Pill reminders – Can they help you take your pills on time?

pill reminders

Pill reminder and pill-tracking app is the new mantra used by researchers to improve medication adherence in patients.  

A 2016 poll conducted by Popit Research Labs showed that around 40% of voters relied on their memory to track their pill usage while almost 60% used some form of external pill reminder. Also, multiple studies are suggesting the rise in medication non-adherence due to forgetfulness. There is clearly a need for an external source to keep track of one’s medication usage.

pill reminders

Popit Research Labs, 2016

Do pill reminders work?

With the rise in pill reminder solutions, the first question that pops into your mind is – Do pill reminders actually help? Can they help you take your medications on time? 

According to a randomised clinical trial done in 2018, to check the impact of medication reminder apps to improve medication adherence in a Coronary Heart Disease study, adherence improvement for app users seemed to be ~7.2%. It was concluded that patients who used medication reminder apps had better medication adherence compared to those with usual care.

A study by Cochrane on interventions for medication adherence in the elderly concluded that behavioural and educational interventions along with the aid of simple strategies such as using pill reminders may lead to greater satisfaction in medication management in the elderly.

In a poll conducted by Popit, almost 50% of the users confirmed they have some kind of reminders for pills and they find these useful in tracking their pills for birth control. In a clinical pilot together with a leading university hospital, their pill reminder solution was able to reduce missed pills by over 80% and help build a solid routine around pill-taking.

pill reminders

Popit Research Labs, 2016

Which is the most effective pill reminder?

With the internet being flooded with various pill reminders apps and medication trackers, how do you know if these are effective or not?  Does it really make sense to invest in one? If yes, then which one?

Pill dispensers are cheap, but using a pill dispenser is more or less relying on your memory. On the other hand, smartphone alarms are free, but most people end up ignoring these alarms as constant notifications can get annoying after a while.

smart sensing device could be another option that you can rely on. This is the world’s first and only tracker for a pill blister that comes with built-in sensors. It can sense when you pop a pill off the blister and notifies you only when you miss a pill. Which means, if you take the pill, you don’t get the daily annoying reminders. Also, there is no manual input needed to keep a track of your pill usage. 

We compiled a comparison chart so you can evaluate which solution is best for you.

pill reminders

Pill Reminders

How do pill reminders help?

Medication cannot work as intended if it is not taken as prescribed. Consistency and taking pills according to guidance play a key role in any treatment.

Some of the cases where pill reminders have proven to be beneficial include:

1. Avoiding unwanted pregnancy 

pill reminders

The risk of pregnancy with a typical birth control pill use is 9% and the pill is 99% efficient only when used perfectly.

By perfect use, it means you have to take the pill every day without fail. You must also take it at the same time day after day. In a recent survey conducted by Popit, more than 1 in 12 women on the pill may have experienced an unintended pregnancy due to missing a pill.

2. Medication adherence in chronic health conditions

Medication non-adherence in chronic health conditions is a recognized public health problem. According to a study conducted by NCBI on unintentional non-adherence of prescribed medication, more than 60% of the test group forgot to take their pills on time.

3. Improved parental or caregiver medication adherence 

To keep a track of someone’s medication is more challenging than managing one’s own treatment. You can easily manage this when you have an app that can notify you whenever they miss their pills.

So, do you need one?

Pill Reminders

Evolution of pill reminders

From the humble reminders such as markings on a calendar to smart sensing devices, pill reminders have evolved over the years. This also confirms the need for an external source to track pill usage apart from relying on one’s memory. Multiple studies are also supporting this claim saying it could be one of the ways to improve adherence in patients.

Pill reminder solutions are usually a one time purchase and cost less than a good pair of sneakers. They are the most reliable alternative to ensuring you take your medicines on time and stay on track. These can also be a thoughtful gift for your loved ones. For, after all, there is no greater gift that you can give or receive than to stay healthy or investing in the good health of your loved ones. 

(In a clinical pilot – DOI: 10.15761/COGRM.1000217, conducted by a team of doctor’s including Henna Kärkkäinen, MD, Ph.D, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Heikki Matero Ph.M, Janne Sahlman MD, Ph.D at the Kuopio University Hospital, it was concluded that an on-demand reminder system increases adherence of birth control pill users. More details regarding this study can be found here. )

This Is What Your Blood Pressure Readings Mean

If you have ever been to see a doctor, then you have had your blood pressure taken, usually by a nurse before your appointment begins. You might have to remove your arm from a bulky sleeve and sit with your legs uncrossed in front of you. The healthcare professional then places a cuff around your upper arm and inflates it. As the arm cuff slowly deflates, he or she will listen to your pulse with a stethoscope while watching a gauge on the cuff which measures the pressure inside your veins in a scale of units called millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Home blood pressure measuring devices and those at pharmacies use the same basic principles to measure blood pressure.

