Monthly Archives: November 2014

Expired Medications

DrugsRaspberries start to get that nice fuzzy jacket. Milk may develop a few sour-smelling curdles. That month-old, open bag of Doritos is probably chewy and stale. Sometimes, it is simple to tell when things are past their prime. When it comes to medicine, though, this may be harder to determine.

Many of us have reached that point where we were desperate for something in the medicine cabinet that turned out to be expired. Just this summer, I took some Claritin allergy medicine that was recently beyond its expiration date. A few questions instantly ran through my mind after doing so: Will I experience some terrible, disastrous side effect? Will the medicine merely not work as effectively? Will is work just fine?

Fortunately for me, I ran into no unusual side effects. However, after doing some research, I found that it would have been beneficial to my own health and current allergy situation if I took a non-expired version.

Drugs have expiration dates on them for a reason. Expiration dates serve to indicate the last day that a manufacturer will guarantee the full potency and safety of a medication. While some may say these dates can be on the conservative side, risks can still accompany consuming a medication past its expiration date. An over-the-counter antihistamine or pain reliever might not have an adverse effect, yet a heart or diabetes drug with a lowered potency may result in swift negative side effects. Furthermore, just because something is passed its expiration date and therefore may have a lowered potency, it is never a good idea to increase your typical dosage. It is hard to determine how much potency a drug may lose over time, and compensating for the lowered effectiveness may lead to harmful side effects.

Interestingly enough, studies by the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP) through the federal Department of Defense have shown that many products may have a shelf life beyond their stated expiration date. In one SLEP assessment on over 3000 lots of military medications that represented 122 medications, 88% of the lots were cleared to extend expiration dates for an average of 66 months. Common drugs that stayed potent beyond their original expiration date included amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, diphenhydramine, and more.

In the end, drug manufacturers and pharmacy experts alike have no way of ensuring your safety if you consume a drug past its posted expiration date. To be on the safe side, it is best to toss out the expired bottles of medication sitting in your cabinet. To ensure your medications do not deteriorate prematurely, get them out of the bathroom to a cool, dry place.

Disposal of Unwanted Medication

Because more and more studies are finding medications in public drinking supplies, it is ever more important to dispose of drugs properly. While the FDA does provide a list of medications that can be flushed down the toilet here, there is an even easier way to dispose of your medications safely right on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan! Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs can be brought to the 24-hour drop-box located in the entry of the IWU Security building at 110 E. Graham Street. Be sure to mark out your name, street address, or any personal information that may appear on the original packaging.

Think before you flush!

While it may not seem like a big deal to flush a few of your old medications down the toilet, when 300 million other Americans have drugs to dispose of as well, those traces of medications can add up. From antibiotics and mood stabilizers to acetaminophen and ibuprofen, prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs alike have appeared in public water supplies throughout the country.

Currently, there are no federal or state laws that require wastewater and drinking water plants to monitor or remove pharmaceutical compounds in the water supply. Even so, studies published in the journal of Environmental Pollution have found traces of drugs in large-size wastewater treatment plants nationwide. Medications used for lowering high blood pressure were found most frequently and in high concentrations.

While these medications are appearing in extremely tiny concentrations, scientists question what type of long-term effect traces of multiple pharmaceuticals in the drinking water might have on the humans and the environment. Research has already identified effects of pharmaceuticals on aquatic animals. One population of male fish began producing eggs in their genitals and the entire species ultimately led to extinction after exposure to small amounts of estrogen. The question now becomes: how might long-term, chronic exposure to small amounts of medications affect human health as well?

It only takes a few extra minutes to be mindful of where you are disposing your unwanted medications. If you have any questions about what to do with a specific medication, give Wellness a call at 556-3334.


Short & Sweet

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Exercise 30 minutes day…there are many opinions as well as  scientific recommendations out there today about how to best live a happy, healthy life. To improve your health, the American Heart Association and the CDC both promote engaging in moderate aerobic activity 30 minutes a day, five days a week along with muscle-strengthening activities two days each week. However, recent research suggest that shortened periods of high-intensity interval training may offer fitness benefits similar to those that come with prolonged periods of endurance training. This type of high-intensity interval training, or HITT, has become exceedingly popular in the fitness world today. In fact, The American College of Sports Medicine has ranked it as the number one fitness trend in 2014. Proponents of the HITT movement suggest it is a superior  cardiovascular activity that helps people experience significant fat loss or conditioning benefits as well.

