-system, important details and explanations are often not shared.

  • Include all medications coming from all of your doctors on your list.
  • Don’t assume one doctor explained the latest changes to the other doctors.

Do you include all of the medicines and other substances you take?

All of the substances you take have the potential to interact with each other. This means they can be dangerous when combined. If no one knows each substance you take, then those interactions cannot be checked.  It is important to have a thorough screen of your WHOLE regimen.

Include these items even if you only take them once in awhile.

I highly encourage you to include all of these on your written list.

  • Over-the-counter pain medicine (e.g. Tylenol, ibuprofen, Aleve, aspirin)
  • Stomach ache or acid reflux medicine
  • Headache medicine
  • Allergy medication
  • Eye drops
  • Nose sprays
  • Cold, flu, congestion medicines
  • Constipation or diarrhea medicines
  • Medicated creams or ointments
  • Vitamins
  • Supplements
  • Herbal therapies
  • Marijuana
  • Illicit drugs (at least tell your doctor about these)

I am finding that the people who make the decisions about your prescription medicines do not know all of these important facts. The over-the-counter, herbal, vitamin, and other substances can have side effects, cause problems, and interact just as prescription medications can.

Consider all of these to be MEDICATIONS! Let your doctors and pharmacist know your entire list – your whole regimen!

For more information about the importance of your complete medication list, or for a detailed review of your medication list, please contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Just as there are a variety of medications that may be needed for overall health, there are a variety of things we need to include in our lives for our spiritual health. What are the components of your spiritual life?

In what ways do you acknowledge, praise, worship, study, talk with, share, enjoy, and spend time with God?

I liken the prescription medications from your primary doctor to Sunday worship and owning a Bible.

The specialist medications are like the Bible study, Sunday School, and other special short term studies.

What about the components that you choose for yourself from the smorgasbord of options? Do you include prayer, worship music, contemporary Christian music, daily devotions, meditation, accountability partners, online resources, or other choices?

Do you select a wide variety of options?

Do you stick to one or two?

Do you limit yourself to the Sunday morning selections?

Colossians 3:12-17 (MSG) gives several ideas about the many ways you can keep God active in your life.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

There are so many ways you can get to know God better. Even if you have been studying and worshipping for decades, there is more to learn and more love to experience.

Then there is prayer. There is real power in prayer.

James 5:13-16 (ESV)

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Prayer that acknowledges God and His will and timing can do great things. Never overlook the power of prayer.

It is my hope this has inspired you to add some more elements to your daily walk with God. The God who created the Universe and who loves you beyond measure looks forward to each and every remedy you select to stay close to Him and know Him better.

Blessings,

Michelle

Aging effects

Aging – the good, the bad, the medication issues

Aging effects
Changes come with aging – some impact best medication use.

You are aging. No matter your overall health, your lifestyle choice, your beliefs about the medical system, you are aging.

If you do EVERYTHING right when it comes to healthy living, will aging stop? No.

Here are some changes that occur in all of us with aging.

  • Kidney function starts a very gradual decline in your late 30’s or early 40’s.
  • Liver size and blood flow to your liver diminish. The number of cells shrinks. There is less activity of the enzymes that break down medications.
  • Food and medications move through the intestine more slowly.
  • The volume of urine that the bladder can hold decreases. Bladder muscles weaken.
  • For men, the prostate gland increases in size.
  • For women, the urethra shortens and becomes thinner. So, risk of urinary tract infection goes up.
  • Muscles weaken as growth hormone levels decline.
  • Aldosterone levels decrease, so risk of dehydration goes up.
  • The immune system slows down. So, risk of infection and cancer go up. Also, it can take longer to treat an infection.
  • Heart muscle and blood vessels get stiffer. This can increase risk of high blood pressure. Also, with exercise, the heart can’t pump as much blood or speed up as much as it did at younger ages. So, exercise capacity is lower.
  • The muscles involved in breathing weaken. There is a decline in the number of small sacs in the lungs where oxygen is passed to the blood.
  • The amount of water in the body goes down while the body fat goes up.

This is not intended to alarm or depress you. With aging also comes wisdom, experience, tolerance, and the benefits of many life lessons. So, celebrate the process with its good and challenging elements.

As a pharmacist, I want you to understand how and why medications should be prescribed differently at different ages. Any medical conditions; habits such as smoking or excess alcohol consumption; excess weight; and other factors can further impact how medication actions change over time.

