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HOW DO I PROTECT MYSELF FROM UV RAYS?

Some people think about sun protection only when they are spending the day at the beach, lake or pool. But did you know that the sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, even on slightly cloudy or cool days? We all need a gentle reminder to protect our skin not only in the summer months, but all year round.

Our skin is the body’s largest organ. It protects us against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. According to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., every year, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer. However, most skin cancers are preventable if you take the necessary precautions.

If you’re wondering if it is possible to avoid the sun completely, it’s not possible or healthy. Our bodies need vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth and we get most of our vitamin D from the sun. Although we need the nutrients, there are ways to help ensure you’re not getting too much sun. If you’re going to be outside, reduce your exposure and risk for skin cancer by using the layered approach.

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours when the sun’s UV rays are strongest
  • Protect your skin with clothing and wear a hat to protect your head, face, and neck
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV to protect your eyes and the skin around them
  • Use SPF 15 sunscreen or higher to help protect the skin that isn’t covered

It doesn’t matter your skin tone or age, anyone can get skin cancer. To ensure protection, make sure you are taking the necessary steps before heading outside.

Safe Fun in the Sun

Summer is here and in full swing, which means the sun will be shining its brightest. While we may all love that extra bit of sunlight throughout the day and can be healthy in many ways, the direct sunlight of the summer months is also a source of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. Therefore, July is recognized as UV Safety Awareness Month.

While UV rays only account for a slight portion of all the sun’s rays, they may be the most dangerous in terms of their effect on the skin. UV radiation is a major risk factor for many skin cancers, therefore the more you’re exposed to them, the greater the risk of developing it. However, UV rays aren’t limited to just the sunlight. UV radiation exposure can also occur in tanning beds, mercury lamps, and welding equipment among other things.

According to the American Cancer Society, the strength of the UV rays determines how much a person is exposed. The following is a list of factors that determine the strength of UV rays.

  • Time of Day – UV rays are strongest between 10 AM to 4 PM
  • SeasonUV rays are strongest during the spring and summer months
  • Equator – The further from the equator the weaker the exposure
  • Altitude – UV rays reach the ground more frequently at higher elevations
  • Reflection off Surfaces – Surfaces like water, sand, or snow allow UV rays to bounce and ultimately lead to more exposure.

UV rays have short and long wavelengths that can penetrate the outer and middle layer of your skin. In addition to sunburn and premature skin aging, UV radiation can lead to vision issues like cataracts, suppression of your immune system, and of course skin cancer. So how can you better protect yourself during the upcoming months? Per the USVA, you can lower your risk by doing the following:

  • Cover Up – Hats, long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses are all options that can help shield your body from exposure
  • Stay in the Shade – Staying in a shaded area midday, especially during 10 AM – 4 PM can help keep you protected
  • Choose the Right Sunscreen – Be sure to buy sunscreen SPF 15 or above that protects against UV-A and UV-B rays
  • Use (the right amount of) Sunscreen – It’s recommended to apply a least a palmful every few hours, even if it is waterproof.

Don’t let the UV rays ruin your summer. Make sure to take the proper precautions to stay safe during your fun in the sun. Be sure to reach out to your doctor if you have questions or need sunscreen recommendations that fit your health plan.

Vaccinations, Please

One of the common misconceptions revolving around healthcare happens to deal with immunizations. Many people may believe that the need for immunizations ends in adolescence, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Every year there are thousands of adult cases of serious health problems that lead to hospitalization, or even death that could have been prevented by immunization. August is National Immunization Awareness Month and the goal is to highlight the importance vaccinations play in the health of people of all ages.

WebMD lists a few reasons to get immunized:

  • Immunizations protect you and/or your children from dangerous diseases, and help reduce the spread of disease to others.
  • They are often needed for entrance into schools or day cares, and sometimes needed for employment, or travel to another county.
  • Getting immunizations cost less than the treatment for the disease you are trying to get protected from.

Furthermore, as we mentioned, while the importance of vaccines for children is well known, the trend doesn’t quite carryover to adulthood and Healthmap helped discuss this trend. One of the main barriers is that adults simply don’t realize they need immunizations. While many may receive a flu vaccine, many more are unaware of the need for others. For example, the shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 60+, yet less than 16% of that population has received it.

We believe we should continue to encourage everyone, including adults, to get their vaccines. Even if you received them as children, as you get older they tend to wear off, and you can especially be susceptible to illness if you have chronic diseases. Adults with heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes are especially urged to stay up to date with vaccines. The CDC recommends that all adults get the following vaccines:

  • Influenza vaccine (every year to protect against the flu)
  • Td vaccine (every 10 years for tetanus)
  • Tdap vaccine (Protects against tetanus, whooping cough, and should use during each pregnancy)
  • Other vaccines (shingles, HPV, measles, mumps, hepatitis A and B, etc.)

Vaccinations are important no matter what stage of life you’re in. Preventable diseases tend to reappear when immunization rates drop so it’s vital to keep up with your vaccines. Luckily, R-Health members can get their vaccines right in the office, at no additional cost to you. Last minute vacations are still in the works, and back to school season is just a few weeks away, so be sure to consult with your doctor and schedule any immunizations you and/or your children may need. If you have questions or fears about any vaccines, your R-Health doctor is available for a free and open discussion. Your individual health is always our top priority.

