Category Archives: Heart Disease Management

Sunshine, Skin Cancer, and Vitamin D

Sunflower 1I’ve heard alot lately about how Vitamin D helps protect us from heart disease and other health problems and that spending time in the sun helps our body produce Vitamin D. I also know that exposure to UV radiation from sunlight (or tanning beds) is the number one risk factor for developing skin cancer.[1] We all love the sunshine. It helps plants grow, lifts our spirits, warms the planet and literally keeps the earth alive. How do we enjoy the sun, meet our body’s need for Vitamin D and protect ourselves from cancer at the same time? I’ve asked myself these questions many times before. Today I went looking for answers.

What I discovered while researching the subject is that our need to protect ourselves from skin cancer far outweighs our need for sunlight to generate Vitamin D. Extensive reviews of research by Deon Wolpowitz, MD, PhD, and Barbara A. Gilchrest, MD from the Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, concluded that “The tradeoff of vitamin D production today for photoaging and skin cancer decades hence may have made sense millennia ago, when life expectancy was 40 years or less, but it’s a poor exchange when life expectancy has doubled, skin rejuvenation is a $35 billion/year industry, and one in three Caucasians develops skin cancer.” [2]

Here are few reminders from the CDC about UV exposure:

  • Avoid sun exposure during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

If you must be in the sun (and who doesn’t love a mid-day dip in the pool or spending time in the garden during this wonderful summer weather?) remember the following:

  • Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear clothing to protect exposed skin.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
  • Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Avoid indoor tanning. [3]

From the same source noted above [2], to maintain adequate Vitamin D levels, James Spencer, MD, clinical professor of dermatology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City suggests, “Drink vitamin D-fortified orange juice or milk or other enriched products. Eat salmon and other fatty fish. Or take a daily multivitamin containing 600 units of vitamin D. It’s so easy. And it’s a lot safer than lying in the sun or climbing undressed into a tanning booth and frying your whole body.”

That settles it for me. This summer I’m going to enjoy a little less sun and a little more salmon.

What do you think? Are you a sun-loving person? Can you give up an afternoon tanning session in favor of taking a vitamin supplement? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Summer Is Here! Drink Water.

How much water should you drink each day? The answer is 1-2 liters for the average adult. If you aren’t familiar with metric measurements, substitute quarts for liters and you’ll come close to the same amount.IMG_0980

The human body is well equipped to regulate its fluid balance. Many systems contribute to this balance. In healthy adults and children the urinary system does the majority of the work by preserving fluid or producing urine based on fluid intake.

Many of us were raised with the idea that we should “drink 8 glasses of water per day”. This may be a good amount for large, very active adults. But age, gender, body size, body mass and energy expenditure vary. So fluid intake will vary. Most of us do just fine with 4-5 glasses of any type of liquid daily. The food we eat provides additional fluid.
If you or a loved one suffers from heart or kidney disease, your doctor will give you specific instructions about how much water to drink each day. You may be advised to limit fluids and sodium in your diet.
Be aware of symptoms of dehydration in yourself and others. Young children and the elderly are at higher risk for complications when mild dehydration becomes severe dehydration.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms of mild dehydration:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output — no wet diapers for three hours for infants and eight hours or   more without urination for older children and teens
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

If you do become mildly dehydrated (which can happen easier now that summer is fully upon us) it is simple to remedy: Drink something. Water is the best option, but your body can use any liquid to re-establish fluid balance. What’s your favorite summertime drink?

Stress Management * Three Simple Steps

We all experience stress. It’s an unavoidable part of life. Some stress is positive – like when we’re preparing for a party. Other stress is negative – such as dealing with loss of employment, natural disaster or debilitating illness. The normal human response to stressful events is emotional or physical tension.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) lists the following as common reactions to a stressful event.

  • Disbelief and shock
  • Tension and irritability
  • Fear and anxiety about the future
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Being numb to one’s feelings
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • Nightmares and recurring thoughts about the event
  • Anger
  • Sadness and other symptoms of depression
  • Headaches, back pains, and stomach problems
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs
  • Feeling powerless
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Crying

Stress manifests differently in each person, so stress management strategies may be unique and highly individual. However, we can all find useful, meaningful ways to remain physically and emotionally healthy during stressful times of life. Here are three simple steps anyone can use to reduce stress.

Stress free

Relax. Take time to step away from stressful situations. This may mean taking a walk, enjoying nature, getting a therapeutic massage or finding a quiet place to stop and just breathe. Did you know that breathing exercises are natural stress-reducers? Slow, deep breaths trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which creates a relaxation response in the entire body. You can try this right now and feel immediate results.

Sit in a comfortable position, place both feet on the floor, rest your hands on your legs. Now, take three deep cleansing breaths (breathe in deeply, then exhale fully). After these deep breaths, spend the next full minute – sixty seconds – just breathing gently and easily. Try closing your eyes. Pay attention to air flowing in and out of your lungs. Listen to the sound. Feel your chest expand and contract. Notice your feet, firmly supported by the floor beneath them. How do you feel after just one minute of quiet, focused breathing? This simple exercise can instantly reduce stress symptoms and can be done anytime or anywhere. Try it for three or four minutes for even greater relaxation!

Find support. Talk to someone about your situation. Even if you are shy or if you “keep things to yourself” consider sharing your thoughts and feelings with caring friends or family. Sometimes just talking about it can relieve symptoms and bring hope and perspective to a stressful event.

Stay active. The CDC suggests: “Take your mind off your problems by giving.”
 Help your neighbor, take your dog for an extra long walk, look for volunteer opportunities. These are small ways to bring positive feelings to a stressful situation.

How have you found relief from stress? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.


Please note: If you or someone you love becomes severely depressed or suicidal, seek help from your local emergency department, primary care physician or mental health professional.