The first step of a medication’s actions comes when it is presented to the body. Most often it is swallowed and then has to be absorbed. Absorption is not impacted very much by normal aging, but it is impacted by medications that lower stomach acid, change the rate of the gastrointestinal tract, or by stomach or intestine procedures.

The second step is distribution. The medication, once absorbed, is distributed throughout the body. Some medications prefer fat and other prefer water. As we age, we have more body fat and less body water. So, medications that love water are more concentrated in the overall smaller total amount of water. The medications that love fat are distributed to more places and can be harder to gather it all back together to get rid of it.

The third step is metabolism. This is how the medication is broken down in the body. Some medications have to be broken down in order to get rid of them. Others have to be broken down in order to reach their more active form. Metabolism happens in the liver. Over time, the liver becomes less active, so it takes longer to break down some medications.

The fourth step is elimination. This is how the medication leaves the body. Most medications are either eliminated through the urine or through the feces (stool). So, any decrease in kidney function will slow down the elimination through the urine. Any slowing, shortening, or other issues with the intestines and colon can impact the elimination through the feces.

The important point of mentioning all of this is to make you aware that medications act differently in your body as you age. The medication, the dose, the timing that was good for you 10 years ago might not be the best for you now. Your doctor shouldn’t prescribe medications in the same way for a 70 year old person as prescribed for a 30 year old person.

I encourage you to ask your doctor and your pharmacist to carefully review your medications to be sure all are correct for your age and your unique set of medical conditions.

We would also be happy to provide that very thorough assessment for you. You can contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

A life of faith is a long pursuit. It often takes time to develop perseverance and character, hope and joy in all circumstances.

Romans 5:3-5 NIV

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Throughout the Psalms and Proverbs age is revered with dignity and honor.

Proverbs 16:31 ESV

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.

Psalm 71:18 ESV

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.

Psalm 92:12-15 ESV

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Psalm 71:9 ESV

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.

Proverbs 20:29 ESV

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.

At the end of this life we have the promise of a glorious eternity. It makes the aging and the waiting easier to dwell on what is to come!

2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Blessings,

Michelle

Image source: National Institute of Aging; National Institutes of Health; US Department of Health and Human Services.

Are Your Medicines Improving Your Quality of Life?

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Quality of life should be preserved and enhanced with your medication.

Medications have two main purposes.

  • One is to increase your QUALITY of life. They relieve or control the symptoms that make it hard to do our daily tasks. Quality of life is your ability to enjoy and engage in your life. It is your ability to do the things you want to do during the day.
  • The other is to increase your QUANTITY of life. They help control medical conditions so you can live longer.

ALL medications have potential side effects. Some of these side effects are a minor nuisance that goes away. Some of these side effects are so severe you are changed to a different medicine. Then there are some times when another medicine is started to treat the side effects of the first medicine. In most situations I highly discourage this practice. There are a few select exceptions.

Medications and Quality of Life

This blog is about the medications that are prescribed to help you live better. Using them is intended to improve your quality of life. But, they have side effects that keep you from functioning normally. Those side effects actually decrease your quality of life. Here are a few examples:

  • Pain medication for back pain makes you so sleepy you just lay around.
  • Blood pressure medicine makes your blood pressure so low you don’t have the energy to do regular daily tasks or you get really dizzy when you stand up or turn quickly.
  • Anxiety medicine keeps you so groggy you can’t function.
  • Sleep medicine keeps you sleepy all through the next morning.
  • Diabetes medicine makes your blood sugar so low you are weak, shaky, and dizzy.
  • Parkinson’s Disease medicine makes you so dizzy you can’t go out.
  • Incontinence medicines makes you so constipated you are miserable.

It doesn’t make sense for a medicine intended to help to actually cause just as many problems as the thing it was prescribed to treat. Talk to you doctor! Your doctor might not know unless you talk about it. Your relationship with your doctor should include conversations about your goals. Let your doctor know what daily events and tasks are important to you. Then, work together to reach those goals through medication, physical therapy, counseling, diet, or other means.