Park Appreciation!

Every month we try to highlight new ways to promote a healthy and active lifestyle. July is no different, as this month is recognized as Park and Recreation Month. Across the country, parks are highlighted due to their innate nature of enriching health and wellness, but also their help with community building and conservation efforts.

While you may think parks are great, sometimes you don’t have the time to look for them. Luckily, we have discovered a few close by. In relation to our R-Health locations, here are a few neighboring parks that you can explore:

Moreover, Parks and Recreation Month has been celebrated in July since 1985 with hopes of encouraging people to explore these local parks and engage in outdoor activities. With help from City of Columbia and Plan4Health, here are a few more reasons:

  1. Strengthen community image and sense of place
    • Parks provide a space which allow citizens to gather for festivals to public and private events. Weddings, picnics, and family reunions are all events that gather communities together and uplifts the area.
  2. Supports economic development/local ecosystems
    • Many parks contain sports fields, trails, beaches and other spaces that can play host for tournaments, festivals, and other activities that draw tourism dollars into the respective areas
  3. Strengths safety and security
    • Many recreational areas provide lessons in biking, swimming, etc. It serves as a great way to guide children on how to have fun, safely
  4. Increases children’s chances of success in school
    • Children with greater access to parks are more likely to be active, and studies have shown active children perform better in school
  5. Have a more positive outlook
    • Spending time in areas like parks help reduce stress and improve mental health. Creativity strengths and aggression lessens the more time spent outdoors.
  6. Facilitate Community Problem Solving
    • Many Parks and Recreation departments can not only help solve community problems, but are eager to do so. Reaching out to your locate parks department can facilitate a better overall community experience.

These are simple a few of the top reasons to explore parks, but it’s understood that convenience plays a big role. Fortunately, all the parks listed above are within 10-15 minutes of your R-Health doctor. Therefore, whether you have some free time before or after an appointment, or just on a random summer day, stop by one of these parks and really embrace the nature in your community.

Stay Easy, Breezy

The summer heat can be intolerable to some and indifferent to others. But for the most part, you would find that majority of people prefer not to be bombarded with summer heat waves. While there’s only so many times you can cool off in the pool, we thought it best to share tips on how to stay cool in the summer, and which foods may help.

Keeping cool during high temperatures is imperative. It’s not only about comfort but also the health risks that are heat-related. Per WebMD, there are a few heat-related illnesses:

  • Heat exhaustion – Develops from loss of large amounts of water and salt in body from excessive sweating. May interfere with brain function, and may be susceptible to people with heart, lung, or kidney problems
  • Heat cramps – also occurs when the body loses excessive amounts of fluids and salts. Can result in spasms of larger muscles throughout the body, which may be induced by people who work and/or exercise in hot environments
  • Heat stroke – The most severe of the three listed. Occurs from long, intense heat exposure to the body. Harshly affects the brain that regulates body temperature, disallowing the body to cool down.

As you notice, these are threats that may gravely affect the body if you are not proactive. However, MedicineNet provided a few ways to keep cool:

  1. Alter your pattern of outdoor exercise to take advantage of the cooler times (early mornings or late evenings)
    • If you can’t change, lessen the intensity and/or the duration
  2. Wear loose fitted clothes, preferably of lighter color
    • Cotton clothing will keep cooler than most synthetics
  3. Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it refrigerated, and use for a quick spray when you’re outdoors
    • Also, keep water bottles in the freezer to take with you outside
  4. Fans can circulate air better even in an air-conditioned house
  5. Drink plenty of water, sports drinks, and other sources of electrolytes
    • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these will promote dehydration
  6. If you don’t have air conditioning arrange to spend parts of your days in areas that are cool
    • e. Shopping malls, public libraries, movie theaters, etc.
  7. Use common sense – if the heat is unyielding, stay indoors and/or avoid direct sunlight and hot asphalt surfaces

Furthermore, staying indoors and carrying portable fans aren’t the only way to stay cool. There are plenty of foods that are not only healthy but very refreshing during hot summer days. GreenLiving shared some fruits and vegetables that help you stay energized and cool for the summer.

  • Fruits
    • Watermelon – A summer favorite, it contains 90% water and has big amounts of vitamins A and C
    • Cantaloupe and Honeydew Melon – Another fruit packed with water, they are low in calories and high in potassium. Also, a great source for losing weight and helping with cardiovascular issues
    • Citrus fruits – These may include oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes – keeps you refreshed and looking younger, due to the nutrients that help with healthy skin.
  • Vegetables
    • Cucumber – Another water fresh food that helps flush toxins out of the body and maintain healthy tissue and skin
    • Radishes – They are a great source of vitamin C and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
    • Leafy greens – These may include spinach, arugula, and herbs like mint, and focusing on the latter, mint has great cooling properties. It can relieve indigestion and inflammation and can be used for a lot of your iced teas
    • *Be mindful, don’t consume any of these foods if you are sensitive/allergic*

As you can see, there are many ways to thwart any inconveniences that come with intense summer heat. Following these tips will surely help and may even encourage you to spend more times outdoors. However, if you have any further questions on combatting the heat, or other foods to consume, be sure to visit your well air-conditioned, R-Health doctor’s office!