Q: My husband is recovering from a ruptured appendix, and a nurse said the medicine cabinet isn't the best place to store his pain meds. Isn't that what it's for? – Alice W., West Lebanon, N.H.
A: Medicine cabinets in the bathroom expose medications to heat and moisture from a shower or bath, and that can speed the breakdown of drugs, especially tablets and capsules. Generally, your best bet is to put all medications in a cool, dark place – a lockable cabinet or a small, locked storage box in your bedroom are good choices, especially if you have kids or kids visit your house. (Thousands of children are hospitalized every year because of accidental poisoning.) Also, check the package insert that comes with each prescription to see if there are special storage instructions concerning temperature, moisture or light.
But your responsibility for safe handling of medications doesn't stop there. Once your husband is back on his feet, he may have pain medications left over. You need to dispose of them properly.
Rule No. 1: Don't flush any drugs down the toilet. Many meds can pass through wastewater treatment plants' filtration systems and end up in ground water, rivers and lakes. So far, the Environmental Protection Agency hasn't found evidence that pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, hormones and steroids in drinking water harm people, but male fish have developed female characteristics because of exposure to endocrine disruptors, including pharmaceuticals, in rivers and streams. So play it safe:
1. Use a “Drug Take Back” program or “Pharmaceutical Collection Event.” These are managed in cooperation with local law enforcement. Call your local precinct for details.
2. Ask your pharmacist if the store has a drug-disposal program; many do.
3. If you are going to dispose of meds in your garbage: Remove labels from pill bottles; dissolve remaining pills with vinegar to discourage foraging animals from ingesting them; tape the container closed; place that in a sealed, non-transparent bag. Don't take it outside until garbage pick-up day.
Q: I'm developing problems in the bedroom department. I know there are pills for that, but I don't want to take them. Help! — Joshua T., Memphis, Tenn.
A: The advent of medications to help overcome erectile dysfunction has been an enormous help to many couples who found that sexual problems were damaging their relationship. However, around 80 percent of the time, erectile problems are a result of cardiovascular blockage in the small arteries that take blood to and the veins that move blood from your genital area. But there's often a lot you can do to prevent or even reverse ED without medications. That's great news for you and the more than 30 million men in North American with ED, especially since only about a quarter of them are getting treatment.
The sooner you take action, the better. Guys with ED have a 62 percent increased risk of heart attack — often within three to five years of the first signs of erectile problems. Here are a couple of suggestions to help you avoid serious damage to your heart and circulatory system.
The first step is to take a look at your eating habits. A new study reveals that ED is associated with the typical Western diet, which often contains 45 percent saturated fat, 40 percent simple carbs and lots of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids (in soy, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, safflower and mixed vegetable oils), as well as tons of added sugar. But a radical diet-ectomy (no trans or saturated fats, no grains that aren't 100 percent whole, and no added sugars or syrups) along with regular aerobic activity five days a week done with varying intensity, can give you the get-up-and-go that you're afraid is going, going, gone.
Don't wait. Your health and happiness depend on you taking action now. But the fact that you asked the question means you have what it takes to do this! You get a do-over; take advantage of that — and enjoy!