Heat may affect medicines

Heat, such as the recent heat wave, can change the effectiveness of medications for people and their pets. People need to check the instructions about temperature and storage, says Jill Sailors, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy.

"Make sure that medications are kept away from direct sunlight at home and do not store medication in the bathroom where the temperature varies with bathing and showering. Also, make sure not to leave medications in your car," Sailors said.

Ideally, medicine should be stored between 68 and 77 Fahrenheit unless it needs refrigeration, she said.

For people with diabetes, high temperatures can result in increased blood sugar and effect how refrigerated insulin works, she said.

"Even with a working refrigerator, insulin injections could have been affected by the heat, or they may not work as well because the body is under stress," she said.

Some medications can increase dehydration and interfere with the body's ability to cool itself, she said. People taking seizure medication, antihistamines, blood pressure medication, neurologic or psychiatric medication or even those with Parkinson's disease need to drink more water and watch for signs of dehydration.

Sailors also offered some additional advice:

•If your home is not air conditioned, put medicine next to a fan.

•If you notice an increase in side effects while on a medication, contact your pharmacist or doctor.

•If you are not sure about whether your medicine is still effective, contact your pharmacist or the manufacturer of the medication.

•Never store medicine in the trunk of a car, even for the short trip home from the pharmacy.

Blood pressure variations

Roll up both sleeves the next time you check your blood pressure at home or have it measured by a health care provider. Why? A recent analysis of 20 different studies in which blood pressure was measured in both arms came to two noteworthy conclusions.

First, people with arm-to-arm pressure differences of 15 points or more were twice as likely to have peripheral artery disease compared with those who had similar readings in both arms. PAD occurs when vessels of the arms, legs, or other body parts beyond the heart and brain become clogged, usually from atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaque that is also behind most heart attacks and strokes.

Second, arm-to-arm pressure differences of 10 to 15 points or more also boosted the chances of having a stroke or dying from cardiovascular disease.