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Many older adults take multiple medicines. This can lead to medicine or drug interactions. Be sure to talk with each provider about the medicines being taken. Some interactions can cause unwanted or serious side-effects. These are the different interactions that can occur:

  • Drug-drug interactions – Older people are more likely to have more harmful reactions between different medicines. For example, some interactions can cause sleepiness or increase the risk of falls. Others may interfere with how well the medicines work.
  • Drug-alcohol interactions – Older people may be more affected by alcohol. Mixing alcohol and medicines may cause a loss of memory or coordination or cause irritability. It can also increase the risk of falls.
  • Drug-food interactions – Certain foods can cause some medicines not to work as well. For example, you should avoid taking the blood thinner (anticoagulant) with foods high in vitamin K. If you can’t avoid this, then eat a consistent amount to minimize adverse effects.

Some medicines also may worsen certain health conditions in older adults. For example, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen) may increase the chance of fluid buildup and worsen heart failure symptoms.