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Sunscreens help shield you from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays in two ways. Some work by scattering the light, reflecting it away from your body. Others absorb the UV rays before they reach your skin.
A few years ago, choosing a good sunscreen meant you just looked for a high sun protection factor (SPF) — which rates how well the sunscreen protects against one type of cancer-causing UV ray, ultraviolet B (UVB.) “SPF refers to blockage of UVB rays only,” says Leffell.
Research soon showed that ultraviolet A rays (UVA) also increase skin cancer risk. While UVA rays don’t cause sunburn, they penetrate deeply into skin and cause wrinkles. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 90% of skin changes associated with aging are really caused by a lifetime’s exposure to UVA rays.
So which is the best sunscreen for you? Clearly, you’ll want a sunscreen with broad-spectrum or multi-spectrum protection for both UVB and UVA. Ingredients with broad-spectrum protection include benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates,titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone (Parsol 1789) and ecamsule (Mexoryl SX).
- SPF 15 or higher for UVB protection. The SPF factor rates how effective the sunscreen is in preventing sunburn caused by UVB rays. If you’d normally burn in 10 minutes, SPF 15 multiplies that by a factor of 15, meaning you could go 150 minutes before burning.For the vast majority of people, SPF 15 is fine, Leffell tells WebMD. But people who have very fair skin, a family history of skin cancer, or conditions like lupus that increase sensitivity to sunlight should consider SPF 30 or higher.
Keep in mind that the higher the SPF, the smaller the increased benefit: contrary to what you might think, SPF 30 isn’t twice as strong as SPF 15. While SPF 15 filters out 93% of UVB, SPF 30 filters out 97%, only a slight improvement.
- UVA protection. There is no rating to tell you how good a sunscreen is at blocking UVA rays, says Leffell. So when it comes to UVA protection, you need to pay attention to the ingredients.Look for a sunscreen that contains at least one of the following, Leffell says: ecamsule, avobenzone,oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, or zinc oxide. Any of those should do the trick.
- Water and sweat resistance. If you’re going to be exercising or in the water, it’s worth getting a sunscreen resistant to water and sweat.But understand what this really means. The FDA defines water resistant sunscreen as meaning that the SPF level stays effective after 40 minutes in the water. Very water resistant means it holds after 80 minutes of swimming. These sunscreens are in no way water-proof, so you’ll need to reapply them regularly if you’re taking a dip.
- A brand you like. Even if a brand is recommended by all the experts, if you don’t like it, you’re not going to use it, says Karrie Fairbrother, RN, president-elect of the Dermatology Nurses Association. Personal preference is really important.
Confused yet? The Enviromental Working Group is here to help you out! Every year, the Group rates many different sunscreens on their effectiveness, the make up and their staying power.
Check out their SUNSCREEN REPORT FOR 2018 (2019 wasn’t release at the time of writing).
Among other things, smoking increases your risk of heart disease and blood clot formation, while decreasing the HDL or “good” cholesterol. The best choice is to quit and avoid secondhand smoke whenever possible.
(Check some of my November articles about tips on tobacco cessation).
The American Heart Association has identified the following 3 measurement as important risk indicators for heart disease:
- Blood pressure. Of the one in 3 adult Americans that have high blood pressure, 21% don’t know they even have it! Know what your blood pressure is. Keep track of it and maintain it at a level you and your doctor have discussed. Pay particular attention to the 1st number (systolic blood pressure) as it indicates the amount of pressure placed on your arteries when your heart beats (as opposed to the bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure, when the heart is at rest).
For most Americans this means having the 3 sequential blood pressure readings with a systolic rating of less than 120 mm Hg and diastolic rating of less than 80 mm Hg.
- Blood cholesterol. The most recent numbers from the AHA recommends that your total cholesterol should be below 200 mg per dL. Consult with your doctor to see if you’re able to moderate your cholesterol levels naturally by eating foods full of heart healthy fats, lower in saturated fat and definitely trans fat-free.
- Blood glucose. Though controllable, adults with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have heart disease or stroke than the adults without diabetes. Your fasting blood glucose should be below 100 mg per dL of blood. Ask your doctor for a quick blood glucose test to make sure you are within healthy range.
Luckily following the other 4 steps in the simple 7 criteria will help to decrease all of these blood related numbers into a healthier range.
~ From the Annals of Internal Medicine
Many health experts will tell you that being skinny is not necessarily healthy. Lending support to that argument, a new study finds that the thinnest people, similar to those who have the most body fat, have higher rates of death.
Unlike many previous studies, the researchers did not rely on BMI — which is a measure of weight that includes both fat and muscle — as a proxy for fat.
A small subset of the individuals in the study had both excess fat and low BMI because of inadequate muscle. “That’s a double whammy in terms of adverse effects on health,” Leslie said.
Overall the study found that the best survival was among individuals who had a BMI that put them in the overweight category and who were middle of the road in terms of total body fat.
The finding agrees with the so-called obesity paradox, said Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the John Ochsner Heart & Vascular Institute in New Orleans, who was not involved in the research. The paradox, which has been described by previous studies, is that middle-aged and older adults who are overweight or even moderately obese have lower death rates than those in the normal weight range.
According to the study, the battle of the bulge is not the only war that should be waged. While doctors should still advise patients who have a very high BMI and high body fat to lose weight, they may also want to stress to underweight (“undermuscled”) patients the importance of maintaining fitness, Lavie said.
Getting regular exercise could also be important for individuals like the ones in the current study who are at risk of osteoporosis.
The study involved primarily white adults in Canada. It is possible that the relationship between BMI, body fat and mortality could be different in other populations, such as black and Hispanic people, although Lavie suspects that the same trends would exist.
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Carrying too much body fat is generally not good for your health, especially if it’s around the midsection. A quick check of that is to take a tape measure and measure your waist, which is right at the level of your belly button. The American Heart Association recommends that women be less than 35 inches and then the less than 40 inches. This weight around your midsection is especially bad because it is around and in(!) your internal organs. Excess body fat increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.
These days there’s a lot of information out there on what to eat, and what not to eat, so making good choices can be confusing. In general, stick to minimally processed, natural and nutrient rich food. More quick tips:
- make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- enjoy your food but eat less
- avoid oversized portions
- drink water instead of sugary drinks
(check out older posts from me if you need more ideas…