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Cholesterol-Lowering Tips

We all need a little bit of cholesterol. Cholesterol is important in building the structure of our cell membranes, as well as the creation of adrenal hormones and hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, in addition to the production of vitamin D and helping our metabolism. However, it’s also possible to have too much cholesterol in the blood, which can stick to the walls of your arteries and cause them to become narrow or blocked, then increasing your risk of developing coronary artery disease. Essentially, high cholesterol can have quite the domino effect on your health.

There are two main types of cholesterol: LDL (known as the “bad” cholesterol) and HDL (known as the “good” cholesterol.) HDL carries cholesterol from your body to the liver, and then removes it, while LDL causes cholesterol to buildup in your arteries and may lead to the aforementioned complications.

Cholesterol also comes from two different sources: As a result of your liver creating it, or from the foods you eat. Some of the most common foods known to raise levels of cholesterol include foods high in saturated and trans fats, such as baked foods (i.e. cookies and crackers), as well as full-fat dairy products and red meat. You’re also more likely to have higher, unhealthy cholesterol levels if you are obese, don’t get regular exercise, smoke, or have diabetes. As mentioned, high cholesterol can cause the arteries to become narrow or blocked and may reduce blood flow. Complications that can arise from this include chest pain, stroke, and even heart attack – which can be fatal.

In order to prevent these complications and to reduce the bad (LDL) cholesterol in your body, you need to be willing to make some changes – most notably with your lifestyle. The DASH diet (which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is one that focuses on adding more fruits and vegetables into the diet, while reducing foods known to be problematic to your health. Designed to help reduce high blood pressure, the DASH diet has also been known to be of benefit to people with high cholesterol. To keep your cholesterol levels where they need to be, you should also reduce your sodium intake and eat more whole grains. If you’re someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle, start increasing your movement. You need to get some level of exercise almost every day, for a minimum of 30 minutes. By exercising, you will either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, which will help with your cholesterol levels. If you’re a smoker then you should talk to your doctor about quitting, and also avoid alcohol.

You also need to limit both your total and saturated fat levels – though this depends on how many calories you eat per day. For example, if you consume 1,500 calories per day, you shouldn’t have more than 10 grams of saturated fat and 42 to 58 grams of total fat. 2,000 calories per day = no more than 13 grams of saturated fat, 56 to 78 grams of total fat. 2,500 calories per day = no more than 17 grams of saturated fat and 69 to 97 grams of total fat. Saturated fat is what can cause a significant increase in your LDL levels, which is why these numbers are so important to be aware of.

The most common way to determine what your cholesterol levels are at is through a blood test known as a lipid panel or lipid profile. This type of blood test can measure your LDL and HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, as well as a type of fat in the blood known as triglycerides. In order to get the most accurate results, it’s recommended you fast for at least 12 hours prior to having your blood drawn (though drinking a small amount of water is acceptable.)

If your cholesterol levels remain high after making dietary changes, then you may need to move to the next step of defense against high cholesterol, which is with medications. The type of medication that your doctor will prescribe depends upon your health, age, any risk factors you may have, as well as potential side effects. However, some of the most common medications that are prescribed to treat high cholesterol include statins, bile-acid-binding resins, cholesterol absorption inhibitors, as well as medications that are injectable.

Controlling the Obesity Epidemic

Obesity is considered to be one of the most common progressive and chronic diseases by various organizations, including the World Health Organization and both the Canadian and American Medical Associations. However, it is also unfortunately one of the most neglected diseases today, therefore making it a global epidemic. Characterized by excessive accumulation of fat, as many as 3 in 5 Canadians say they identify as being either overweight or obese. Obesity can have a wide range of negative effects on your health, including increasing your risk of heart disease or stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer – and it has been directly attributed to the premature deaths of 1 in 10 Canadians between the ages of 20 and 64. The stigma and stereotypes that are often associated with obesity can also increase one’s risk of being discriminated against – for example, individuals of an average weight may think that someone who is obese is lacking in self-discipline, lazy, or unmotivated – and, as a result of these obesity-related stereotypes, your mental health can also be impacted and could lead to things like stress, anxiety and depression.

Obesity often develops as a result of having an unhealthy diet, eating too much, and not getting enough physical activity – sometimes a combination of all three. However, obesity can also be much more complex than that and could also be the result of a number of other factors, too, including those that are environmental, genetics, emotional, sleeping problems, as well as underlying medical conditions and certain medications.