We are here to help, too! At Meds MASH we will carefully review all of your medicines to be sure you are getting the maximum benefit with the least side effects. Often a dose change or an alternate medication can make a huge difference. We work closely with your doctor to optimize your medicines. You don’t need to live with side effects that hold you down. Contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

What is your purpose for being? I had a chance to ‘people watch’ for a while this week. It got me thinking about what drives people. We know that EVERYONE has insecurities. Everyone has struggles. God has a purpose for everyone. Society gives a lot of messages that don’t align with the Bible. A lot of people have never even heard about the God who loves them. People have so many reasons for the actions they take. As a whole, people are so confused.

Here are a few reasons for decisions that come to mind:

  • Some people elevate themselves by suppressing others.
  • Others spend all of their time growing their sphere of influence.
  • Some live to serve and please others (sometimes at risk to themselves).
  • Several spend their time protecting themselves.
  • And then some hide from other people and insulate themselves.

Our selfish actions can have unwanted side effects, just like the medications discussed above.

Are we to spend this life racking up points? No! That is exactly why Christ died and rose. He took the ‘rules’ and replaced them with grace and redemption. You don’t have to ‘earn’ your way to Him.

John 3:16-18 The Message

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

I’m hoping this makes you rethink your purpose for being the way it makes me rethink mine. As I make decisions each and every day, what is my underlying motivation?

I am called to believe, trust, and follow in faith. If I am walking closely with God, He will help me make decisions that make sense. He has this perspective that is so far beyond anything I could imagine.

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

James 1:5 ESV

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

So contrary to what society tells you and where your own flawed thinking might take you, your priority can be God’s plan for you. Staying focused on this can help you avoid decisions that hurt other people. It can help you take the focus off of yourself. It won’t rid you of problems, but it can increase your confidence that you’re not alone.

Just say ‘no’ to the side effects of selfish thinking!

Blessings,

Michelle

Narcotics, opioids, and addiction – important facts

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Learn the facts about safe use, natural physiologic changes when you take opioids, and addiction.

There is a lot of information in the news about narcotics, opioids, overdose, death, and a heroin epidemic. Now there is new legislation to try to stop this downward spiral. Have you found it confusing? If you say yes, you are not alone!

First, narcotics = opioids

The correct medical term for these pain medicines is ‘opioid’. This refers to the way they work. These pain medications interact with the mu-receptors and other opioid receptors throughout the brain (and the gastrointestinal tract). As they trigger the mu-receptors, they block pain sensations. They can also cause euphoria, dysphoria, or sedation. So, they can make you feel really good, really laid back, or really sleepy.

There are several medicines that fall in this category of opioids. Here are a few (and some brand names):

  • Morphine (MS Contin, Avinza)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Codeine – combined with acetaminophen (Tylenol #3)
  • Hydrocodone – combined with acetaminophen (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Roxicodone)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Fentanyl (Sublimaze, Duragesic)
  • Methadone (Dolophine)

These medications have been used for decades to treat moderate to severe pain. Pain relief is important in many instances not only for your quality of life but also to get you moving again after a painful event. For instance, it is critical that you get moving again soon after a knee replacement, back surgery, or other similar surgery. As you get moving again you increase your chance of really getting back to full function. You also decrease the risk of a blood clot from lack of use. But, those surgeries are painful. The opioid medication helps relieve that pain allowing you to start your rehabilitation.

When used short term for pain, addiction is not likely

Addiction is usually associated with long term use and/or use for the feeling you get from the medication beyond the pain relief. It is also associated with using more than you are prescribed. To safely use opioid pain medication, use the lowest dose that allows you to move through your pain. Also, use it for the shortest time possible. As the pain level decreases, you can move from an opioid  to a nonopioid pain medicine. Work with your prescriber to determine when you are ready for this change and which option will work best for your pain.

Key terms

The body contains a wonderfully complex system of signals and receivers to transmit and control pain sensations. The body and these communication pathways in the brain and the central nervous system are well organized. When the pain signals are too distressing and an opioid pain medicine is added, the normal body signals and receivers adapt to the effect of the opioid pain medicine. There are natural, physiologic changes that occur in your body as these medicines are used over time. I want you to understand these changes. When they occur, they do not mean you are addicted!

Physical dependence – As the body lets the medicine treat the pain, the body’s normal pain process relaxes.

Tolerance – When you take an opioid pain medicine over time, those nerve transmitters (signals) in your body adapt. Over time doses have less effect and last a shorter period of time. So, over time, the dose needed for the same pain relief goes up.

Withdrawal – When the opioids are suddenly taken away, the body can’t take over the pain control immediately. If this sudden stopping of the medicine happens, you will feel body aches, irritability, fast heart rate, weak. and have difficulty sleeping. You might also yawn, shiver, and have an upset stomach.

