Medicine Cabinet Clean Up – The Do’s and Don’ts of Proper Disposal

Thursday, November 29, 2012 12:54 PM comments (0)

How often do you purge your medicine cabinet? You should plan to clean through your cabinet and properly dispose of any medications every six months. Using expired medications can be hazardous to your health. Therefore, you should not be saving unused prescription medications for later use, nor be saving expired prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Tina Zook, Pharmacy Manager, provides the following instructions for properly disposing of medications:

  • Do not flush medications down the toilet. Most medications should be disposed of in other ways. For a complete list of medications that can be flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink, refer to the FDA website.
  • Follow any specific medication disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information.
  • Contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling services for locations to return your unwanted medications (Drug Take-Back Programs). Find out if there are any restrictions on the types of medications that can be returned.

There will be instances where instructions are not given on the drug label and a drug take-back program is not available. In these cases, you follow the following steps for disposing of medications:

  1. Take the medication out of the original containers (do not crush tablets or capsules) and mix the medication with an unpalatable substance (kitty litter or used coffee grounds).
  2. Place the mixture in a sealable bag or empty container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
  3. Throw the sealable bag or other container in the household garbage.

How often do you clean your medicine cabinet? What has your process been for disposing of medications?


Extreme Stress – How to Handle and Overcome Anxiety

Monday, November 26, 2012 10:47 AM comments (0)

At one time or another, whether it’s because of work, family or social situations, almost everyone may feel anxious or stressed out. While these feelings are normal and common, when they begin to impact your daily activities and relationships it may be something that requires attention and/or medical help.

Anxiety may trigger intense negative thoughts and feelings, panic attacks and withdrawal from usual activities. The most common types of stressors that bring people in for treatment include: social stress, environmental stress, physical stress and the stress associated with the way we perceive our ability to handle these stressors. 

A common question asked by those who seek treatment for anxiety is: Will I ever feel normal again? Bethany Price, PhD, Psychologist with NorthShore, encourages her patients to follow three steps to overcome their anxiety and return to a more “normal” lifestyle:

  • Recognize that it is normal to experience stress and anxiety. Determine which stressors that trigger these emotions can be resolved and which may need to be accepted.
  • Examine the ways that your thoughts are distorted by learning to recognize how problems tend to be magnified and then correct this faulty way of thinking. 
  • Develop a plan to reengage yourself in activities that have been avoided.  With support and guidance, individuals often find that they are even better prepared to handle future stress.   

Are you easily stressed? How do you overcome it?


Holiday Eating – Plan Your Portions

Thursday, November 22, 2012 10:23 AM comments (0)

All of the holiday treats and temptations on the table can make for a difficult time managing your weight and portion control. While it’s okay to indulge from time to time, it’s important to make smart choices to help keep your plate balanced.

According to the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations, half of your plate should consist of fruit and vegetables, accompanied by grains, protein and dairy. You may find it hard to have this much balance on your plate during the holidays, but planning in advance and thinking through your meal choices can be a huge help for keeping your plate (and waistline!) in check.

Goutham Rao, MD, gives his insight on how to plan your portions and still be able to enjoy the holidays:

  • Be selective about what you put on your plate. There is no need to deprive yourself of holiday treats, but be sure to watch your portion size. You also want to make sure that you are including plenty of fruits and vegetables on your plate. You can enjoy a smaller slice of pie just as much as a full slice.
  • Don’t be afraid to adapt recipes to include more healthy additions. Finding ways to remove salt, sugar and fat from recipes can help keep the calorie count down.
  • Watch what you’re drinking. Alcoholic beverages can contain just as many calories as the main course. Try to keep it light and drink in moderation. Avoid other high-calorie drinks such as regular soda pop, milkshakes and fruit juices.
  • Make physical activity part of your holiday routine. This can be something simple such as taking a walk every evening after dinner.

What is your favorite holiday treat? What do you do to resist temptation and overeating?


Managing Diabetes and Enjoying the Holidays

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 10:07 AM comments (0)

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s hard not to be tempted by flavorful sides, festive drinks and decadent desserts. For those with diabetes, the struggle to avoid some of these foods may be a challenge, especially with many planned family dinners and holiday parties.