In order to get a handle on obesity, people often turn to quick-fix solutions (such as fad diets) in effort to lose excess weight. Unfortunately, fad diets are not meant to be followed on a long-term basis, which is why it’s so easy for individuals trying to lose weight to have trouble doing so. When it comes to obesity it’s important to remember that you need to lose weight in order to improve your health. However, weight loss should be looked at as something more than just how much weight you need to lose or how fast you need to lose it. Instead, the focus should be on your overall health and wellbeing – because the healthier you are, the better you will feel and the higher quality of life you will have.

One of the most important steps when it comes to combating obesity is to be able to identify any potential triggers that could be contributing to your weight gain. Are you an emotional eater? Do you eat all the wrong foods? Are your portion sizes too large? Does obesity run in your family? These are all questions that you should know the answer to as well as be willing to address once you have identified them as triggers. Getting down to the root cause of weight problems as well as breaking down those road blocks can ultimately help you be even more successful in your weight loss journey. Next, identify how you define success. Understand the reasons why you’ve made the choice to tackle your weight problem and give yourself a pat on the back, because you’re ultimately one step closer to becoming healthier, and reward yourself when you do reach some weight loss milestones. Knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, as well as knowing you have a healthier, longer life to look forward to can also help keep you motivated.

Visit www.obesitycanada.ca for more information on the obesity epidemic, what’s being done in effort to control it, as well as for different resources to help get you started on your weight loss journey.

Why Sugary Soft Drinks Are Bad For You

5 years ago, it was estimated that Canadians were purchasing as many as 444 millilitres of sugary beverages per capita – which is equal to one can of soda per person, per day, every day. Among some of the research that was done, it found that younger individuals were particularly drawn to these sweet, carbonated beverages – and these drinks were also found to be the single largest contributor of sugar in the average Canadian diet. It’s also not uncommon for someone who drinks one can of soda to drink as many as 2, 3 or even 4 cans in a day. This is because the soda is created to have just the right amount of caffeine, sweetener, and carbonation, which then triggers the release of the brain chemical known as dopamine which gives you that feeling of euphoria. One review conducted by the United States National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health even concluded that drinking soda can be just as, if not more, addictive than illicit drugs such as cocaine, and you ultimately find yourself wanting more of it. There are also many sodas which contain artificial sweeteners as opposed to actual sugar – but don’t let this fool you. It will fool your brain, however, because when you drink a can of soda it triggers your taste receptors which are able to register the sweet flavour and expect to get sugar, but that reward ultimately never comes, which also leads you to drink more of it.

But sugar isn’t the only problem. As mentioned, soda also contains caffeine, which is a stimulant that allows us to feel more awake, alert, and speeds up our thinking process. Similar to sugar, it too can activate the release of dopamine, which also gives it its own addictive-like property, also leading you to want more. When you consume caffeine regularly, your body will also begin to rely on it to increase attentiveness and alertness, and energy – and when you don’t have it, you might start to experience symptoms of withdrawal such as lack of concentration, agitation, and even get headaches or migraines as a result.

Then there’s the fizz factor. Just like sugar and caffeine, carbonation also intensifies that feeling of euphoria you get when drinking soda. But it’s also a trick used to dull the sweet taste by just enough so that you find yourself craving it even more and crack open another can. There’s also the fact that soda is less enjoyed when it loses its carbonation. For example, if you don’t drink a can of soda right away and leave it out sitting, it will lose the fizzy effect, making it less desirable to the taste buds and the brain.

While they’re marketed as being a healthier alternative to regular soda, diet sodas are also just as bad for you – if not worse. While it might offer a brief, short term reprieve in your calorie intake, this isn’t something permanent, and can actually do more harm than good. According to some research, ingesting diet sodas frequently causes an increased desire for high-calorie foods, which puts you at greater risk of gaining weight. Research has also suggested that diet beverages can also change the way the brain reacts to cravings for sweet and high-calorie foods, and cause insulin confusion (including increases in blood glucose levels.) In other words, diet sodas do not do anything in terms of being healthier for you.

