Summer is finally just around the corner, and we all deserve some nice weather after a long, cold winter!  If you haven’t already, try to get outside and enjoy the sunshine (with sunscreen or protective clothing, of course!). Take a stroll, or sit on a park bench and watch the people walking by.Some signs of age are easily noticed in the passersby. Gray or white hair is a sign of aging, as the body’s ability to produce melanin to color hair strands dwindles. Wrinkles in the skin is another visible indication of age, a sign of diminished collagen and elastin production in the skin and reduced sweat and oil gland function.Other changes occurring in seniors are not so easily noticed, but these changes in body functions can affect how medications work.Body composition – Seniors have a greater percentage of body fat and a decreased amount of total water composing their bodies as compared to younger people. Therefore, medications that are fat soluble may accumulate in the aging body and result in side effects or toxicity (ex. Valium (diazepam). Medications that are water soluble may have higher than expected concentrations in the elderly resulting in an increased potential for side effects. (ex. Lanoxin digoxin)Liver Function – As we age, our liver becomes smaller and blood flow is reduced. Medications that rely on the liver to be metabolized by the body require careful monitoring and smaller doses. (ex. Warfarin)Kidney Function – Two-thirds of seniors have a reduction of kidney function of up to 50% compared to that of younger patients. Many medications are eliminated from the body through the kidneys. (ex. Lithium) For this reason, medication doses must often be reduced in seniors to minimize side effects and ensure safety. Geriatricians and certified geriatric pharmacists consider these factors to ensure safe and effective medication use in the elderly.The best way to help your healthcare professionals provide the best care for all seniors is to keep an up-to-date medication list of all prescription medications, over the counter medications and supplements that each person is taking. This list should include the strength of the medication, the directions for use and the reason the medication is being taken. The list should also include the name of the prescriber and the date the medication was started. Bring this list to every medical appointment and review it at every appointment.With a little care, we can be sure that our seniors are receiving the correct medications in the correct doses, decreasing the potential for harmful side effects due to age.

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