Between BBQs, family beach vacations and hiking trips, there's no better time of year than summer to enjoy the outdoors.
Whether you're doing a hard workout like mountain biking or something less strenuous like gardening, any amount of time spent outside strengthens your connection between yourself and Mother Nature, which can do wonders for your physical and psychological health. In fact, studies show "green exercise" can lower blood pressure, stress hormones and free your mind from stress.
Yet all that time spent outside can expose you to some hazards that could put the kibosh on your summertime fun. Here, find out what the most common ones are and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Sunburn According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 74,000 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, will be diagnosed this year alone. And about 10,000 people will die from it.
Even if you've never had a blistering sunburn but you like being tan, I've got news for you: tanned skin is not healthy skin. The best way to prevent sun damage and skin cancer is to use sunscreen every day without fail. Look for sunscreens that are "broad spectrum UVA/UVB," and have an SPF 30 or more. Use a shot glass's worth all over your exposed skin at least 30 minutes before heading out. Also, use UV blocking sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and sun-protective clothing.
2. Dehydration and heat stroke. You already know that if you're thirsty you're dehydrated, but feeling fatigued, dizzy or lightheaded are also telltale signs. Let it get worse and you could get heat stroke, which could be deadly. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
Muscle or abdominal cramps
High body temperature
Dark colored urine or an inability to sweat
Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Drink a liter of water every hour if you'll be in the heat and especially if you're exercising. Also, avoid alcohol and caffeine, be sure to eat regularly, and seek shade when you can. 3. Bugs, bees, snakes - oh my! Most bug bites are benign but some can really wreak havoc on your health. To prevent becoming infected with West Nile virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or Lyme Disease, use an insect repellent that contains DEET. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is an effective natural alternative to DEET. Wear clothing that covers most of your skin and tuck your socks into your pants, if possible. Repellent treated clothes are also available.
For bees, wasps, asp caterpillars, and snakes, a good rule of thumb is stay away. Although it's extremely rare to be bitten by a venomous snake — less than 37,500 people are — call 911 immediately to get treatment.
4. Lightning The risk of getting struck by lightening is extremely rare but the first strike could kill you. So at the first sign of storm clouds, leave the area immediately and seek shelter. If you're in a remote area, move away from the cliffs into a low-lying area with trees.
5. Gardening Growing your own vegetables is one of the healthiest things you can do, and even though it's relaxing you could do some serious damage to your back and knees.
Always squat when you have to pick something up, never bend at the waist, and switch sides regularly so you don't overuse your muscles. Use long-handed tools to minimize strain, and wear a hat, gloves, sturdy shoes and, of course, plenty of sunscreen.
6. Driving There's nothing better than long road trips with the top down and the wind in your hair. Summer is a high traffic season, especially Saturdays, when most crashes occur, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So always wear your seatbelt, keep your eyes on the road and off your cell phone, drive defensively, and never drink and drive.
Although there'll always be risks while you're enjoying the great outdoors, sitting around inside is far riskier for your health. So know the risks, get prepared, head out now, and enjoy!
Protecting yourself from the sun is one of the best things you can do to prevent a sunburn, wrinkles and age spots and of course, skin cancer, which affects 5 million people every year.
Sure, you already know that using sunscreen is a good idea, but chances are, there are sun protection mistakes you're making that could burn you. Here, read on for seven of the most common misconceptions about the sun, plus some simple strategies to stay protected.
Myth #1: The indoors are safe. Just because you work in an office or spend most of your time indoors, you're not immune to the sun's rays. In fact, research shows that people who are exposed to the sun through glass have significant sun damage.
Even though your car's windshield blocks out ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and is treated to block out ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, the side and rear windows are not, so you could be exposed to the sun without even realizing it.
So whether you're on the open road or just running errands, always wear sunscreen.
Myth #2: Any sunscreen will do. A good sunscreen doesn't have to be expensive, but it should meet certain standards.
Look for waterproof sunscreen that touts "broad spectrum UVA/UVB," has an SPF of 30 or more, and carries the Skin Cancer Foundation seal.
A good rule of thumb: the higher the number, the more protection. For example, an SPF 15 protects you from 93 percent of UVB rays while an SPF 30 filters 97 percent. If you have a family history of skin cancer or have had melanoma yourself, get the highest SPF you can find.
Myth #3: Sunscreen is all you need. Aside from sunscreen, you should also invest in a good pair of wide, wraparound sunglasses that block out 100 percent of UV rays. If you'll be near the water, a polarized pair will reduce the sun's effects from the glare. A wide-brimmed hat and sun protective clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Sun Protecting Factor) can help to block out the sun as well.
