When a prescription label reads, “Take one tablet by mouth once daily,” does that mean every day at 8 a.m.? Whenever you eat lunch? Whatever time works best for you?
It depends, say the experts at Harvard Health.
For maximum effectiveness, certain medications should be taken at specific times of the day. This approach is called chronotherapy and research shows that the time you take your prescription drugs can not only boost their efficacy, but also prevent potentially unpleasant side effects.
Here are some common classes of drugs and recommendations on when to take them. Always check with your healthcare practitioner or pharmacist before making changes, to ensure personal safety.
- High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure usually follows a 24-hour cycle, with numbers higher during the day and lower at night. However, those over the age of 55 do not experience this condition, so it’s important to take at least one of the medications at night and the others in the morning. “Taking blood pressure medicines at night may lead to peak drug levels the next morning when heart attack risk is higher,” said Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a cardiologist and editor-in-chief of the Harvard Heart Letter.
- High Cholesterol
Statin drugs are used together with diet and exercise to reduce LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels. Take statins at night before bedtime because cholesterol production in the liver is highest after midnight, advises the British Heart Foundation.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
When the immune system that normally attacks foreign bacteria and viruses mistakenly attacks cells lining the joints, you experience swelling, stiffness, and pain. Taking RA medicines at night is more effective in providing relief than taking them in the morning when symptoms are more pronounced.
The stomach produces two to three times more acid between 10 p.m. and 2. a.m. than any other time of the day. So, if you suffer from this painful condition caused by as backup of stomach acids into the esophagus, take your acid-reducing medication called an H-2 blocker 30 minutes before your evening meal. The medication helps control the secretion of stomach acid both after the meal and during the critical overnight period.
Asthma attacks occur 50 to 100 times more often between 4 and 6 a.m. than during the day. Four in 10 people wake up every night with difficulty breathing. Take your oral medication mid-afternoon and if you are using an inhaled steroid, the best time is late afternoon. This gives the medications time to reduce inflammation and relax airways.
It’s best to take thyroid medication first thing in the morning, according to Aurora Health Care. Thyroid medications can interact with other meds so always take them on an empty stomach with no other medications.
Drugs known as bisphosphonates, which are used to prevent bone loss in people with osteoporosis, are better taken in the morning says Joshua Gagne, an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Take them first thing in the morning with a large glass of plain water, at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything or before taking any other medications.
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