“The Scientific 7-Minute Workout”–as shown above–is an example of a short, high-intensity workout that can be accomplished by only adding a chair.

To complete the workout, perform pictured exercises 1-12 for 30 seconds each with just a brief rest in between. Here is a great online timer that will help you keep track of each 30 second exercise with rest:

1. Jumping jacks

2. Wall sit

3. Push-up

4. Abdominal crunch

5. Step-up onto chair

6.  Squat

7. Triceps dip on chair

8. Plant

9. High Knees running in place

10. Lunge

11. Push-up and rotation

12. Side-Plank

Repeat each step from the beginning until you reach 7 minutes–then, you’re done! In order for the workout to count as “high-intensity,” try aiming for a physical exertion level 8 on a scale of 1-10. You should be breathing heavily, yet can still speak a few words at a time if need be at this intensity.

Caution: if you do not work out regularly, we suggest starting the activity at a lower intensity level, or reducing the minutes you perform the exercise.

If anyone has opinions on this topic, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the new high-intensity interval training trend as well! Leave a comment or shoot us an email at

Workout posted originally on The New York Times:


IWU Wellness


Sweet, Sweet Slumbertime

In spirit of our most recent HealthWise article on the importance of sleep, we thought we’d share with you an interesting video to quickly test if you are sleep-deprived. Not entirely scientific, but it serves as a good example as to how alertness can be affected by the amount of sleep one receives each night. If nothing else hopefully this reminds you to think about the amount of sleep you get, and consider if you might benefit from squeezing in a few more hours of sleep each night.

I personally was able to experience the benefits of intentionally increasing the amount of sleep I got two summers ago. As a college student entering my first full-time internship in Chicago, I was not quite used to working full days and catching 7:00 a.m. trains into the city. I continued to hit the hay around my usual IWU bedtime of midnight, yet by body soon experienced the effects of only getting 5 and 1/2 or 6 hours of sleep each night. With all the sleepiness that ensued, I turned to what I thought every other person in the working world would do–grabbed a cup of coffee! It was not until I realized after weeks of indigestion and discomfort that my stomach simply could not handle caffeine of any sort–from light roast coffee to black tea or energy drinks, my body was having none of it. Because of this, I knew something had to change. I would not be able to perform my best at my new internship if I was constantly tired and not alert, and I obviously could not turn to caffeine. Instead, I tried making a few lifestyle changes.

First and foremost, I prioritized sleep. I made sure I packed my lunch the night before a day of work, said goodnight to friends a little earlier, and reverted back to my pre-high school/college bedtime of 10:00 p.m. I aimed to get between 7 and 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep each night, even though I felt my best with 8 hours of sleep. Along with a regular exercise routine and healthful eating, within a few weeks of sufficient sleep, I was able to get through my 10-hour days without even a sip of coffee. Sure, I would run into the occasional post-lunch slump for a little, but opted for a quick walk by the river instead of a cup of coffee or tea.

Many of my caffeine-addicted friends were not able to envision themselves being able to last the long days without a cup of Joe. Others thought “sleep is a waste of time” or said things along the lines of “I can snooze when I am dead” (which is ironic, because a study published in the scientific journal Sleep linked a lack of sleep to early death). Although schedules may change and situations may call for less hours of sleep, it is a good idea to try giving your body the full amount of sleep it needs to function properly.  My simple, experimental summer taught me that I felt nothing but positive things from devoting more time to sleep. My body was happy from the inside out–I was refreshed after a night of sleep and did not have the irritability that I might have experienced with a fewer sleep hours.

Many of you need not avoid caffeine for medical reasons and can harmlessly experience the joys of a pumpkin-spiced latte this fall. Even so, getting the right amount of sleep for your body can have a variety of health benefits. To learn more about why we sleep and tips on how you can get a better night’s sleep, read IWU Wellness’ latest newsletter  on the Wellness website. 