Myth #4: Applying it once is enough. Not only should you use sunscreen but you need to use it correctly. Use an ounce, or about a shot glass's worth, on all sun-exposed areas of your body, including areas where your clothing shifts and can leave you unprotected. Add an extra layer on your chest where the skin is thinner and damage is more likely. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before heading out and then re-apply every 2 hours - more frequently if you're sweating or swimming.
Myth #5: You don’t need protection on cloudy days. Even if the sun isn't shining brightly, sunscreen is necessary on overcast, cloudy and rainy days too. Before you head out for the day, check the EPA’s website for the UV index and sun protection recommendations. Myth #6: Sitting in the shade is a safe bet.
Since the sun's rays can be reflected off the golf course, sand, pavement and the water, you need to apply sunscreen the same way you would if you were in direct sunlight. The same goes if you're lounging under an umbrella or in the shade most of the day.
Myth #7: A tan isn't a burn. Sure, you love that healthy glow you get when you tan, but tanning is just as dangerous as burning. Sun exposure accumulates over time so with each tan, you create more sun damage and increase your risk for damaged skin and cancers.
You hear it all the time - diabetes is a health epidemic in the United States. Here are some shocking statistics:
According to the American Diabetes Association, 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, and 8.1 million of those are undiagnosed.
About 80 million have pre-diabetes and may not even know it.
It's a huge crisis for baby boomers as well, with more than 25 percent of people over the age of 65 who have it.
Are you at risk?
"No way - not me," you tell yourself.
Maybe you're thin and you think there's no possible way you could ever have diabetes. No one in your family has ever had it, so why would you?
Your doctor even ran a blood glucose test and said your levels are normal. Even if they were slightly elevated, maybe he wrote you a prescription, told you to start exercising, and asked you to come back in a few months to get re-tested.
Here's the problem I have with this approach: Instead of being proactive, he's simply waiting for a diagnosis, which may be inevitable if you don't do something about it now.
That's right. Your doctor isn't taking your risk for diabetes seriously. Why? Because he just doesn't have the time.
But guess what?
That blood glucose test isn't the be-all, end-all when we look for diabetes. In fact, it's not the most reliable tool we even have. I like to think of it as the first baseline test we should look at.
Here's why. A blood glucose test looks at your fasting blood glucose level at one point in time. And that time is not when your body is functioning like it always does. You haven't eaten for several hours and you probably just started your day. You're not scarfing down lunch, running around town, or hitting balls at the fairway.
I like to think of it as running a slew of diagnostics on your car when the ignition isn't even on.It's just not going to work.
When your results come back, you fall into 1 of 3 categories:
The problem with this way of looking at blood sugar is that there are so many gray areas. Even if you're considered borderline or normal, you could still be at risk for developing diabetes. Or you may already have a full-blown case and not even know it.
What's more,your doctor may not be talking with you about the other seemingly innocent symptoms, which may clue us into a diabetes diagnosis. These include:
Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
Tingling in toes
Unlike traditional medical practices, n1Health physicians offer genetic testing to find out your individual risk for diabetes, obesity, and other health conditions.
We also offer lab tests that screen for inflammatory markers that can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke - two health conditions that are more likely when you have diabetes. At my practice, we'll never send you to a lab for a blood glucose test. You can do it right in our relaxing office. Plus, we spend time thoroughly evaluating your symptoms, your test results, and your lifestyle to assess your risk and come up with a prevention plan that works.
Diabetes prevention is something I'm always talking with my patients about because it's just as serious and easily preventable as the obesity epidemic. In fact, the two are so closely linked that we use the term diabesity to describe what's really going on: overweight Americans who are insulin resistant.
Even more shocking - a recent study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine finds that 3 in 10 Americans have diabetes but don't even know it.
What is diabetes? Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. When you have diabetes, your blood glucose levels rise. This increase causes your body to not use insulin properly - it's what's known as insulin resistance. Your pancreas starts to make extra insulin to compensate, but eventually it doesn't make enough.
So glucose (sugar) can't get into the body's cells. And when glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, the body's cells are not able to function properly.
Diabetes can cause problems with your nerves, kidneys and heart, and it can affect your ability to use your muscles. When you have diabetes, you also have an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and even death.
An unhealthy lifestyle is a leading factor in diabetes, as is age. Sure, you can't turn back the clock, but you can fool Mother Nature into believing that your body is younger than the age on your driver license.
With simple healthy lifestyle choices, you can actually prevent and even reverse diabetes. Sure, it will take consistency and dedication, but isn't your life worth it?
Here are 10.
Lose weight. Extra weight, especially when it's around your waist, is the single leading cause of type 2 diabetes. In fact, you're 7 times more likely to develop it if you're overweight, and 20-40 times more likely if you're obese. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, and collard greens are some of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Instead of making meat your mainstay for every meal, most of the protein you eat should be from plant-based sources. Think beans, legumes, and whole grains. Use meat, cheese, and milk more as a condiment or side dish rather than the main course.