These are the body’s normal reaction to having the opioid pain medicine take care of the pain. When your pain level drops to mild to moderate pain, your prescriber will start to slowly decrease your dose of opioid pain medicine. This will allow your body’s normal process to take back over in controlling your pain.

Next week we will cover more about addiction and steps being taken to stop the current epidemic of opioid pain medicine abuse. Addiction involves continued use over time, inability to control drug use, compulsive drug use, continued use even when you know the drug is hurting you, and craving of the drug.

These opioid medications can play a very healthy role in controlling your pain when dosed appropriately and used for the shortest time possible.

If you would like to know more about opioid pain medicines and how they affect you, please contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Addiction is so very complex. It is one of many examples of how something good for you can become something bad for you.

It is not possible to look at someone and say, ‘He is an addict.’ Or ‘She is likely to be an addict.’ It is not true that ‘bad people’ become addicts while ‘good people’ avoid that outcome. Parts of the addiction process seem to be within our control while others take us by surprise. We will go in to more detail next week.

So, this is a key area when we can share our compassion and the love of Christ.

It is also a reason to reflect on our self-control. This is one of the fruits of the spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

We are all tempted by various things. One of Christ’s messages to us is to let Him be our strength and shield.  This was shared by Paul as he was explaining why and how we should stay away from idols and temptations that lead off the path to Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Psalm 28:7 ESV

The Lord is my strength and my shield;

    in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;

my heart exults,

    and with my song I give thanks to him.

Peter sums up our role to work on our own self control and in the process share love and compassion with our fellow humans.

2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Blessings,

Michelle

Appropriate medications – same at 30, 60, and 90?

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Appropriate medications over age 60

Should the same medications and doses be prescribed for all ages? No! However, we find that often they are.   If a medication was a good choice for you at 30, is it still a good choice at 60 or 90? Not necessarily. So, why does age matter?  How do you know that you are taking all appropriate medications?

What changes as we age?

Even if you eat right, exercise regularly, and make good choices about alcohol and tobacco, changes occur over time.

  • Kidney function starts a very gradual decline in your late 30’s or early 40’s.
  • Liver size and blood flow to your liver diminish. The number of cells shrinks. There is less activity of the enzymes that break down medications.
  • Food and medications move through the intestine more slowly.
  • The volume of urine that the bladder can hold decreases. Bladder muscles weaken.
  • For men, the prostate gland increases in size.
  • For women, the urethra shortens and comes thinner. So, risk of urinary tract infection goes up.
  • Muscles weaken as growth hormone levels decline.
  • Aldosterone levels decrease, so risk of dehydration goes up.
  • The immune system slows down. So, risk of infection and cancer go up. Also, it can take longer to treat an infection.
  • Heart muscle and blood vessels get stiffer. This can increase risk of high blood pressure. Also, with exercise, the heart can’t pump as much blood or speed up as much as it did at younger ages. So, exercise capacity is lower.
  • The muscles involved in breathing weaken. There is a decline in the number of small sacs in the lungs where oxygen is passed to the blood.
  • The amount of water in the body goes down while the body fat goes up.

This list is not meant to depress anyone. These are just some of the very natural changes that occur in all of us. So with all of this change, the need for medication, the types of medications that are needed, and the doses of medications are all different.

Nearly all medications leave the body through the urine or the stool. Most medications are changed as they pass through the liver. There are enzymes in the liver that break down those medications. When the kidneys and liver become less functional, it takes longer to get the medications back out of your body. This means a single dose can last longer or have a bigger impact.

Most medications have a preference for water (hydrophilic) or fat (lipophilic). Since body water and fat both change, medication concentrations also change.

Guidelines for taking appropriate medications

There are so many changes to manage that guidelines have been written to try to decrease some of the more common mistakes that are made. These are oriented to people over age 65. The Beer’s List was first developed by a group of doctors in 1991. It has since been updated many times. It contains a list of medications not to use and another list to use with special precautions. There is also a guideline called STOPP that lists medications to avoid in adults over 65. For both guidelines, there are safe options to use in place of the medications on the lists.