However, diabetics don’t have to completely deprive themselves from the traditional foods and meals that the season brings. Romy Block, MD, a NorthShore endocrinologist, gives the following tips for managing diabetes during the holidays:

  • Pay attention to what you are eating. Choose quality over quantity. Rather than having a whole slice of pie, have a smaller portion. When you know you’ll be tempted by sweets, eat a salad or lean protein for dinner. This way you won’t already be raising your sugars and can enjoy a dessert without feeling guilty.
  • Drink lots of water. While it can be hard to reign in your portions during the holidays, you should be monitoring your sugar levels frequently. In fact, you may need to do so more often given the abundance of sweets available. Water can help balance out sugar levels.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per hour and no more than two drinks per evening. When you do drink, be sure you are always doing so with food.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep helps the body’s regulatory system and weight loss. If you can, try to get eight hours a night.
  • Don’t stress out! Relaxing can help to reduce your sugar levels. Instead of worrying too much about what the season will bring, try to set aside time each day for exercise and engaging in activities that you enjoy.

It’s important to note that these tips shouldn’t just apply to the holidays. Managing your diabetes is a process and making small changes can really help to make a big difference.

What ways have you found success in managing diabetes during the holidays? What holiday foods are the hardest for you to avoid?


Quit Smoking – Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Thursday, November 15, 2012 12:02 PM comments (0)

Smoking is an unhealthy habit that can be hard to break. While we’ve all heard of the many ways quitting can be made possible—cold turkey, medications, nicotine patches and gum, or therapy—it often comes down to one’s determination and ability to make changes.

It is important to understand that it is never too late to quit smoking. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and haven’t accomplished it, you can still find success quitting in the future. Stacy Raviv, MD, a NorthShore pulmonologist, gives her insight on how quitting can improve your health:

  • Decrease risk of cancer. Smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer. Quitting can help greatly reduce your risk of getting lung and other cancers.
  • Limit loss of lung function, reduce cough and shortness of breath. Smoking greatly impacts your respiratory system. Quitting may make it easier to breath, exercise and stay active.  It may also prevent progressive worsening of one’s breathing over time.
  • Improve bothersome asthma and allergies. If you are a smoker and suffer from asthma or allergies, you may notice a significant change in your symptoms once you quit smoking. Smoke is often considered an irritant and trigger of allergy and asthma symptoms.
  • Decrease blood pressure. Smoking can impact your heart and blood vessels, causing elevated blood pressure and an increased heart rate. These factors can lead to other heart problems, including heart disease and atherosclerosis.
  • Decrease your risk for heart attack and stroke. While most smokers do not actually develop lung cancer or even emphysema, heart attacks and strokes are very common diseases made even more common by smoking.
  • Stay alive and healthy for those you care about. They will thank you for it.

Have you tried to quit smoking? What methods worked for you? What didn’t?


Salt – When Too Much is Too Much

Monday, November 12, 2012 2:11 PM comments (0)

A dash of salt here and there for flavoring can’t hurt, right? While moderate amounts of sodium in your daily diet are fine, it’s often easy to eat more than necessary. Look on any label – especially those of pre-packaged and more-processed foods—and sodium is almost certain to be one of the ingredients.

The American Heart Association recommends 2,300 mg daily as the highest daily acceptable level, and if you are over 51 years, African American or have heart disease including high blood pressure, the recommendation is 1,500 mg.

Too much salt can lead to health problems, including cardiovascular disease particularly hypertension. For this reason, it’s never a bad idea to learn some quick ways to pass on the salt.

Mary Bennett, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at NorthShore, offers the following tips to help reduce your daily sodium intake:

  • Read the label. Before purchasing and consuming food, read the label. If the total sodium value on the label is more than 5% of the recommended daily value of sodium, you may want to reconsider purchasing or at least limit your portion size.
  • Pass on passing the salt shaker. Maybe the easiest way to avoid eating too much salt is to not have the shaker on the table during mealtimes. If you are looking to add additional flavors to a dish, use herbs and spices. There are also sodium-free mixes available that can provide lots of flavor without the sodium.
  • Eat in, not out. More often than not when you eat out – especially at fast food restaurants—more sodium will be added than what you would typically use at home. The best way to reduce your salt intake when you’re out to eat is to avoid adding additional garnishes (pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, etc.) to your meal and to watch your portion size.
  • Opt for the low- or reduced-sodium choices at the grocery store. If you can, choose natural ingredients and skip the frozen, processed and packaged food options.