Exercise. It's one of the best habits for your health, but chances are you're not doing enough. Experts say you should be getting at least 2.5hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 1.5 hours of vigorous exercise every week, in addition to two days of strength training. If you haven't hit the gym in a long time or would rather veg out on the couch, start slow with just 10 minutes a day and then build up.
Nix sugar. A high sugar diet has been linked to insulin resistance, and the typical American diet is filled with it! In fact, the amount of added sugars in our diets has increased approximately 30 percent within the last three decades, a receipt report in the journal Obesity Society finds. One of the largest sources of sugar is processed, packaged, and fast foods - about 80 percent of them contain added sugars. So start reading labels, make a shopping list, and choose fresh, whole foods as much as possible.
Eat yogurt. A recent study in the journal BMC Medicine shows that eating 28 grams of yogurt a day lowered the risk for type 2 diabetes by 18 percent. Choose plain, non-fat Greek yogurt over regular to get more protein, and add berries to cut down on the high sugar of fruit-flavored varieties.
Build muscle. Most doctors and weight loss plans use Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine what your healthy weight should be. Yet body fat percentage using a body composition test is a more reliable measure of health because it looks deeper into what is in your weight - does your body have all fat, or is there some muscle too? Muscle is important because when you have low muscle mass, you're more likely to have diabetes. So even if you're thin, building up your muscle with strength training activities is important.
Get more sleep. Sleep is essential for your health, and studies show sleep deprivation may increase the risk for diabetes. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Try going to bed 30 minutes earlier each night until you're getting enough.
Stimulate your brain. Diabetes can affect your memory and thinking. What's more, even a high fasting blood sugar may increase your risk for dementia, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Take up a new hobby, do an activity that challenges your brain (like a crossowrd puzzle or DIY project), read a book about a topic you aren't interested in, or take a trip somewhere new.
Quit smoking. Are you really still smoking? I really can't believe it, not only because it can kill you but also because you're 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes. So get the patch, gum, or ask your doctor for a prescription and find support today.
Relax. Stress can throw off your blood sugar levels and wreak havoc on other areas of your body, mind, and spirit. So carve out time each day to connect with nature, take a break from your iPad, meditate, pray, or practice yoga.
Heal thyself. Many times my patients see me because of their physical symptoms when in reality, what's really going on is anxiety manifesting itself as a stomachache or other physical symptom. When we don't heal past trauma, deal with challenging family relationships, or find help for mental illness, it can take a toll on our overall health. Working with a therapist or counselor can help.
If you're over 60, you're probably like many of my patients - healthy, active, and having the time of your life. Maybe you're nearing retirement, or you're already enjoying traveling, playing golf, and a second home in a sunny climate.
Nothing can stop you, which is why doing what you can to prevent getting sick is a priority. And with flu season in full swing, there's no better time to have this important conversation. Here's what I tell my patients and what I want you to know, too.
Your immunity is weak. It's just one of those things that happen as we age, like wrinkles or achy joints. So even if you're healthy and feel better than you ever have, your immune system isn't working as well as it did years ago, so you're more likely to get the flu.
If you do get the flu, you could end up in the hospital. Since your immune system is already vulnerable, you won't be able to handle viruses as well as you did when you were younger. So not only is the flu much more dangerous for you, but it could land you in the hospital. Even more shocking, 90 percent of all flu-related deaths happen in people 60 years old and older, according to a recent review in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
The holidays are prime time to get the flu. Your grandchildren are walking germ magnets, and just like you, more susceptible to the flu. They're constantly sick and swapping germs in school, so when they come to visit you during the holidays, you're more likely to get whatever they have.
You're exposed to more germs in other places, too. Flights, cruises, hotels,and rest stops are hotspots to pick up the flu virus. Especially on planes where the air is re-circulated, it's unavoidable that you'll breathe in someone else's germs. Stay hydrated, get enough rest, wash your hands after using the restroom and use hand sanitizer after exiting, wipe down surfaces on the plane, and ask to move your seat if the person next to you is sick.
The flu vaccine is the best prevention. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, flu vaccines will prevent people 65 years and older from being hospitalized, even when vaccine effectiveness is low. So unless you're allergic to eggs, have had an allergic reaction or experienced side effects from the flu vaccine in the past, you should get a flu shot ASAP. They're safe and your best line of defense against the flu. There are two options of the flu vaccine available this year: a regular dose and a high dose. Talk to your provider about which one is right for you. If you've already been exposed to someone who has the flu, talk to your doctor about antiviral prescription medications like Tamiflu and Relenza. They're safe, and between 70-90 percent effective at preventing the flu.