Your teeth also won’t be happy if you consume lots of soda, and neither will your dentist. While a dentist might enjoy their field of work, their main goal is to allow you to keep your teeth at their healthiest. The more soda you drink, the less healthy your teeth will be. For example, when you drink soda, it can cause erosion. Erosion is something that occurs when the acids found on sodas come into contact with the outermost protective layer of your teeth known as the tooth enamel. When you drink soda, this surface hardness decreases, which can cause an increase in sensitivity to things like hot, cold, and yes, even sugar. If you find your teeth constantly sensitive to sugar, you may also have developed a cavity as a result of drinking too much soda. When you develop a cavity, this is because the layer underneath the enamel known as the dentin, is damaged, and you will ultimately require fillings when can also sometimes lead to requiring root canals later on if you don’t take care of your teeth.

If you’re craving a sweet beverage, the best thing you can do is create your own – simply by mixing together water and your favourite fruit. While it may not give off the exact same sweet taste as you’re used to with soda or fruit juices, it is a much healthier alternative.

Prevention and Treatment of Blood Clots

Blood clots are likely something you’ve heard about before, but you may not be aware of the dangers that are associated with them. In fact, without urgent care, blood clots can even become fatal – which is why it’s so crucial to know the warning signs and seek immediate treatment upon the first signs that something may be wrong.

First, you should know that there are two different types of blood clot formation that can occur: Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Deep vein thrombosis is when a blood clot forms in a vein, often in the leg or pelvis; while a pulmonary embolism, on the other hand, is when the clot breaks and travels from one area of the body up into the lungs and is considered to be a life-threatening medical emergency. However, with the proper diagnosis and treatment, deaths related to blood clots can often be avoided.

In some cases, patients may not notice any bothersome signs or symptoms that they have DVT. However, possible signs and symptoms that can occur as a result of Deep Vein Thrombosis include pain in the affected area (i.e. the leg), swelling of the leg, ankle or foot, warmth, redness, and even discolouration. If you have a Pulmonary Embolism, some symptoms that an individual might experience include shortness of breath, rapid breathing and heart rate, chest pain, feeling lightheaded, and even loss of consciousness. Again, if you or anyone you know develops any of these symptoms, then you should seek immediate medical attention, as the quicker you are seen and treated, the better.

While blood clots can happen to anyone at any time, there are also certain risk factors that can increase your risk of developing them. For example, lack of movement. This can include living a sedentary lifestyle and not getting enough exorcise, having to stay on bed rest, or traveling for long periods of time (i.e. in a plane or vehicle) without being able to get up and walk around. Having certain surgical procedures (such as hip or knee surgery) can also increase your risk of developing blood clots. Things like obesity, pregnancy, use of oral contraceptives, tobacco use, chronic inflammatory disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history and age all also play a role in increasing your chances of developing blood clots, which is why it’s so crucial to stay as healthy as you possibly can.

When it comes to preventing blood clots, you need to be proactive. If you’re someone who doesn’t get much movement or plan on sitting for extended periods of time (i.e. at work/school), then take a break for a few minutes and get up, stretch and walk around, as movement is important for blood flow. If you’re going into the hospital for a surgical procedure, you will likely be assessed for your risk of developing blood clots – though your surgeon will have weighed the risks vs. benefits. It can always be a good idea, however, to ask your doctor if any preventative measures can be taken both before your hospitalization and once you’ve been discharged.

As for treating blood clots, aside from being proactive with your health, there are also a variety of medications that are used. Types of drugs that are most commonly used to prevent and/or treat blood clots include anticoagulants (which inhibit one or more clotting factors – a group of blood proteins that are responsible for blood clotting), thrombolytics (given to dissolve blood clots that are in the process of forming), and anti-platelet medications (which reduce the “stickiness” of blood platelets.) As with any medication, these can all come with side effects. Anticoagulants, such as Warfarin, can also be difficult in terms of getting the dosing correct, while thrombolytic drugs also come with a fairly substantial risk of developing bleeding complications. Compression stockings are also often beneficial in reducing swelling and preventing blood clots from forming. In some cases, a patient may require a surgical procedure known as a catheter-directed thrombolysis procedure in which a small, long tube is directed to the blood clot. Medication is then delivered through the catheter to help dissolve the clot; while another procedure, known as thrombectomy surgery, is when doctors will carefully remove a blood clot. A patient may also require a stent to keep blood vessels open.

