According to a new data report, prescriptions for aging-related symptoms such as foggy brain and slipping memory, sleep problems, and menopause are now the third top-selling drug categories, behind only drugs for diabetes and high cholesterol. Can this be a good strategy for healthy aging?
I read a provocative New York Times blog yesterday on the “medicalization of aging.” The article, reporting on data from Express Scripts about drug sales trends and presented at a recent American Public Health Association meeting, said spending on this drug category now ranks an astonishing third among people with private insurance, behind only drugs for diabetes and high cholesterol. Among adults age 45 to 64, spending on aging-related drugs leaped 46 percent from 2007 to 2011, according to the report.
What symptoms do these drugs treat? Things traditionally considered a natural part of the aging process: wrinkles, hair loss, menopause, leaky bladders, a diminished sex life, and slipping memory
And what are the most popular prescriptions? Stimulants for mental alertness, sleeping pills, and hormone replacement therapy.
What’s wrong with this picture? All drugs have side effects that need to be weighed against their relative efficacy—which oftentimes is not stellar. For instance, sleeping pills can be addictive and hormone replacement therapy has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, stroke, heart disease, and pulmonary embolism. Nearly 3 in 10 Americans between ages 57 to 85 use at least five prescriptions, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Starting more prescriptions at an earlier age and adding to the total of drugs we’re taking sounds to me like a rotten strategy for healthy aging.
Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, reducing stress with meditation, maintaining a supportive social network and a positive attitude, and giving back to others have all been linked to greater longevity and, more importantly in my book, greater contentment along the way.
If you'd like a little extra help in some areas, numerous dietary supplements have been shown to help protect the body from the harmfl effects of aging—without drugs’ unwanted side effects.
What do you do to combat the effects of aging? Please share your best tips in the comments below.