SqueeZe in those ZzZ’s!

Brittany Brady
IWU Wellness Student Worker

Video retrieved from:

What’s the deal with these health screenings?

Variety of NutsSome of you have just participated in our recent fall health screening program. You may be wondering why each test is significant in regards to your health and how that might be linked to your lifestyle choices. Here are a few facts and tips related to the most recent health screening tests.

  • Cholesterol and Lipid Panel. This test measures the cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels in the body to help determine one’s risk for cardiovascular disease or stroke. Some recommendations for controlling your cholesterol levels were presented in an October 2014 Harvard Health Publication:
    • Know your fats. It is best to avoid trans fats or products that contain the ingredients “partially hydrogenated oils.” Common products that include partially hydrogenated oils include baked goods, margarine/spreads, and other processed foods. Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, typically found in animal products, can be consumed in small amounts. The American Heart Association suggests that those looking to lower their LDL cholesterol levels lower their saturated fat intake to no more than 5-6% of their total daily calories (equivalent to 13 grams if you are following a 2,000 calorie diet). Instead, most of the fat in your diet should be polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat. Good sources of these fats can be found in plant-based oils, fatty fish, seeds, nuts, and avocados.
    • Eat colorfully. Adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to your diet can help lower your cholesterol. From leafy greens to blueberries, yellow squashes, and plums, including these fruits and veggies will help you avoid excess trans fat and saturated fats.
    • Get down to the fiber. Fiber can help regulate your blood sugar in addition to lowering your cholesterol. Look for foods that contain whole grains, as their similar but refined counterparts have lower fiber contents. Incorporating whole-wheat flour, brown or wild rice, and beans into your diet are just a few fiber-filled options that can help you maintain a healthy cholesterol levels.Cholesterol and Lipid Panel. This test measures the cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels in the body to help determine one’s risk for cardiovascular disease or stroke. Some recommendations for controlling your cholesterol levels were presented in an October 2014 Harvard Health Publication:
  • Metabolic Panel. The metabolic panel is a set of general chemical tests used to reveal information about your body’s chemical balance and metabolism. This can include blood sugar levels, levels of key electrolytes, and the health of your kidneys. Abnormal results from this test can be linked to a variety of health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney problems, or breathing problems. Your doctor should go over any specific test with you that may show abnormal results.
  • Iron Screening. Iron tests can help identify abnormalities in iron levels or iron metabolism. This mineral plays an important role in many processes within the body, including the transportation of oxygen throughout the body and other metabolic functions. Even though it is the most common nutrient deficiency in the U.S., iron deficiency can be prevented with various diet changes and iron supplementation. Here are some good sources of iron to consider adding to your diet:
    For more detailed information on your iron test results, read this overview on Healthline.

    • Red meat, such as lamb or beef, can add a significant amount of animal proteins that contain “heme” iron into your diet.
    • Seafood options can also be a great source of protein. Grilling up some salmon will add a nice dose of iron to your diet.
    • For vegetarians and omnivores alike, adding green leafy vegetables (think spinach or Swiss chard), fruits, and even whole grain oatmeal will serve as good dietary sources of iron as well.
  • PSA  Screening. This test is used to measure the levels of the Protein-Specific Antigen (PSA) in a man’s blood. It is used as a screening tool for prostate cancer. It is best to speak with your physician about possible next steps if your test shows that you have elevated levels of PSA in your blood. For more information on interpreting your results, try looking at The Mayo Clinic’s explanation.


“Basic Metabolic Panel.” Health Encyclopedia. N.p. University of Rochester Medical Center. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <>.

“How to Lower Your Cholesterol without Drugs.” Harvard Women’s Health Watch: p. 1-7.           Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.

Murray, Michael, ND. “Boost Iron Levels.” Amazing Wellness Winter 2014: 18-19. Wilson  OmniFile Full Text Select Edition. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.

“Prostate Cancer and PSA Screening.” Health Encyclopedia. N.p. University of Rochester Meical Center. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <>.

“Trans Fat.” american Heart Association. Aug. 2014. web. 15 Oct. 2014.  < Fats_UCM_301120_Article.jsp>.