The Lymphatic System and Your Health

The lymphatic system is one of the most important systems within the body, playing a central role to your overall health. However, it is also one of the most overlooked systems. It’s complex, but it’s also intuitive in warding off infections, and much more. Within the lymphatic system are lymphatic vessels containing fluid-filled immune cells, in addition to as many as 600 pea-sized, bean-shaped glands known as lymph nodes. Together, these help to fight disease. While on the move, the immune cells scan for any potential threats to your body – such as a virus or bacterium. If a threat is detected, these cells trigger an increase in the number of disease-fighting cells in effort to thwart off whatever the threat may be (such as an infection.) The lymphatic system also works to remove other impurities and waste products from the body, and it also protects you from toxins.

As for where your lymph nodes are located, they are throughout the body in clusters, but they tend to be most prominent in the neck, armpits, and groin. For example, when you develop a common cold, you may notice a tiny, firm lump appear just underneath the side of your neck. This typically isn’t anything to be alarmed about and is usually a sign that your immune system is doing what it needs to do in effort to clear the infection from your body and will usually go away after a week or two. In some instances, having enlarged lymph nodes may be indicative of a more serious health problem, or could even be due to a reaction to a medication. If the enlarged node happens to get bigger and lasts for more than 2 weeks, it’s recommended that you get it checked out by your physician.

In order for your lymphatic system to work as it should, you need to keep it as healthy as possible, which means maintaining your overall health. Having an unhealthy lymphatic system has been associated with many different types of illness, including MS (multiple sclerosis), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, poor digestion, and other general aches and pains. It has also been linked to an increase in fat deposits, cellulite, as well as obesity.

So, what can you do to ensure your lymphatic system is a healthy as possible? By now, most of us are aware that the foods we eat play an integral role in our health and can be very beneficial in maintaining our weight in addition to reducing the risk of things like heart disease and diabetes – but having a healthy diet is equally as important for the lymphatic system, too. For example, things like preservatives, excess sugar and processed foods can all be quite straining on the lymphatic system without you even realizing it, so you’ll want to make sure the foods you’re eating are as natural and as organic as possible. Fruits and vegetables, in particular, are great for the lymphatic system as they provide it with essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. In addition, green vegetables also contain something known as chlorophyll, which is also beneficial to your lymphatic system; while foods containing essential fatty acids (such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and almonds) are also great options. You should also make sure you’re drinking plenty of water each day, as the lymphatic system depends upon a constant supply of fluid in order for it to fully function. When you suffer from muscle strains or general aches and pains, a massage can not only help you feel better, but it can also stimulate the lymph nodes and promote fluid movement. Staying active is also key, as your lymphatic system relies on muscle movement to also promote the flow of fluid throughout the lymph vessels. Activity can include everything from walking to yoga, stretching, and even strength training.

Learn more about the lymphatic system here.

Pregnancy and Your Diet

When you’re pregnant, you’re “eating for two” (yourself and your unborn baby); and while you should always be sure you’re eating a healthy, well balanced diet regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, pregnancy is a time where you should pay close attention to the things you’re eating and ensure you’re making the healthiest possible choices.

For example, when it comes to nutrition, pregnant women need more calcium, iron, and folic acid compared to women who aren’t pregnant.

Calcium is important during pregnancy as it helps to build your baby’s bones and teeth. Some great food sources of calcium include dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, in addition to calcium-fortified juices, as well as leafy green vegetables such as kale and bok choy. It is recommended that you get anywhere from 1,000 to 1,300 mg of calcium per day during pregnancy. Pregnant women also need more iron – at least 26 mg per day – as it helps to create more blood to supply your baby with oxygen. Not getting enough iron during pregnancy can lead to a condition known as anemia, which can cause fatigue as well as increase your risk of developing infections. Good sources of iron include iron-fortified cereal, meat, poultry, fish, beans and peas. You can also improve your body’s ability to absorb iron by also including a source of vitamin C at the same time. Folic acid, also known as folate, is also something you will need more of if you’re pregnant as it helps to prevent different types of birth defects, including brain and spinal cord defects. You can get some folic acid from different food sources, such as leafy green vegetables, beans and citrus fruits, though it’s not as easy to get the suggested amount of folic acid from just diet alone in comparison to other nutrients, which is why it’s important that you take a daily vitamin (or prenatal vitamin) to ensure you’re getting the adequate amount.

