I resent the belief that our bodies are supposed to work perfectly without medicine. You know – this suggestion that we can achieve absolute health if only we live some ideally balanced lifestyle and blah blah blah. I think modern western medicine is great and many people are alive because of it.
That said, when Dr. Cardiologist added an ACE inhibitor and a proton-pump inhibitor to my current regimen, all I could think was: “UUUGH, I am so over taking all these medications.” I was already taking baby aspirin, Effient (my anticoagulant, check out Bruises) and 80 mg of atorvastatin.
Do I really need these new meds? What do they do? What are the damned inevitable side effects? Why do you hate me?
Of course, Dr. Cardiologist kindly explained each of the meds.
ACE inhibitors are usually used in treatment of hypertension, which I don’t have (106/68, baby!). But, he said there is evidence that they also reduce the effects of coronary artery disease. Thus, taking it could be very helpful. But I have to go back every two weeks to have my potassium levels and blood pressure checked – because there is a risk my potassium could get too high and my blood pressure will get too low. So yes, we have to monitor for potential side effects – but it could help me not have another clogged artery. And yes, I need to try the ACE inhibitor and not be a cry-baby about it.
The protein-pump inhibitor, also known as omeprazole, is generally used to treat acid reflux, which I don’t really have. Dr. Cardiologist is less adamant about this one, but he highly recommends it for two reasons: first, it can reduce the possibility of stomach bleed (which I’m at higher risk of because of the Effient), and second, my stomach has been a little queasy since I started taking the baby aspirin. So yeah, I need to take this one too.
Lastly, I asked him about my statin (the atorvastatin). Statins are drugs given to reduce LDL (the bad cholesterol). My LDL was 72 before I even started on statins – that’s pretty good. But Dr. Cardiologist explained that statins have pleiotropic effects. That means (I think) that they reduce other problems of coronary artery disease unrelated to the treatment of high cholesterol. Dr. Cardiologist has ordered a cholesterol panel on me in two weeks to see if my LDL is too low (but they aren’t sure if there’s such a thing as too low).
Verdict: Yes, I need to be on all the pills. There are far worse things than taking pills – like dying of a heart attack. I do, however, feel better since I asked. More importantly, I’m grateful to have a doctor that took the time to help me understand and health insurance that covers these medicines. I need to stop complaining and appreciate what I have.