If you are 60+, is there a specialist in medication use for people of your age monitoring your medication use? Can you really afford to avoid this review? We have found there is some issue to address 98% of the time we provide an assessment. For your personal assessment, contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Medications change as you age. And so do so many other things. Many of these changes are wonderful! You benefit from the many lessons you’ve learned through your life so far. You are able to share those experiences, insights, and lessons with others. You probably sweat the small stuff less. You also tend to enjoy the little things more.

I heard a message today that really captured my attention. A picture was painted about grace and faith and their relationship.

As stated by John Stott, ‘Faith’s exclusive function is humbly to receive what grace offers. Grace gives and faith takes’.

Grace is offered to you on a constant basis. But, it has been my experience, it takes time and lessons learned to really develop faith so that grace can be received. Faith tends to grow with time and experience.

Ephesians 2:8 ESV

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

Hebrews 11:1 ESV

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Romans 10:17 ESV

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Salvation by grace is a gift. Faith is how you receive that gift.

Ponder this great news this week!

Blessings,

Michelle

Four Components of True Health – Mental Health

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Mental health is one of four components of total health

Mental health is the second of the four components of health. True health requires health in all four components. Last week we covered physical health. Over the next two weeks we will talk about each of the others separately.

Mental health is getting more attention as an essential component of health.  It requires a health system of diagnosis, treatment, and management similar to physical health. Insurance has historically not provided as much coverage for mental health compared with physical. But, finally, that is changing in a very positive way!

A new set of diagnostic standards was published in 2013. This update came after over 10 years of work to refine and identify diagnoses since the previous set of guidelines. The standards cover everything from neurodevelopment disorders (such as autism), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression to anxiety.  They also cover obsessive-compulsive disorder, trauma and stress-related disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, phobias, and personality disorders.

There are several classes of medications that are prescribed to manage mental health conditions. Some examples include neuroleptics (also called antipsychotics), antidepressants, antianxiety medications, and some medications that are also used to treat seizures.

So what can you do to improve your mental health?

Consistency is very important with mental health. Accurate diagnosis is obviously also key.

These conditions are complex. They are true biologic medical conditions. Sometimes people think these conditions are something someone can control by him/herself. That can lead to shame, denial, or avoidance of these complex conditions. They DO require medical care.

From mentalhealth.gov:

Myth: Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough.

Fact: Mental health problems have nothing to do with being lazy or weak and many people need help to get better. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.

Counseling is often an essential component of care for these conditions. Qualified counselors listen, coach, and strategize. They can also help diagnose and participate in therapy decisions. They can educate and work with the person with the  condition and with all family and caregivers, as approved by the patient.

So mental health conditions are medical conditions just like cancer and diabetes are medical conditions. They are treated with counseling, procedures, and medications. Many require lifetime management (versus one time treatment). So, relationships with the healthcare team are important. You want providers with whom you are comfortable and can be open.

Note, for many mental health conditions, especially depression, medication needs to be taken every day for up to two months to see the full benefit. The medication very gradually changes transmitters in the brain back to healthy amounts. So, please be patient and take the medicine faithfully.

For more information about mental health, please contact us at www.medsmash.com.

BIBLICAL APPLICATION

Mental illness impacts people of faith just as it impacts people who have never heard about Christ. So, can God use mental illness for His glory? Can anything good come from struggling with mental illness?

I believe God can use any of our weaknesses, any of our conditions, to His glory. Nothing is beyond His ability.

John 16:33 ESV

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Luke 1:37 ESV

For nothing will be impossible with God.

In the Bible, mental illness is sometimes referred to as having an ‘afflicting demon’. Understanding of mental health continues to grow. The medical/biological understanding of these conditions is much better understood than they were in Biblical days, but there are still questions to be answered.

Matthew 4:24-25 The Message (MSG)

He also healed people of their diseases and of the bad effects of their bad lives. Word got around the entire Roman province of Syria. People brought anybody with an ailment, whether mental, emotional, or physical. Jesus healed them, one and all. More and more people came, the momentum gathering. Besides those from Galilee, crowds came from the “Ten Towns” across the lake, others up from Jerusalem and Judea, still others from across the Jordan.(emphasis mine)

The multiple components of total health – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – are recognized throughout the Bible. Mental health conditions require treatment and must be addressed to reach a state of true health.

There is no shame. Again, these conditions have biological sources. We are called to love and support each other.   Education, understanding, and unconditional love can help us help each other find God’s purposes in each of our afflictions.

Blessings,

Michelle

Image Source:  National Institute on Aging; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services