Now that you know which foods and nutrients you need more of, it’s also important to be aware of which things you need to avoid or limit from your diet when you are pregnant. Coffee, for example, is generally considered safe during pregnancy – though you should limit your caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day, which is the equivalent of one 12-ounce cup. Certain types of fish, such as albacore tuna, are known to contain high levels of mercury which can be harmful to your baby’s brain development and should be avoided, while it is safe to eat other types of fish, such as salmon, though this should also be limited to 8 to 12 ounces per week. When eating things like meat and poultry, make sure they are not raw or undercooked. If these foods are not cooked thoroughly, this increases your risk of passing on a toxoplasma infection to your baby which can lead to blindness or mental disabilities. Alcohol is also something that should be avoided, as alcohol in your blood can pass directly to your unborn baby through the umbilical cord and has been linked to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders which can result in physical, learning and behavioural problems in both babies and children.

Food cravings also commonly occur during pregnancy. When you develop a food craving, you may have a strong urge for certain foods, such as those that are sweet or salty, or even some downright bizarre combinations. Having cravings doesn’t necessarily mean you want a specific food – instead, it is usually the body’s way of giving off a sign that it wants more nutrients. On the flip side, you may also develop a strong dislike for certain foods that you once enjoyed when you weren’t pregnant.

Heartburn and Indigestion

While heartburn and indigestion are often used interchangeably, they are actually two different conditions – though both can be triggered by one common factor: The foods we eat. But first, we’ll discuss the difference between the two. Indigestion is a condition that consists of symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea and bloating, gas, belching, and sometimes even diarrhea; whereas heartburn consists of symptoms such as chest pain, a burning sensation in the chest and/or throat, the taste of sour/acidic fluid in the back of the throat (also known as regurgitation), and even the sensation of food being stuck in the throat.

While heartburn and indigestion can be triggered by many things, food, as mentioned, is often the biggest culprit for a trigger of both of these conditions. Among some of the most commonly known triggers for heartburn are fried, greasy foods, as well as things like chocolate, tomatoes, citrus fruits, fruit juice, as well as drinking carbonated and alcoholic beverages. Eating larger meals in addition to eating right before bed can also cause heartburn. In some cases, the symptoms and pain associated with heartburn can be so severe that one may in fact think they are having a heart attack, hence how the condition got its name. There are also certain lifestyle habits that can be contributing factors, such as being overweight, smoking, and even stress. Similar to heartburn, indigestion can also be triggered by certain foods in addition to overeating or eating too quickly, smoking, anxiety, as well as taking certain medications and supplements – such as antibiotics, pain relievers, and iron. Indigestion has also been linked to other health conditions such as ulcers and abnormalities of the pancreas; therefore, if your symptoms are severe or persist for more than two weeks, you should book an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

There are many things you can do in order to find relief from heartburn and indigestion. First, try to avoid chewing with your mouth open, eating too fast, or talking while you’re chewing, as when you do this, this causes you to swallow air which can lead to indigestion. It’s also recommended that you drink beverages after meals rather than right before or during, and make sure you rest after meals before doing any immediate strenuous activity. If you suffer from heartburn, you can often find quick relief from over-the-counter antacids (i.e. Tums); though if you’re finding that these aren’t effective enough, you may need to turn to something stronger and your doctor will have to write you a prescription. Common prescription strength medications that are prescribed to treat heartburn include Histamine-2 blockers (also known as H2 blockers), Proton Pump Inhibitors (also known as PPIs), and promotility agents. Many of these medications are often a case of trial and error and finding what best works for you. Bismuth subsalicylate is another OTC medication that you can get at the drug store, which can help provide you with quick and effective relief of many of the symptoms associated with both indigestion and heartburn, including upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea – but be careful to follow the dosing instructions, as too much of this medication can lead to a stomach bleed.

It’s also important to know which foods to avoid in order to prevent a flare-up of symptoms, and which foods you should be eating more of. As mentioned, greasy, fried and acidic foods are all bad for heartburn and indigestion. Instead, try incorporating more vegetables into your diet. They are naturally low in both fat and sugar and can therefore help to reduce stomach acid, while other foods such as ginger, oatmeal, egg whites, and lean meat and seafood are also all easier on the stomach.

It is important to note that chest pain, while a common symptom of heartburn, can also be a major red flag and indication of something other than heartburn, such as a heart attack, so it’s always a good idea to get this and any other unusual symptoms double checked by a medical professional just to rule out anything serious.