When finished, you will have your blood pressure reading given to you as two numbers, for example 120/70 mm Hg (read: 120 over 70 millimeters of mercury). To understand what your blood pressure readings mean, you need to know a little anatomy, the difference between the two numbers and also which readings would be considered low, normal or high.

What’s What? Understanding Systolic and Diastolic Numbers

When your heart beats, it pushes blood through your arteries and veins, delivering the oxygen and nutrients your body’s cells need to function. Respectively, the systolic and diastolic numbers record the amount of pressure your blood exerts onto the walls of your arteries when the heart pumps and when it relaxes between beats.

  • The Top Number: Systolic pressure, measured on the heartbeat
  • The Bottom Number: Diastolic pressure, measured between beats

With age, a person’s systolic blood pressure will steadily rise due to the long-term build up of plaque, large arteries which begin to harden and the increasing frequency of age-related cardiovascular disease. A high systolic number is usually considered more serious than a high diastolic number. Both, however, can be serious and should be addressed. According to the American Heart Association, “the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic increase among people from age 40 to 89.”

How Does Your Reading Compare?

On its own, your blood pressure reading doesn’t mean much. To understand how it relates to your health and if you have low, normal or high blood pressure (hypertension), you must compare your reading to a chart. The American Heart Association recognizes the following four blood pressure categories:

  1. Normal – Less than 120/80 mm Hg
  2. Elevated – 120 to 129 mm Hg systolic and below 80 diastolic
  3. Hypertension Stage 1 – 130 to 139 mm Hg systolic or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic
  4. Hypertension Stage 2 – 140/90 mm Hg or higher
  5. Hypertensive Crisis (requires medical attention) – Readings exceed 180/120 mm Hg

Before you can categorize your blood pressure, take a range of readings, using an at-home device to measure blood pressure at different times of day, after different levels of activity and before and after mealtimes. Now that you understand what blood pressure readings mean, talk with your doctor about steps you can take to lower your blood pressure and prevent future heart problems.

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How Blood Pressure Medication Works

Your blood pressure reading describes the force with which blood exerts pressure on the walls of the veins and arteries in your body. High blood pressure (hypertension) puts sufferers at risk of serious health concerns including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, vision loss and more. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will work with you to determine a treatment plan composed of lifestyle adjustments, diet changes, exercise and, most likely, medication to help lower and regulate your blood pressure, preventing future health emergencies.

How Blood Pressure Medication Works

If you search for a list of blood pressure medications, an infinite number of varieties and brands seem to be available. These medications lower and regulate blood pressure in a lot of different ways, giving doctors plenty of avenues for treatment options. All blood pressure medications fall into a few basic categories:

  • Diuretics – These control blood pressure by helping the body eliminate excess sodium and water.
  • Beta-Blockers – Reduce the volume of blood pumped by the heart, the heart’s workload and rate.
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors – Angiotensin causes arteries to harden. Inhibiting this enzyme helps these passageways to open up, lowering blood pressure.
  • Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) – ARBs prevent angiotensin from narrowing arteries by blocking receptor cells which interact with the enzyme.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers – In the heart’s and arteries’ smooth muscle cells, calcium causes the muscles to contract harder and stronger. Reducing calcium in these muscles, decreases the blood’s force on artery walls.
  • Alpha Blockers – These medications reduce blood pressure by relaxing muscle tone within the vascular walls.
  • Alpha-2 Receptor Agonists – These limit the activity of the portion of the nervous system that produces adrenaline to lower blood pressure. These medications are often prescribed to expecting mothers, as they have been shown to be safe for a developing fetus.
  • Combined Alpha and Beta Blockers – These are used during a cardiac crisis event to immediately lower a patient’s blood pressure. These combined medications are sometimes prescribed for out-patient administration, if a patient is considered at high risk of cardiac arrest.
  • Central Agonists – These reduce the ability of blood vessels to contract and tense, reducing blood pressure.
  • Peripheral Adrenergic Inhibitors – These medications address blood pressure within the brain by blocking the neurotransmitters responsible for sending the signal to muscles prompting them to constrict. These inhibitors are typically only used when other medications and treatment strategies fail.
  • Vasodilators (Blood Vessel Dilators) – These medications relax the muscles within blood vessels and arteries, allowing them to expand and relieve blood pressure.

