Monthly Archives: August 2014

Shielding Too Much From The Sun

safe sun practices

Based on a poll conducted by the Skin Cancer Foundation, 42% of people reported that they get sunburned at least one time each year.

Sunburns over the years result in basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which are known as nonmelanomas. Melanomas, however, form from intense sun exposure that results in skin blisters. According to the American Cancer Society, over 3.5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States. And although melanomas compose less than 2% of all skin cancers, they are by far the deadliest.

The sun, however, isn’t the villain when it comes to our skin: the imbalance between sun blocking tactics and adequate sun exposure is the true issue. Yes, too much sun exposure isn’t good for you. We’ve all been there at one point in our lives (some more than others) when you notice the redness and pain in a patch of skin. As the days move on the skin-fried area will blister and the skin will begin to peel.

Ouch!

But the skin will heal, eventually. The bigger problem is when continual sunburn gives way to skin cancer.

Skin Cancer is Often Missed

Skin cancer believe it or not is often treatable. Unfortunately, many people miss the telltale signs of skin cancer: discolored skin patch, new mole, scaly areas, pigmented area under fingernail. There are many signs that point toward skin cancer; the American Academy of Dermatology offers an exhaustive list of things you should look out for.

Since a list exists, why aren’t more people noticing these skin changes to catch cancer early on? Well, for one, it’s hard to examine certain places on your body such as your back. So in that instance, it’s a good idea (especially if you’ve been out in the sun a lot) to get someone else to check your back for you. If your family member notices anything while checking your back for any skin patches or pigmented areas, you should bring it up to your doctor for a professional opinion.

Once you notice a change in your skin texture or color, watch it over time, even if your doctor says it’s nothing. Just look at it: if it’s in an area that’s hard for you to see, ask someone else to check it out for you. Keep track of any changes: does it worsen? has it started to ooze? is it bleeding? what do you notice about the shape?

It’s All About the D-light!

The sun feels great on our skin, which is why people flock to beaches and lounge poolside when the summer weather kicks in. Yet, the sun is feared by many because of its ability to burn your skin and trigger normal skin cells to become cancer cells.  For many folks who fear the sun’s damaging effects, they never leave home without slathering loads of sunscreen, carrying umbrellas to block the sun, and wearing both large-brim hats and sunglasses.

The sun has gotten a bit of a bad rap. The problem isn’t the sun but the way people tip the scale toward either extreme. Think of a playground seesaw. If two kids of similar weight each sit on one end of the seesaw, then the seesaw is balanced. Once an adult trades places with one of the kids the seesaw is no longer balanced. That’s what happens when too much sunscreen is slathered on — people block out the sun’s production of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is an important nutrient that is made when the sun hits the skin. Sunlight triggers a series of reactions in skin to produce vitamin D. So if the sun is blocked by powerful SPFs people become deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is associated with bone strength; however, the nutrient has many other healthful benefits: enhances immunity, prevents cancer, reduces sunburn, and protects against conditions such as heart disease.

When it comes to sun exposure, too little means vitamin D deficiency and too much spells sunburns and skin cancer risk. Engage in sun safe practices: the goal year-round is to allow your skin to get a limited amount of sun exposure before putting on your sunscreen, so you’re not blocking sunlight completely. For more information, check out the American Cancer Society’s tips on sun protection.

Animal Protein Lowers Stroke Risk

Animal Protein

All roads of chronic disease lead to inflammation. Chronic, low-grade inflammation, not acute inflammation, is involved with the development of many complex medical problems, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cancer. Acute inflammation is a normal physiological response to infection and injury in the body; inflammation is characterized by swelling, redness, heat, and pain all of which are caused by vasodilation, increased blood flow, and immune cells flooding the area in response to tissue damage or an infection. Acute inflammation lasts anywhere from minutes to hours to a few days at the most. However, when inflammation lasts for several days to years, the normal process becomes abnormal. Just think about what happens during an inflammatory response—specialized cells that neutralize and engulf debris and microorganisms migrate into an area of damaged tissue; dilated blood vessels bring heat, swelling, and redness to the area too. After months and years of this type of response damage in the tissues ensue.

What causes chronic inflammation? Well a lot of the toxins in our environment introduce poisons into our body, and those toxins trigger an inflammatory response. Over time, the inflammation becomes chronic and leads to disease. Our diet is another way in which chronic inflammation develops. Foods such as refined grains, sugar, and flour and fast food activate proinflammatory molecules in the body, which cause disease. Cardiovascular disease is a classic example of how chronic inflammation triggers disease in the body. Part of the paradigm of inflammation is increased blood flow. In chronic inflammation, continued vasodilation causes wear and tear to the blood vessel’s inner lining, which is called the endothelium. A loss of integrity in the endothelial layer disrupts many of the normal functions of this vascular layer and results in the following problems:

  • Loss of clotting ability
  • Impaired immune response
  • Impair vascular dilation or constriction

Endothelial dysfunction plays a significant role in cardiovascular events such as a heart attack or stroke because arteries lose the ability to dilate fully. Both a heart attack and a stroke occur because adequate blood is not supplied to the heart or brain, respectively. During a stroke, the arteries supplying a part of the brain are partially or completely blocked, which prevents that area of the brain from receiving oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes of a stroke that area of the brain begins to die. So it’s important to prevent strokes from happening in the first place.

There are many medical recommendations to prevent the risk of a cardiovascular event. A healthy diet and adequate physical activity are two important ways to ensure cardiovascular health. In particular, a meta-analysis published in Neurology concluded that animal protein helps to reduce the risk of stroke. The meta-analysis analyzed the diet and health of over 254,000 study participants who were included in 7 prospective studies and were followed for 14 years. The study adjusted for confounding variables such as elevated cholesterol levels and smoking. The consumption of animal protein resulted in a greater reduction than vegetable protein for stroke risk, which was 29% and 12%, respectively.

While the meta-analysis provides great insights into the importance of protein for health, it’s crucial to recognize that all protein sources—albeit a necessary macronutrient—are not created equally. Animal protein may provide greater protection against strokes; however, it also contains a lot of saturated fat too, which isn’t good for heart health.  When it comes to animal food choices, choose lean animal protein like fish. Fish such as salmon, cod, and mackerel not only provide a good source of protein but also offer omega-3 fats, which is a good anti-inflammatory and pro-heart health nutrient. Free-range chickens are also a good source of animal protein, and they also contain healthy fats like omega-3 too. Opt for grass-fed chicken, beef, pork, and turkey because they are leaner meats, which contain less fat and healthy nutrients.  And don’t make the mistake of eating less vegetables because the provide protein, contain less saturated fat, and pack various bioactive compounds that fight free radical damage and turn off cancer promoter genes. Eat a wide range of vegetables for ample coverage that protects against strokes and other health conditions.