Getting a Comfortable Sleep During the Summer Months

For those who suffer from insomnia, you know how hard falling asleep (and staying asleep!) can be. For those of you who don’t suffer from insomnia, getting a good night’s rest can still be difficult – especially on nights as hot as the ones we’ve been experiencing in Vancouver lately thanks to warmer than usual weather. So what do you do if you’re finding it too uncomfortable to get that desperately needed shut-eye? Check out some helpful tips and tricks below.

1. AIR CONDITIONING. If you’re looking for a quick cool-down, crank up the A/C. Of course this is the obvious answer, but unfortunately not everyone has (or can afford) an air conditioning unit; while others who do have air conditioning may find it aggravates their sinuses, therefore avoiding use of them all together for that reason. A/C can also aggravate other pre-existing medical conditions, such as low blood pressure, arthritis, and neuritis, as well as cause dry skin, and may even cause breathing problems. If you suffer from any of these conditions, then air conditioning is something you should avoid and you should instead use fans.

2. ALOE VERA. Aloe vera has many great uses. In fact, you can even buy aloe vera juice to drink at the grocery store. What you might not know about aloe vera gel, however, is that is has great cooling effects. Applying a small amount of aloe vera gel onto the skin before going to bed at night can help cool you down, and will feel soothing to the skin as well. (Tip: It’s also good to use on sun burns and minor bug bites (such as mosquito bites.)

3. APPLY ICE. Applying ice isn’t just to relieve pain and swelling due to injury. It can also help you get a better night’s rest, especially if applied to certain pulse points, such as behind the knees, ankles, groin, elbows, wrists and neck.

4. TAKE A COLD SHOWER. Sometimes the best way to cool down quickly is by hopping in a cold shower. This will not only rinse off the sweat, but showering in cooler water will also help to bring down your core body temperature and leave you feeling much more comfortable and less restless before you go to sleep.

5. TURN OFF THE LIGHTS. Turning off lights isn’t just about saving on the electricity bill. Certain lighting can also give off quite a bit of heat. Because it stays lighter out longer during the summer, you should try to take advantage of the natural light from outside as much as possible, and only turn on your indoor lights when it is absolutely, 100% necessary. Additionally, certain electronics, like television, can also give off heat, so keep them off whenever they’re not being watched.

Summer Health Hazards

Warmer weather can be a nice break from all the rain we’re used to getting in Vancouver, but there are also certain hazards that come along with the summer and heat. Find out what some of those are below, along with what precautions you should take to protect yourself.

Dehydration
Staying hydrated is important. Not just during the summer months, but all the time. Drinking water not only keeps you hydrated and helps regulate body temperature, but it also increases energy levels and helps with muscle performance. Unfortunately, summer is a season where it’s not uncommon for physicians to see patients presenting with symptoms of dehydration – usually due to a combination of staying in the heat for prolonged periods of time while not drinking enough water. Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, dizziness, confusion, nausea, dry mouth, irritability, and extreme thirst. Seniors and children are much more susceptible to becoming dehydrated, so make sure you have plenty of water on hand.

Sunburn
An estimated 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada each year, and your risk of developing skin cancer doubles if you’ve had just 5 sunburns. While it might sound hard to believe, it’s true. This is one of the many reasons why physicians warn about the dangers of ultraviolet rays – whether it’s from direct sunlight or the use of tanning beds. If you’re going to be outdoors, you need to take precautions to protect your skin. Dr. Ghahary recommends wearing an SPF 30, as it will block at least 97% of UVB radiation. In addition, you should also wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your scalp, as well as sunglasses to protect your eyes. Sunburns can be severe, so if you do have one and need to find relief, taking a cold bath can help alleviate some of the pain. Finding a gentle moisturizer that contains aloe vera can also be soothing to the skin. You can also get relief by taking over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, to help with the discomfort as well as reduce inflammation.

Food Poisoning
That summer picnic or BBQ may actually be a breeding ground for bacteria. In order to avoid food poisoning at your next picnic or BBQ, you should always make sure any meat or poultry you plan on grilling is thoroughly thawed and prepared (such as marinated) prior to leaving home. You should also make sure all produce is washed thoroughly before eating it. You should also pack your cooler correctly. It’s important to keep any thawed, raw foods separate from foods that are already cooked or don’t require cooking. Coolers should contain plenty of ice packs and be a temperature of no higher than 40°F. Before and after handling food, make sure your hands are washed thoroughly. Foods should also be kept out of direct sunlight and shouldn’t be left out sitting for more than 2 hours. If the outside temperature is 90°F or above, then foods shouldn’t be left out for longer than 1 hour. And, as always, make sure foods (especially meat, poultry and seafood) are cooked thoroughly before consumption. Symptoms of food poisoning can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and can sometimes be severe and may require medical intervention.