Sticking to the Plan

Anytime your doctor prescribes medication or a combination of prescriptions for a treatment plan, it is important that you closely follow instructions. Neglecting prescription drug doses and schedule instructions can be dangerous. T

aking these medications improperly can render the drugs ineffective, create irregular blood pressure or even lower your blood pressure too drastically. Be sure to stick with the treatment plan recommended by your physician, clarify any uncertainties you might have, and talk to your doctor before making changes to your prescription medication regimen.

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This Is What High Blood Pressure Feels Like

A scary condition, high blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to deadly complications. What’s really scary, though, is that most people do not even know they have it. Hypertension is sometimes called “the silent killer” because most often, people experience no symptoms until the condition has progressed far enough to damage health. High blood pressure feels like nothing.

Why Visit the Doctor Regularly?

Common misconceptions claim people with hypertension feel it. People believe they will experience nosebleeds, dizzy spells, insomnia, nervousness, blurred vision, chest pain, frequent headaches or shortness of breath. People think they will notice visible signs of hypertension in a flushed face and profuse perspiration. In most cases, however, people with hypertension experience no symptoms and have no idea blood pressure is dangerously high. Most individuals do not receive treatment until visiting a doctor for a completely different reason, only to be surprised by a high blood pressure reading.

If left unaddressed, high blood pressure can lead to serious, sometimes irreversible, problems:

  • Thickening or hardening of the arteries, causing heart attacks or strokes.
  • Weakened blood vessels which rupture during an aneurysm.
  • Thickened heart muscles which struggle to pump blood, leading to heart failure.
  • Narrowing or weakening of blood vessels in the kidneys, hindering kidney function and leading to renal failure.
  • Narrowed, weakened or thickened blood vessels in the eyes impair vision.
  • Damage to the optic nerve, causing permanent vision loss.
  • Increased risk of developing diabetes.
  • Impaired cognitive function which affects your memory, ability to focus and to understand or learn new concepts.

Since the symptoms of high blood pressure typically do not present themselves until serious conditions have progressed, it is necessary to proactively monitor your blood pressure. To protect your health from the adverse effects of hypertension, attend regular blood pressure screenings through a local clinic or pharmacy or schedule regular health screenings with your family doctor.

High Risk Groups

Certain individuals might be at higher risk for developing high blood pressure, in which case more frequent screening and preventative measures might be prudent. Risk factors for developing high blood pressure include:

  • Family History – Hypertension is an inherited disease. If you have close biological relatives with high blood pressure or heart disease, then you are at risk.
  • Age – With age, blood vessels lose their elasticity, which can contribute to hypertension. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop high blood pressure – even if you had normal or low blood pressure at a younger age.
  • Gender/Age – Men younger than 64 are more likely to develop hypertension. After age 65, it’s women who are at higher risk.
  • Race – African-Americans are at an elevated risk for developing hypertension and more severe cases, too.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – CKD puts patients at risk of hypertension.
  • Lifestyle – Smoking, drinking, chronic stress, insomnia, not exercising and eating an unhealthy diet can lead to high blood pressure.

If you are at risk of developing hypertension, taking steps to monitor your blood pressure regularly and making healthy lifestyle choices can safeguard your wellbeing, longevity and quality of life from the complications of hypertension.

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How Is High Blood Pressure Treated?

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension), then you probably have also been made aware of its risks, which include serious health events like stroke, heart failure, heart attacks and kidney disease. To avoid these grave conditions and improve your health, it is necessary to lower your high blood pressure to a healthier number. How high blood pressure is treated, the target blood pressure reading and seriousness of hypertension depend greatly on the patient’s age, medical history, lifestyle and other health conditions.

So, How Is High Blood Pressure Treated?

Hypertension treatments generally fall into three categories:

1. Lifestyle Adjustments

After an initial high blood pressure reading and hypertension diagnosis, your healthcare provider will likely discuss making some adjustments to your overall lifestyle. These healthy habits will include things like:

  • Losing Weight
  • Eating Healthy
  • Reducing Sodium Intake
  • Exercising
  • Managing Stress
  • Getting Enough Sleep
  • Giving Up Tobacco
  • Reducing Alcohol Intake

The type of lifestyle you lead and habits you form have a surprisingly powerful effect on your health. Although forming new, healthy habits can be a tough change to make, doing so could ultimately save and improve your life.

