Consumer Reports: Medication nation

Americans are taking more prescription pills than ever before, and more than people in other countries.

While much of the medication we take is at least life-improving, a lot of others are not. Consumer Reports found that many Americans believe that every symptom requires a drug.

"Doctors often diagnose the 'pre-disease' stage of a condition- for example, prediabetes or preostesoperosis," said Lisa Gill of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs. "Sometimes they may put patients on medications to treat that. The problem is, the medication may not work well and poses potential side effects and risks to patients."

Of course, catching or treating a disease before it progresses can be a good thing.

However, drugs shouldn't always be the first line of treatment. Consumer Reports has compiled a list of 12 medical issues where lifestyle changes can be "prescribed" before a medication.

"For back and joint pain, instead of powerful opioid drugs, consider instead, yoga, Tai Chi, even physical therapy," Gill said.

Also, big lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, being more active, or losing weight are harder than just swallowing a pill, but the payoffs can mean healthy, drug-free and side effect-free living.

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