Seniors: Do You Have These Essentials in Your Medicine Cabinet?

We all know that with aging, comes bodily changes. At a certain point, our bodies just aren’t what they used to be. What if there were natural and cost-effective ways to keep your body feeling great? It’s time to clean out your medicine cabinet and stock up on these essentials to help keep you feeling your best!

A strategically stocked medicine cabinet can make life much easier and less stressful. Let’s start with the basics:

Pain Reliever

There is a copious amount of pain relievers on the market, but it is important that seniors are aware of the ones to avoid. In particular, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), can raise bleeding risks in the gastrointestinal tract, and that risk only increases with age. NSAIDs can also damage the kidneys and raise blood pressure, especially if used over a long period. Health experts suggest that seniors start with acetaminophen (Tylenol). 

Since heart attack risk increases as you age, it is wise to keep a full-dose aspirin (also an NSAID) on hand, just in case you or anyone around you experiences one. Taking aspirin during a heart attack, while waiting for emergency help to arrive, could reduce heart damage since it helps to keep the blood from clotting and potentially save a life. 

In addition, there are topical pain relievers, such as methyl salicylate/menthol (Bengay, Icy Hot) for sore muscles, and diclofenac (Voltaren) for arthritis pain. Oftentimes, doctors will prescribe these pain relievers to older patients first. In general, there are fewer side effects with topical pain relievers. There are also over-the-counter lidocaine patches that can be applied to aches.

Heartburn Relievers

For the occasional heartburn, a chewable calcium carbonate (Tums, Rolaids) is a cheap option and can give you some quick relief. There are also some over-the-counter pills that can ease discomfort, including famotidine (Pepcid). Health experts do not advise taking Pepcid regularly without talking to your doctor, because there might be something else going on.

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Allergy Meds

Health experts advise older adults to steer clear of diphenhydramine (Benadryl) because of its side effects. It can increase the risk of falls, cause dry mouth, and lead to urinary incontinence. Long-term use has also been linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Safer options include cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), or fexofenadine (Allegra). Some doctors tell their patients to avoid grapefruit juice, which can render it ineffective. And for a runny, stuffy, or itchy nose, try a simple nasal steroid spray or nasal saline solution.

First Aid

Adhesive bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment, calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream are all good things to have on hand for cuts, scrapes, and run-ins with bugs and poison ivy.

If you have thin or sensitive skin, as skin does change with age, you may want to consider sensitive-skin bandages. 

Don’t forget your vitamins

According to the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN), a disturbingly high number of older adults, 65 years or older, across 20 countries were vitamin deficient. Here are 5 essential vitamins to keep in your medicine cabinet:

Vitamin D

The study found that 84 percent of men and 91 percent of women do not get enough Vitamin D. That is a high number!  As you may know, vitamin D is crucial to bone health. Vitamin D helps maintain calcium balance, as it facilitates intestinal absorption of calcium. It also helps keep you healthy by bolstering your immune system. And that’s just the start!

Read more about the pros of taking Vitamin D supplements here

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B1 (Thiamin)

Vitamin B1, or Thiamin, helps produce the energy your cells make, in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The BJN study found that 50 percent of men and 39 percent of women aren’t getting enough B1. A thiamin deficiency can affect the cardiovascular, nervous, and immune system, and lead to chronic diseases like wet beriberi (a cardiovascular condition) and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (a neurological disorder). Thiamin deficiency can also cause burning and tingling in the toes and feet, and degradation of muscles.

B2 (Riboflavin)

Riboflavin is another B vitamin (B2). And like thiamin (B1), it’s crucial for growth, energy production, and physical performance. The study found that 41 percent of men and 31 percent of women aren’t getting enough B2. If you are riboflavin-deficient, you may struggle with fatigue, digestive problems, vision problems, sensitivity to light.


Did you know that your body contains more calcium than any other mineral? Considering the number of bones we have in our bodies, calcium does seem to be a main ingredient. Yet despite calcium’s presence in the body, many people still aren’t getting enough. 

You may be surprised to know just how calcium-deficient older populations really are. According to the BJN study, 65 percent of men and 73 percent of women had inadequate calcium levels.


Magnesium is another well-known mineral in bone health. Magnesium helps your body use calcium, among countless other bodily processes. Magnesium can also influence muscle mass development and performance in older adults. It also plays a large role in calming the nervous system due to its ability to block brain N-methyl D-aspartate receptors (NMDA), thereby inhibiting excitatory neurotransmission. Unfortunately, 73 percent of men and 41 percent of women were found magnesium-deficient in the BJN study.

Ask your doctor

Before you start filling your first-aid stash, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the medications you take even just vitamins or supplements, and any potential drug interactions. Older adults, “have to be very cautious with the doses” of drugs, due to age-related changes that affect the way the body reacts to medications, advised Katherine Bennett, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Washington. Again, doctors or pharmacists can help you choose the safest decisions regarding your medication intake. 


ter Borg, S., Verlaan, S., Hemsworth, J., Mijnarends, D. M., Schols, J. M., Luiking, Y. C., & de Groot, L. C. (2015). Micronutrient intakes and potential inadequacies of community-dwelling older adults: a systematic review. The British journal of nutrition, 113(8), 1195–1206.

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