Friday, May 29, 2009

"When the Well's dry, we know the Worth of Water" - B. Franklin

W.H. Auden wisely stated, "Thousands have lived without love, not one without water."

While we have all been told to drink anywhere from six to eight glasses of water a day, most of us do not. Sure, we drink a water bottle's worth during our workouts. We ask our waiter to being us a glass when we are at dinner. But we rarely sip water throughout the day; instead choosing to enjoy a coffee in the morning, Coke at lunch and wine at dinner.

I'm sure you have heard the basic benefits of water consumption when it comes to things like clear skin, basic hydration and weight loss. However, there are more vital reasons and statistics that will leave you looking for the nearest drinking fountain.

Did you know that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated (and that likely applies to half the world population)?

It leaves me to wonder, why a nation so blessed with extravagance and an abundance of resources would take for granted the most beneficial resource pertaining to our health and well being. We have purifiers, distillers, water with carbonation, water without carbonation...all at our fingertips. Yet, if you look across the oceans you will find people so desperate for water they drink from gutters, gulping water filled with contaminants.

Did you know drinking five glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer?

Imagine that you can help yourself that much by simply drinking water every day. With healthcare in limbo and prescription prices continually rising, having the ability to partake in active prevention methods is a luxury many cannot afford NOT to take.

Did you know a mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or printed page?

Work days seem longer, lunch breaks shorter and our concentration levels often plummet towards the end of the day. While there are any number of reasons for the dragging feeling we get at the end of the day, lack of water is a leading cause. The next time you feel your brain drifting to a place far away from the task at hand, try drinking a full glass of ice water and see what happens.

Lastly, we are all jumping on and off the fit train at various times throughout our lives. We cut calories by cutting food intake. We deprive ourselves of the red velvet cupcake we love. We run an extra mile after indulging in too much wine. But we rarely attribute weight loss or weight gain to water consumption.

In fact, one glass of water shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters in a recent U-Washington study. In addition, the thirst mechanism in 37% of Americans is so weak it is often mistaken for hunger.

Most assume dieting is all about subtraction, but it is also about addition. The addition of water will help increase your metabolism. Ironically, even MILD dehydration will slow down your metabolism as much as 3%, making weight loss more difficult despite diet changes and exercise increases.

The next time to find yourself fatigued in the middle of the work day, drink water. The next time you jump on the fit train in hopes of shedding a few unwanted pounds, remember to consistently consume water. True, it is at our fingertips but not all are so lucky...take advantage of this natural prevention method and help yourself combat the daily wear and tear on the body.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Don't Fry Day"

Today is Don't Fry Day, designated by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to help raise public awareness of skin cancer and prevention methods as we all prepare for the kick-off to summer!

The Friday before Memorial Day is the perfect time to remind people of the serious affects from UV exposure, as well as reiterate the various ways we can protect our skin while still enjoying the warm temps and the glorious sun.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In fact, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime.

As I am sure many of you would attest, we become wiser with age. As teenagers, we rarely apply adequate amounts of sunscreen (despite mom's reminders) in hopes of attaining that bronze glow. I can remember lathering-up in tanning oil, and as long as it had SPF 4 I believed I was protected. I rarely burned, and if I did "it would turn into a tan the next day." After all, I had Portuguese in my blood and olive colored skin, so I was immune to skin cancer.

During the summer of 2005, I noticed a mole on my inner thigh. I thought nothing of it, and simply said to my doctor, "Will you please check this, so my mother will stop nagging me about it?" She biopsied it that day.

I had malignant melanoma.

One week later I was at MD Anderson in Houston, sitting in a waiting room staring at people that looked as normal as I did. But I also saw men and women with bodies scarred from surgeries; disfigured faces that resembled the spot a nose or ear once existed.

I know that visual is graphic, but it is reality.

Many assume, myself once included, that our earlier sun exposure will not affect us. On the contrary, one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life.

Now, you may not get melanoma; however, there are three types of skin cancer that affect Americans yearly.

* Basil Cell Carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. This type is rarely fatal, but can be highly disfiguring.

* Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer, and accounts for nearly 2,500 deaths.

* Melanoma is the most serious of skin cancers. The incidence of melanoma continues to rise significantly, and at a faster rate than any of the seven most common cancers.

Tanning beds are another culprit in the steady rise of skin cancer . In fact, frequent tanners using the new high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose they receive from sun exposure.

I have always felt a bit hypocritical preaching to people about tanning, when I was once an avid tanner myself. To be honest with you all, I crave tanning. I miss it during the summer. I often find myself resenting those who tan, because despite my surgery and all my follow-up appointments, and despite the large scar that serves as a daily reminder, I still yearn to lay by the pool for hours with my tanning oil in one hand and an umbrella drink in the other.

But we all struggle to do things for the betterment of ourselves. We diet to maintain a healthy weight, even when we'd rather eat ice cream and cookies. We go for long arduous runs when we'd rather sit on the couch. So look at skin cancer prevention in the same manner. Enjoy the sun, in moderation and always protect yourself. The bronze glow may take longer to achieve, but it will look better than a scary hospital stay that ends in scarring and an everlasting effect on your body and well being.

So, as summer approaches, this day serves as a reminder to all of us to treat our bodies with respect. Here are a few skin cancer prevention guidelines:

* Seek the shade, especially between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M.
* Do not burn.
* Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
* Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
* Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours.
* Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
* Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
* Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
* See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.

For additional information on skin cancer prevention, or to locate the sources for the information used in this article click here.

Stay safe in the sun, and enjoy the gorgeous weather than lies ahead.

Don't forget your hat and sunscreen!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gardening Is A Workout - Believe It Or Not!

The weather has finally turned here in the Midwest. The humidity is rising daily and April showers have left glorious May flowers.

Surely, you are beginning to hit the bike trails and the various parks in your area. If you are like most, your weekends now involve a bit of gardening. Nothing sends out the "Spring Has Sprung" vibe quite like freshly planted tulips, or a vibrant new hydrangea bush.

But, pulling out the old and planting the new can be a bigger strain on your bodies than you might think.

In fact, I had a friend tell me yesterday, "I know I only gardened this weekend, but there are parts of my body that are really sore."

That's because we have all been relatively dormant throughout the cold winter months, and now we are going to shock our muscles when we suddenly begin squatting, lifting heavy objects, and using all our strength to dig!

While many see gardening as a leisure activity involving sitting, moving dirt and fluffing mulch, it actually requires muscles we don't regularly use...especially in that particular fashion.

So before you rush out to the garage and grab your worn-in gardening gloves and your plethora of tools, take time to prepare your body.

Start by doing simple stretches. Then, begin with some squats. These are great for engaging your neglected buns, hips and thighs - No, sitting down and getting up from the couch all winter doesn't count as a good workout. Now, take some light weights and work your arms, preparing them for the digging that is about to happen. Do a few sets of bicep curls, as well as tricep dips.

This doesn't have to be an intense workout, you just need to reintroduce your muscles to some rigorous movements. Don't forget to do some stretching as well; this will also help minimize soreness after your gardening day.

Remember not to push yourself. You will be sore the next day, but preparing your muscles through stretching and strength training will have a positive impact on how sore you will be the day after.

Happy Gardening!