What do you do to limit your sodium consumption? What is one salty food you couldn’t live without?


Irregular Periods – Understanding Inconsistent Menstrual Cycles

Tuesday, November 06, 2012 3:46 PM comments (0)

At one time or another, most women experience an irregular menstrual cycle. While regular for some women may be every four weeks, the length between cycles will vary between individuals. However, most women get their period every 21-35 days.

Inconsistency often isn’t something to cause concern. In most cases it is due to a hormonal imbalance, which can be normalized with medication, such as birth control.

Sangeeta Senapati, MD, Endoscopic Surgeon at NorthShore, shares some of the causes of irregular menstrual cycles:

  • Stress. Being anxious and tense can impact your hormones, thereby affecting your cycle.
  • Medication. Depending on the types of medications you are on, your cycle may be impacted. If you recently began using birth control or have switched this medication, it is also not uncommon for your cycle to change in frequency, flow and length.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use. Cigarette smoking can cause a shortening of your menstrual cycle.  Women who smoke are also more likely to have painful periods.  Alcohol can disrupt the menstrual cycle and prevent a woman from ovulating. This may mean delayed or skipped menses.
  • Excessive exercise. Those training for endurance sports (such as marathons) often experience missed periods or loss of menses entirely. This may occur due to decrease in body fat and overall increase in the body’s stress level, which causes a hormonal imbalance.
  • Change in weight – through a weight gain or loss. A decrease in body fat below 15% may lead to a decrease in female hormones, which can cause delay and loss of menstruation. Obesity may lead to menstrual problems as well causing women to have fewer menses than normal. Women who are overweight may also have longer and heavier menses due to the excess estrogen that is associated with weight gain.
  • Diet. Poor nutrition – either due to an eating disorder or not – can cause women to skip cycles. Diets high in carbohydrates may also impact menstruation.
  • Pregnancy. It is important to remember that you can still become pregnant even if you are not menstruating regularly.
  • Onset of menopause. Menopause has officially occurred when it has been 12 months since your last menstrual period. The average age of menopause is 51-52. The perimenopausal period often begins in a woman’s 40’s. Some signs of the perimenopausal period may include irregular menses, hot flashes/night sweats, vaginal dryness and sleep disturbances.

If you experience consistently irregular menstrual cycles it may be worthwhile to consult your physician.

Have you ever had an irregular period?


Enjoy the Music, Skip the Hearing Loss

Friday, November 02, 2012 10:41 AM comments (0)

Our ears are sensitive – a single loud blast (such as a gunshot or explosion) or repetitive exposure to loud noises can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. It’s important to learn what sound levels are healthy to reduce impact on your hearing. While there’s ongoing debate about the harm of frequent use of MP3 players, the effect on one’s hearing is still unknown.

That said, there are some things you can do to help prevent hearing loss. Michael J. Shinners, MD, a fellowship-trained specialist in otology/neurotology and NorthShore physician provides his insight on protecting your hearing:

  • Most people generally listen to personal music players at an acceptable volume. However, a good rule of thumb is this: If you can hear what song someone is listening to on their headphones, chances are it’s too loud.
  • If you enjoy live music and concerts, a good option for limiting damage to your inner ear is to purchase foam and/or custom-made earplugs. Custom-made earplugs will lower the volume without distorting the sound.
  • Hearing loss may take years to show up, so it’s very important to adopt good habits and protect your ears earlier than later.
  • If you are exposed to sound levels over 85 decibels at work, you must be offered hearing protection and regular testing to prevent hearing damage. This is according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.

What do you do to protect your hearing? Have you ever noticed a change in your hearing from being exposed to a loud sound (blast or music)?

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