Side Effects - Medicines and Jobs
Monday, May 16, 2011
I was reading a recent blog post on how weight gain was a side effect of so many medicines a Sparker was taking. It really strikes a chord with me. I don't think the side effects, especially cumulative side effects, of medicines we're prescribed are adequately taken into account by our health care providers. Especially medicines to address health issues that affect a lot of us as we age - diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, reflux, depression. I don't advocate what I did (quit them all) but I do encourage people to quiz their doctors carefully as to whether a medicine is really necessary, are the positive benefits worth the negative impacts, are there natural alternatives or lifestyle changes that could be tried first, etc. Of course, if you decide to try to address it through lifestyle changes, you have to be really committed to following through and face the facts if you don't.
Several years ago (when I joined Spark for the first time) I was taking about 8 different medications daily - for diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, reflux, and depression. I felt terrible, had zero energy, hurt about everywhere - especially my legs & hips, which made me limp and even kept me up at night, was very overweight, and had constant stomach / intestinal issues. The stomach issues got so bad that for several months it felt like I had stomach flu every day. Finally I couldn't stand it any longer. I started reading about side effects of some of the meds I was taklng and thought "wow, no wonder". I stopped taking everything. BIG WARNING: I would NEVER recommend that anyone stop medications without discussing it with their doctors. But I was so desperate that I did.
I couldn't believe the difference. Some of the changes seemed miraculous. The pain in my legs and hips went away, no limping, the stomach issues went away, I felt so much better than I had been feeling. Next dr visit (they were frequent due to the diabetes and all the meds) I talked to her about it and proposed that I make an all-out effort to get healthy through good nutrition, exercise and healthy habits. She wasn't crazy about it at all but I was determined and we agreed that if I wasn't seeing significant progress at each visit, I would start back on at least the meds she deemed most important. Well, I did see a lot of progress. I was also losing weight, which of course helped everything else.
Sadly, as has happened so many times in my life, I got into a very intense, very stressful, period of ridiculously long hours at work and my good habits fell by the wayside. No time to prepare healthy meals, no time to exercise, not enough sleep, too much stress. It all took it's toll. (And has for most of my adult life) I regained some of the weight, my diabetes got out of control, etc. It has taken me a couple more years to finally decide that my job and the money I made were just not worth wrecking my health. So I told them I was quitting for health reasons, although I knew it would make a huge difference in income for us. I thought the lifestyle difference and health difference would be worth it. And I'm at a point in my life where I want to simplify and enjoy life anyway. Surprisingly the company I was working for (contract / consulting work) asked if I would stay on part time and work from home. Not sure how long that will last but I'll quit rather than going back to my old way of working. It has been a wonderful change. I now work 30-40 hrs a week less than I did in a normal week. It took some months, but with the reduced stress and more free time, I started to have enough energy to start improving my health and my life.
I started back on Spark and I've had about 3 months of eating healthy (preparing food at home), getting started back on an exercise program and other things that had been neglected for a long time. I went back to see my dr (I had pretty much stopped) and let her know what I was doing. We have the same agreement now as before. I'm seeing her every two months. If my lifestyle changes aren't significantly bringing my blood sugar level and other factors more in line, then I will try meds again - but very judicially and really watching and addressing side effects. But for now, the progress is great and I don't think that's going to happen.
So I guess I had two points to make with this blog... One is be sure to consider the impacts of medicines you start taking and look for other things you could do to improve your situation instead. One is to make sure your priorities are straight and that your health is near the top of the list. I sure have a long way to go, but I'm trying to do those things myself.