Our health is one of the most important things in our lives. We value health above all else. Some are more healthy than others. In 2015, Canadians were in contact with their doctors over 21 million times. Over 16 million Canadians are overweight or obese. With that in mind, it is important to be aware of the most common medical conditions and classes of medications in use in Canada and ways to avoid these conditions to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Top 5 Most Common Medical Conditions
In Canada, the 5 most common medical conditions and leading causes of death are cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and diabetes. Here are important facts to know about each condition.
Cancer occurs when cells mutate and grow at an abnormal rate compared to normal cells, forming together as a tumor. Tumors can grow in other parts of the body when cancer cells spread in a process known as metastasis. The most common types of cancer are skin, lung, colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers. The type of treatment depends on the severity and type of cancer. The most common treatments include radiation, chemotherapy, and/or surgery.
Heart disease is the second most common cause of death in Canada. The most common cause of heart disease is coronary heart disease which is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. The end result of this disease is commonly heart attacks. Controlling your blood pressure, lowering your cholestrol, avoiding smoking, and getting enough exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease.
A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain or when a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into the brain. Stroke is a medical emergency and you must go a hospital immediately. Symptoms of stroke include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body); sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech; suddenly having trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and sudden severe headache with no known cause.
The most common forms of lung disease are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). With asthma, the lungs are inflamed and are sensitive to irritants and things you are allergic to. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing (especially early in the morning or at night), chest tightness, and shortness of breath. COPD is caused by long term exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, and chemical fumes. Symptoms of COPD include cough that produces a lot of mucus, shortness of breath (especially with physical activity), wheezing, and chest tightness. The condition can get more severe over time. If you are a smoker, stopping smoking is an important way to avoid and prevent the increase of the severity of this condition.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body’s blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. The body controls the glucose levels in the blood via a hormone called insulin. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body cannot make insulin,. With type 2 diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin and/or is resistant to insulin’s effects. Controlling your food intake, weight and exercising can help control or prevent diabetes.
Top 5 Classes of Medication
In Canada, the 5 most prescribed classes of medications are cholestrol lowering medications, blood pressure medication known as ACE inhibitors, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) medications known as proton pump inhibitors, thyroid medication, and antidepressants including a class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Statins such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor) are cholesterol lowering medications that block the creation of cholesterol in the liver. With diet and lifestyle changes, they reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). The most common side effects include headache, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
ACE inhibitors such as ramipril (Altace) and fosinopril (Monopril) help reduce blood pressure by helping enlarge the the blood vessels, allowing the blood vessels to relax and allowing blood to flow through them more easily. This causes the blood pressure to decrease. The most common side effects are long term dry cough and swelling of tissue under the skin.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as esomeprazole (Nexium) and pantoprazole (Pantoloc) treat GERD, a condition where stomach acid travels back up the esophagus and causes irritation. This is felt as heart burn. PPIs are generally well tolerated but common side effects include headache and diarrhea.
Thryoid medications such as levothyroxine (Synthroid) are used to treat hypothryoidism which is low thyroid levels. Side effects usually occur when the dose is either too high. These may include fast heart rate, nervousness, weight loss, and excessive sweating.
SSRIs such as escitalopram (Cipralex) and setraline (Zoloft) help treat depression and other mood disorders by helping increase a chemical in the brain known as serotonin. The most common side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth, insomnia, and sexual problems.
Talk to your Health Care Professional
It is important get a yearly check up with your family doctor to help detect these conditions and take prescribed medications as recommended by your doctor. Your pharmacist and doctor are excellent resources and can help you manage your medications, their side effects and avoid possible drug interactions.
- Top five prescription medications used, by sex, age group and medication class, household population aged 25 to 79, Canada, 2007 to 2011 (2015, November 11). Retrieved from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2014006/article/14032/tbl/tbl4-eng.htm
- The 10 leading causes of death, 2011 (2015, November 11). Retrieved from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2014001/article/11896-eng.htm
- HMG-CoA Reductase Inhibitors (Statins). CPhA Monograph. Canadian Pharmacists Association (2015)
- ACE Inhibitors (Statins). CPhA Monograph. Canadian Pharmacists Association (2015)
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Therapeutic Choices. Canadian Pharmacists Association (2017)
- Synthroid. Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties. Canadian Pharmacists Association (2016)
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. CPhA Monograph. Canadian Pharmacists Association (2014)
- Cancer – US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. (2016)
- Heart Disease – US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. (2016)
- Stroke – US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. (2016)
- COPD – US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. (2016)
- Diabetes – US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. (2016)
- Canadian health characteristics, annual estimates, by age group and sex, Canada (excluding territories) and provinces (2017, March 22). Retrieved from: http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&retrLang=eng&id=1050508&tabMode=dataTable&srchLan=-1&p1=-1&p2=9
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This article was provided by the clinical pharmacy at Rx Infinity. Rx Infinity provides optimal and sustainable patient management solutions through customized programs, innovative technology and added value services that improve the overall patient experience; while helping payers and plan sponsors achieve sustainability in the management of drug plans expenditures.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.