Seniors are living longer and more active lives than ever before. Today, there are approximately 35 million seniors age 65 or older living in the US, accounting for about 13% of the total population. There are a number of reason so many seniors are living longer and longer. However, none of them are quite as impactful as the introduction of medications and treatments that help seniors better control many common chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Seniors use nearly 34% of prescribed medications, and 30% of all over-the-counter medications. And according to the American Association of Consultant Pharmacists, those 65 to 69 take an average of 15 prescriptions per year. This increases to an average of 18 prescriptions for those 80 to 84.

The medications your doctor prescribes can have a strongly positive impact on your ability to maintain a happy, healthy, active life. However, many commonly prescribed and over-the-counter medications can have serious interactions. While there are numerous measures in place to help seniors avoid dangerous drug interactions, many aren't familiar with the way the food they eat can interact with many commonly prescribed medications.

Here are some of the top food and drug interactions seniors need to be aware of.

Food & Drug Interactions List

  • Warfarin & vitamin K. This commonly prescribed blood-thinning medication helps treat and prevent blood clots. But many don’t realize that eating foods rich in vitamin K, such as kale, collards, spinach, brussels sprouts and other leafy greens, can decrease warfarin’s effectiveness. However, it’s important to keep in mind that doesn’t mean you have to avoid foods that contain vitamin K all together. Instead, doctors often suggest slowly increasing your intake of these foods over time.
  • Insulin, oral diabetic pills & alcohol. Mixing alcohol with insulin and other oral diabetic pills can increase and even prolong the effects of these commonly prescribed diabetes medications. This can lead to hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, which can cause symptoms such as nervousness, sweating, trembling, hunger, weakness, palpitations, confusion, drowsiness and in some cases coma. Be sure to speak with your doctor before combining these medications with alcohol.
  • Digoxin & high-fiber diets. Dietary fiber, specifically insoluble fibers such as wheat brans, can decrease the effectiveness of digoxin, a medication commonly prescribed to strengthen heart muscle contractions and slow heart rates. To prevent any potential interactions, it’s often recommended that seniors take digoxin at least one hour before or two hours after a meal.
  • Statins & grapefruit. Statins are one of the most commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs. But many don’t realize that drinking or eating fresh grapefruit can increase the side effects of statins, including muscle soreness and liver issues.
  • Calcium channel blockers & grapefruit. Grapefruit can also interact with calcium channel blockers, often used to control high blood pressure. Even a single 6-ounce glass of grapefruit juice can cause increases of this commonly prescribed medication in the blood stream.
  • Antibiotics & dairy products. Milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products can delay or even prevent the absorption of certain antibiotics in the body, making them less effective. To avoid issues, it’s often recommended to take certain antibiotics either one hour before or two hours after meals.
  • Acetaminophen & alcohol. Many seniors don’t consider the dangerous interactions over-the-counter medications can have as well. But this commonly used pain medication can have dangerous consequences when mixed with alcohol. In fact, taking the daily recommended dose of acetaminophen with two or more alcoholic drinks per day can increase toxicity in the liver. In some cases, this has led to permanent liver damage.

This is just a sampling of potential food and drug interactions you should be sure to avoid. It’s important to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about any and all potential interactions the medications you’re prescribed could include. And be sure to always take any medications as prescribed by your doctor.

Senior Living at Western Home Communities

Western Home Communities offers a variety of services and amenities all designed with the needs of seniors in mind. From active living and independent living, to assisted living and memory care, our mission is to ensure every senior can stay active and healthy, no matter what their age. Are you or a loved one considering moving to a senior living community? Contact Western Home Communities today to learn more.