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Many of us take medications to prevent or treat various symptoms, conditions or diseases. While, for the most part, medication is meant to help us, we must also realize that medications have various risks that we need to make ourselves aware of. Before taking a medication, and periodically while you are on a medication, you can take steps to protect yourself from potentially dangerous side effects.

Before you begin a new medication, it is good practice to have a conversation with your doctor. First, you should understand whether the condition for which s/he wishes to prescribe medication can be managed in other manners. For example, a lifestyle change such as altering your diet and exercise routine can often be enough to manage mild cholesterol issues. If your condition or symptoms can be controlled by other means, it may not be necessary to start a new medication. If it is necessary to take a medication, you should take the time to understand all of the reported risks associated with the medication. In many states, pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to provide an adequate warning of potentials risks to your prescribing physician, not directly to you as a patient.

Second, you should ask your doctor about risks associated with the medication, as well any potential, dangerous medication interactions between this new medication and any medicines you are already taking (including over-the-counter drugs). It is also smart to take the time to read the entire label for the medication yourself. The typeset on many medication labels is very small, but the labels can be found, and enlarged, on the internet by visiting the FDA’s drug information website, at:

Lastly, medication labels are often updated and these updates may include important safety information that you and your physician should consider. It is vital to keep checking your medications’ labels for updates to the instruction, warning or precaution sections. Signing up for email updates from the FDA via their website may help you remember to do this: If there is new safety information that concerns you or the label lists new side-effects or symptoms that you’ve experienced, be sure to raise your concerns with the doctor that is prescribing the medicine.

It is important to take affirmative steps to protect your health. While this list is not medical advice and by no means exhaustive, remembering these three tips can help you feel secure about the medicines you are taking.

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