2. Hypertension Medications

Depending on your specific blood pressure reading, current health, medical history, age and family medical history, your doctor might prescribe you a medication to help regulate and lower your blood pressure. Several types of hypertension medications exist, and they work in different ways to manage blood pressure. These include:

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)
  • Alpha-Agonists
  • Alpha-Blockers
  • Beta-Blockers
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Central Agonists
  • Combination Medications
  • Direct Renin Inhibitors
  • Diuretics
  • Peripheral Adrenergic Blockers
  • Vasodilators

These anti-hypertensive medications will not cure high blood pressure, but they all work in different ways to lower and regulate blood pressure. Some patients require a combination of medications to effectively manage high blood pressure, and doctors work with patients through a trial and error process to identify which medications and doses will work best to effectively manage each patient’s individual case of hypertension.

3. Addressing Underlying Conditions

For some people, high blood pressure is completely related to lifestyle, age or genetics. For others, hypertension is a symptom of an underlying condition. With the latter group, hypertension is most successfully treated by addressing the primary health problem. Medical conditions which can cause hypertension include:

  • Kidney Disease
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Adrenal Gland Disorders
  • Thyroid Disorders
  • Pregnancy
  • Medication Side Effects

In addition to treatment for an underlying condition or perhaps changing a medication, your doctor will probably recommend making lifestyle adjustments and also might prescribe medication to manage your blood pressure while you undergo treatment for the condition that is responsible for raising your blood pressure readings.

Once you begin a treatment plan for high blood pressure, you will likely be asked to schedule regular monthly check up appointments with your doctor until you reach a regulated healthy blood pressure reading. No matter the cause of your high blood pressure and the details of your hypertension treatment plan, following your doctor’s orders and prescription’s directions exactly as prescribed is essential to properly managing hypertension and preventing a more serious heart problem in the future. If you have any further questions on how is high blood pressure treated, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.

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How to Lower Blood Pressure without Medication

Under new guidelines from the American Heart Association, which classify blood pressure readings above 130/80 mmHg as high, nearly half of adults in the United States live with high blood pressure (hypertension). The condition can lead to life-threatening complications if left unaddressed. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, then you are likely working with your doctor and taking medication to regulate your blood pressure. You can also manage blood pressure with the following adjustments to your lifestyle. In other words, you can lower blood pressure without medication.

Lose Weight

It is possible to be skinny and have high blood pressure, but blood pressure readings tend to increase along with the number on the scale. If you have a high body mass index, change your eating habits and start exercising to lose weight and lower blood pressure.

Diet

Speaking of healthy diet, there are certain things that should be added and eliminated from your food. Avoid sodium, added sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Fill your diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains that are rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium. Savor a piece of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate for dessert to dilate blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.

Exercise

Moving your body strengthens your heart, making it more efficient at pumping blood which lowers blood pressure. Aim for 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (think running) or 150 minutes of moderate activity (think walking) each week. The more you move, the stronger your heart.

Limit Alcohol

Moderate alcohol consumption (one drink per day for women and two for men) might improve heart health. Consuming any more, however, can have adverse effects, leading to increased blood pressure and other health concerns.

Stop Smoking

Each puff increases your blood pressure.

Drink Less Caffeine

Everyone loves their morning coffee, but caffeine has been shown to increase blood pressure in some. Before you swear it off for good, test your tolerance by sipping a cup and comparing before and 30-minute after blood pressure readings.

Manage Stress

Anxiety releases stress hormones that help if you need to outrun a grizzly bear, but raise blood pressure over time. Try meditation, breathing exercises, calm music or taking lunch in the park.

Sleep

Not getting enough shut-eye increases your risk of developing or worsening hypertension.

Swallow Probiotics

Whether in a supplement or in yogurt, probiotics have been associated with lowered blood pressure, reduced anxiety and more.

Support

Look to your family, friends, new friends or a support group to surround yourself with like-minded people living a healthy lifestyle. Witnessing others’ successes will encourage you to stick to your plans, and when you achieve good health, you will have a group of friends ready to praise your efforts.

 

Although lifestyle adjustments can seriously improve your health and lower your blood pressure, you should not stop taking your medication or alter scheduling or dosage without first consulting your physician. Stay in touch with your doctor and monitor your blood pressure at home while beginning a new diet or exercise routine to keep your overall health in check.

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