Insect Bites and Stings
Bites and stings are another common occurrence around summertime. Especially mosquito bites and bee stings. For some, bites and stings can be more of a painful nuisance, but for others they may be life-threatening as it’s possible to develop an allergic reaction as a result of a bite or sting. While they’re not 100% preventable, there are certain steps you can take in effort to try and avoid being bitten or stung, such as avoiding wearing perfumes, light-coloured clothing, and guard sugary foods or beverages (such as soda.) Pain, tenderness and itching can all occur as a result of a bite or a sting. However, if you develop hives or swelling across large areas of your body, notice swelling of the face or tongue, or develop a tight chest or have trouble breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Heat-Related Illness

With temperatures reaching as high as 33 degrees Celsius in parts of Metro Vancouver this week, it’s important be aware of the dangers of heat-related illness, including:

• Heat Stroke
• Heat Exhaustion
• Heat Cramps
• Heat Rash
• Sunburn

While many of these heat-related illnesses have similar symptoms, they can affect the body in different ways.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke occurs when the body loses its ability to regular its temperature. As a result, your body temperature can rise rapidly (within 10 to 15 minutes.) If you do not seek immediate treatment for heat stroke, permanent disability or even death can occur.

Warning Signs/Symptoms: High body temperature, red/hot/dry skin (without sweating), rapid pulse, severe headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness.

If you notice any of the aforementioned warning signs of heat stroke in yourself or someone else, it’s important to seek medical attention right away by calling 911. As you await for medical personnel to arrive, make sure yourself or the victim is in a shady or air conditioned area, and try different cooling efforts such as spraying down with cool water, using a cool wet towel, or sitting in front of a fan.

Heat Exhaustion
This is a milder heat-related illness that typically occurs after several days of exposure to warm temperatures and lack of fluids. Those most at risk of developing heat exhaustion are younger children, the elderly, and people with high blood pressure. You can also develop heat exhaustion as a result of working or exercising in a hot environment.

Warning Signs/Symptoms: Fatigue, sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fainting, headache, pale skin.

To decrease the symptoms of heat exhaustion, make sure you drink plenty of water, get lots of rest, and stay in an air-conditioned environment. Taking a cool shower can also help to relieve the symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Heat Cramps
If you’re noticing muscle spasms, this could be due to heat cramps, which usually occur as a result of exercising and sweating during strenuous activity in the heat. As you sweat, the body depletes of moisture and salt, resulting in the cramps.

Warning Signs/Symptoms: Muscle pain, spasms (generally in the legs, arms and/or abdomen.)

While medical attention is not usually necessary for heat cramps, you should still avoid strenuous activity until the cramps subside, as further exertion can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Make sure you also sit in a cool or air conditioned place, and replenish yourself with water or a sports drink. If your cramps persist after an hour, you should get yourself to a doctor.

Heat Rash
Heat rash can occur at any age, though it is most common in children, and it is caused as a result of excessive sweating from hot weather.

Warning Signs/Symptoms: Skin irritation and rash (appearing as a small red cluster of pimples or blisters) on the neck, upper chest, in elbow creases, under the breasts, or on the groin.

Treating heat rash is quite simple. Dusting powder can provide relief, and it’s also a good idea to keep children in a cooler environment during extreme temperatures/heat waves.

Sun Burn
While sunburn is sometimes minor, it can also be severe and cause quite a bit of damage to the skin. Over time, exposure to too much sun can also lead to melanoma (skin cancer.)

Warning Signs/Symptoms: Abnormally warm skin, red skin, skin inflammation, dry skin, skin that peels.

If you are going to be outdoors for prolonged periods of time, it is important that you wear a sunscreen (SPF 15 or 30) to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. When treating sunburn, it is important to avoid sun exposure. Applying a gentle moisturizing lotion and cold compresses to the affected areas can provide relief. Also make sure you do not break any blisters that might appear as a result of the burn.