While prescription drugs certainly help address serious medical concerns and conditions, they should not be relied on as the be-all-end-all. If you want to live a healthy life, you need to figure out a way to live well without being overly reliant on medication.
America’s Overdependence on Medication
The pharmaceutical industry has ballooned over the past few decades to become one of the largest sectors of the American economy. And while politicians often lobby against high drug prices, overconsumption is another serious problem that needs to be addressed.
Research shows that the number of Americans taking multiple medications per day has increased dramatically in recent years. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of American adults taking five or more medications essentially doubled, going from 8.2 percent to 15 percent. And when researchers are able to publish even more recent findings, the expectation is that this number will eclipse the 20 percent threshold.
While there’s no denying that certain medications are vital – saving lives and dramatically improving the quality of life in others – many are unnecessary, overprescribed, and potentially dangerous when used over long periods of time.
Research shows that nearly 1.3 million people visit a U.S. emergency room each year due to adverse drug effects, while 124,000 Americans die from these events. In total, approximately $200 billion is spent each year in the United States on unnecessary or improper use of medication.
Harmful pill habits play out in various ways, but are generally tied to taking too many drugs, taking drugs that aren’t needed, and/or taking drugs prematurely.
The good news is that drugs aren’t always necessary. And for those who are willing to make lifestyle changes, it could be possible to live healthy with less medication.
Solutions for Living With Less Medication
Every person is different, but the following tips and habits will improve your overall health and could reduce your need for certain prescription medications. Take a look:
- Better Sleep
As Americans, we tend to turn our nose up at sleep. We’re so focused on productivity and output that we constantly push sleep to the back burner. But with a little more emphasis on this all-important aspect of health, you could reduce your reliance on medication.
As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep. Doing so will decrease your risk of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and even certain types of cancers. (The right amount of sleep is also valuable for improvising metabolism and losing weight.)
- Improved Nutrition
There’s no superfood that’s going to allow someone to go from taking a certain medication to stopping. However, a smart and intentional approach to nutrition can change your entire health and outlook. The key is balance.
You’ve probably heard people say that you should “eat the rainbow,” and there’s some truth to that statement. By eating a variety of fresh foods that are colorful and in-season, you ensure your diet includes a balance of phytochemicals and micronutrients. These compounds, which contain impressive anti-inflammatory effects, can restore equilibrium to your body.
- Vagus Nerve Stimulation
The vagus nerve, which is one of the more important nerves in the human body, plays a key role in regulating your overall health and well-being. Practicing vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS, can send calming messages to the brain, which encourage your body to relax and release tension. This can lower levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain (all major reasons doctors prescribe medications).
- Daily Exercise
It’s not enough to go for a run on the weekend or occasionally visit the gym after work. In order to be as healthy as possible, you must engage in daily physical exercise.
It doesn’t matter what you do – it could be swimming, jogging, cycling, yoga, playing tennis, or lifting weights – the important thing is that you’re getting your body moving daily.
For best results, get at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity every day. Your heart rate should be elevated and your muscles need to be moving.
Adding it All Up
There’s a time and place for medication. And while you should always consult with your doctors to determine the best path forward, you should know that there are ways to ween off certain prescriptions and replace them with healthy lifestyle habits. In doing so, you can reduce the risks associated with long-term side effects.