How to Safely Dispose of Unused Medications

How to Safely Dispose of Unused Medications

Storing unused or expired medications in your home can cause a potential risk to children, teenagers, seniors, or others in your home. Improperly disposing of drugs, however, can also pose a threat to the environment. When you are no longer in need of prescription or over-the-counter medications, dispose of them safely using the tips that follow.

The Dangers of Storing Medications in Your Home

Storing unused medications in your home that you are not actively taking could pose a danger to anyone in your household who may inadvertently or intentionally misuse the product. The following groups are particularly at risk:

  • Children who mistake medication for candy or food
  • Teens or adults with a substance abuse problem
  • Teens or adults looking to experiment with prescription medication
  • Seniors or adults with a cognitive or memory disability who may be confused about their medication plan

Prescription medication misuse—whether intentional or inadvertent—could result in severe consequences such as dependency, an accidental overdose, or in the worst case scenario, death. 

The Dangers of Improperly Disposing of Medications

When over-the-counter or prescription medications, including pills and liquids, are disposed of using unsafe practices, they can have detrimental effects on the environment when they end up in waterways or landfills. Scientists have found that when pharmaceutical-related chemicals leach into our water system, they not only impact marine life, but they can affect humans by contaminating drinking water supplies. Studies have found that exposure to chemicals such as antibiotics, anti-depressants, steroids, seizure medications, and painkillers are changing the growth, reproduction, and behavior of many species, including frogs and fish—fish that are part of the human food cycle.

The long-term effects of such dangerous food and water supply contamination are not fully known. However, with some awareness of these dangers, and a small amount of effort, the millions of Americans who take medications daily can help to mitigate the impact of these dangers on our environment, and our loved ones.

How to Safely Dispose of Unused Medications

  1. Seek Out a Medicine Take-Back Program. Pharmacies, doctors’ offices, law enforcement agencies, and non-profit organizations routinely coordinate medicine take-back programs. During these events, members of the community can drop-off unused or expired prescription or over-the-counter medications for their safe disposal by pharmacology experts, or the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Such programs are sometimes available seasonally as occasional events, or you may be able to locate a permanent drop-off location in your area that is managed by a local law enforcement agency or non-profit. A take-back program should be your preferred disposal option, and always your first choice.
  1. Throw Out Medicine in Your Household Trash. If a take-back program is not conveniently available in your area, or timely, you can more safely throw out medications in your household trash by following these steps:
  • Mix medicines, but do not crush tablets or capsules, with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds to discourage anyone who may come across disposed of trash to consume.
  • Place the mixture in a sealed container or plastic bag.
  • Throw the container in your household trash.
  • Remove all personal identifiable information from the prescription label and then dispose of the container.
  1. Dispose of Acceptable Liquid Medications by Flushing Them Down the Toilet. Note that this option is only advisable for certain identified medications that include flushing instructions on their packaging. If you have any questions about whether or not your liquid medications can be flushed, reference the DEA’s most current flush list.

The quick and safe disposal of unused medications from your home ensures the greatest safety for family, friends, and the environment. If you have any questions about what to do with your unused medications or would like more information, visit the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

Six Healthy Food Selections for Summer Picnics

healthy food for summer picinic

Six Healthy Food Selections for Summer Picnics

June 21 marks the official start of Summer, but we’re already feeling those summertime vibes. Summer is synonymous with long days, tanned skin, and the backyard barbecue. The weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day mark peak hot dog season. During this timeframe, Americans will consume an average of 7 billion hot dogs—the equivalent of 818 hot dogs every second. While it may be tempting to indulge in your favorite summer foods, you’ll feel better about yourself and your health if you treat each summer picnic like any other meal and make healthy decisions and indulge in moderation. Here are six summertime picnic food selections you can enjoy without the guilt.

  • Watermelon. This sweet summertime treat can help rehydrate you after a rousing game of Ladder Ball with your picnic guests. At only 46 calories per cup, it also includes Vitamins C, A, B1, B5, B6, Potassium, and Magnesium, so eat up. We recommend a watermelon seed spitting contest in the backyard for extra fun.
  • Veggie Burgers. Impress your guests with a healthier twist on a classic barbecue favorite. Veggie burgers are lower in fat and calories than their meat-based counterparts. Veggie burgers are also high in fiber and when consumed as a substitute for red meat, can help reduce your risk of colon cancer and heart disease. Add a slice of tomato for some extra Vitamin C, Potassium, Folate, and Vitamin K.
  • Frozen Yogurt. Swap the vanilla ice cream you typically dollop on top of your strawberry shortcake for frozen yogurt. Depending on the brand you purchase, this healthier alternative may contain probiotics, good bacteria that are healthy for your gut. Frozen yogurt offers calcium and protein, and is lower in calories than traditional full-fat ice cream.
  • Homemade Salad Dressing. Take the time to make your own salad dressing for your party guests. We know it’s easier to grab bottles of dressing off the shelf, but most store-bought dressings are higher in sugar, low-quality oils, and preservatives, making them a less healthy alternative to a simple oil and vinegar dressing you can whip up yourself in less time than you’d wait in the checkout line.
  • Butter-Free Corn on the Cob. Who needs butter and salt when you have freshly grilled corn on the cob? Experience this classic barbecue favorite without any toppings and see what you’ve been missing by masking its flavor with unhealthy additives. Corn is naturally high in fiber and protein, but also sugar, so stick to one serving, no matter how tempting it may be to go back for seconds.
  • Hummus and Vegetables. Swap chips and dip for hummus and veggies. You’ll still enjoy the combo of crunch meets creamy, but with less fat and more nutrients. Hummus is packed with plant-based protein, inflammation-fighting antioxidants, fiber, and has a low glycemic index which may help control blood sugar levels. Enjoy with baby carrots to up your beta carotene as well.

Summer months are all about relaxation and time spent with friends and family. Treat yourself right this summer season by serving up a healthy picnic meal, paired with sunshine and smiles.

The Importance of Prostate Screenings for Men

The Importance of Prostrate Screenings for Men

Here at Nova Health, we love Father’s Day—and not just for the backyard barbecues and the fun of shopping for ties and grill accessories. We love Father’s Day because we all have men in our lives who play a critical role in our happiness. Fathers, brothers, sons, grandfathers, uncles, and friends—everyone who has helped to raise a child, serve as a mentor, or be a positive influence deserves to be recognized this Father’s Day and every day. Since we believe the health and wellness of our fathers and friends is critical, this Father’s Day, we challenge all men to understand the importance of prostate health and learn when to obtain a prostate cancer screening—because we want you all to be healthy and happy and part of our lives this year and every year.

Prostate Cancer Risks for Men

All men are at risk of developing prostate cancer, though only 13 percent will develop the disease in their lifetime. While the most common risk factor for prostate cancer is age, African-American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer are at a higher risk.

Recommended Prostate Cancer Screening Guidelines

Cancer that is identified early may be easier to treat. For this reason, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men discuss their risk factors with their physician and consider obtaining a prostate cancer screening based on the following intervals:

  • At age 40 for those identified as highest risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer before age 65).
  • At age 45 for those identified as high risk (African American men and those with a first-degree relative diagnosed before age 65).
  • At age 50 for those identified as average risk who are expected to live at least ten more years.

Prostate Cancer Screening Procedures

While there currently is no standard prostate cancer screening test, your doctor may recommend one of the following common screening procedures:

  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) – Your doctor will determine the size of the prostate and feel for bumps, soft or hard spots, or other abnormalities and examine the lower colon/rectum wall.
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test – While this test may help identify cancer, it can also identify an enlarged prostate (BPH) or other prostate problems. If your PSA test reflects abnormal results, your doctor may recommend a biopsy, MRI, or ultrasound.

This Father’s Day, if you are an adult male, regardless of whether you have an average or high risk of prostate cancer,  give yourself the gift of good health. Make a promise to yourself to discuss your risks with your doctor when the time is appropriate. That way, you can enjoy countless Father’s Day celebrations (in your honor) for years to come.

Scoliosis Awareness Month. Understand the Signs and Symptoms.

Scoliosis Awareness Month

Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curve of the spine that affects two to three percent of the population in the United States. Often diagnosed in early childhood, if untreated, scoliosis becomes a lifelong condition that can cause pain, discomfort, and other physical complications throughout one’s life. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), every year, scoliosis patients make more than 600,000 visits to physician offices, an estimated 30,000 children are fitted with corrective braces, and 38,000 patients undergo spinal fusion surgery, all in an attempt to treat this complex condition. Every June, families impacted by scoliosis, along with the medical community, recognize Scoliosis Awareness Month. It is a time to gain an understanding of scoliosis, its causes, and treatment options, and continue to generate awareness and research funding to help support those impacted by this condition.

What Causes Scoliosis?

While scoliosis can sometimes be diagnosed during infancy or early childhood, it often develops during the growth spurt that adolescents experience just before puberty. While sometimes caused by cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, the primary cause of most scoliosis cases is unknown.

Symptoms of Scoliosis

The spine is comprised of small vertebrae bones stacked on top of one another. A healthy spine should have a natural curve that allows for rotation and bending. In cases of scoliosis, the spine curves to the side, forming a C or S shape. In the most severe cases, scoliosis can cause health complications over time.

If you believe that you or your child may have scoliosis, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • One shoulder blade higher than the other
  • A shoulder blade that sticks out more than the other
  • The appearance that the head is not centered with the rest of the body
  • Uneven hips or one hip sticking out more than the other
  • A rotated spine
  • Pushed out ribs
  • Difficulty breathing due to a reduced available area for lung expansion
  • Back pain and discomfort
  • Arms not hanging down straight next to the body
  • When bending forward, the appearance that the two sides of the back are different heights

Scoliosis Treatment Options

X-Rays can help confirm the extremity of a spinal curvature. If diagnosed with scoliosis, depending on your age, the cause, and the severity of the condition, your doctor may attempt non-surgical or surgical treatment options to correct the curve of your spine.

Non-Surgical Treatment Option for Scoliosis

For adolescents, spines with lateral curves measuring over 20 degrees may benefit from a temporary, specially designed back brace that is worn to keep the curve from worsening as the spine grows and from requiring surgery later in life. Back braces can also help a curve to become smaller over time. The more the brace is worn throughout the day, the more effective it can become.

Surgical Treatment Options for Scoliosis

Spinal curves greater than 50 degrees may require spinal fusion surgery to improve posture. During the procedure, a surgeon will aim to realign and fuse curved vertebrae to encourage them to heal into a single, solid bone. Thanks to modern advancements in medical technology and tools, spinal fusion surgeries on scoliosis patients can help improve lateral curves significantly.

How to Get Help

If you are an adult who has not adequately treated scoliosis earlier in life, talk to your doctor to understand the extent of your spinal curve, and what options may be available to you to ease any discomfort. If you are a parent who believes your child may be developing scoliosis, talk to your child’s pediatrician. He or she can discuss diagnosis and treatment options and help you to put a plan in place to help protect your child from a worsening condition that could be problematic throughout his or her adult life.