Friday, March 30, 2012

Ways to prevent summer sun damage

The skinny on some of the undesired side effects of stepping out in the sun this season, and how to evade them
With winter fading, and the summer sun rearing its head, new skin problems emerge. If not protected, brown spots, wrinkles, and dehydration could damage the skin. "People often come rushing to myclinic with red rashes on their face, neck and arms. They complain of irresistible irritation and itching on these spots. Sometimes, it is not only one particular spot or place where the rashes appear; they can affect entire body," says Dr Swati Srivastava, dermatologist, VLCC, Mumbai.
Though there are many reasons for these rashes, from allergies to hormonal imbalance, a majority of the problems turn out to be the result of excessive exposure to the sun.
Sun damage ages your skin
If you compare the skin tone and complexion of skin exposed to sunlight daily, you will notice the difference. "Skin that has been minimally exposed will look decades younger," says Dr Srivastava.
The damage from UV rays is cumulative and can take years before it is apparent and prominently visible. It is generally by the time we reach our mid-thirties that the long-term effects of UV exposure start becoming prominent in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, changed skin tone and colour.
Allergy from the sun
A skin allergy from the sun is actually a reaction of the immune system, which is trying to protect cells from the harmful UV rays of the sunlight eventuating in red and itchy rashes.
The most common locations are the 'V' of the neck, the back of the hands, the outside surface of the arms and the lower legs. If you carefully observe the pattern of the places these rashes appear, they are mainly the areas which get exposed to sunlight even when one is clothed. "I have seen my share of rare cases where the rashes appear even in clothed areas in the form of hives or small blisters. The rashes could be itchy or burning and may last a few days," says Dr Srivastava.
Sunburn versus allergy from the sun
People often confuse sunburns and allergy from the sun. There is a fine line between the two. Sunburns appear on sun-exposed parts of your skin when technically your body's protective skin pigment melanin - which is supposed to fight harmful radiations and germs - falls weak and fails to protect your skin well enough from UV rays.
On the other hand, in cases of allergic reaction from exposure to the sun, your body's immune system reacts against the harmful rays and fights hard to protect your skin and this is what causes breakouts. It is also called hypersensitivity to the sun, or Polymorphous Light Eruption (PMLE). A skin allergy from the sun can occur within minutes of exposure to the sun, and also goes away much quicker after sun exposure has stopped compared to the time taken to revive from sunburn.
Sunburn can cause more grave problems than mere temporary pain and redness. Over time, frequent sunburn can contribute to premature ageing of the skin, and even lead to skin cancer.
What the sun can do to you
1. Thickening of skin, mainly on the back of the neck resulting in coarse wrinkles, a condition better known as elastosis.

2. Thinning of skin causing fine wrinkles.
3. Even within a short period of exposure to the sun, UV rays from the sun might cause the walls of the blood cells to go thinner leading to bruising.
4. Appearance of freckles and white spots on hands and legs respectively.
5. Three major types of skin cancer - melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
quick tips to prevent sun damage
1. Sunscreen is an absolute must during the warmer months, so looking for a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 20 is recommended. A moisturiser with SPF is also a good alternative for those who are looking for versatile products.
2. Always wear a sun protector half an hour before stepping into the sun. Don't forget to apply the sun protector onto your ears and neck. If you have sensitive skin, use a sun protector which is oil-free and light in weight.
3. Drink a lot of water to prevent your body cells from dehydration.
4. Wear clothes that cover your body.
5. When you must be exposed to intense sunlight, wear protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, broad-brimmed hats and UV-protective sunglasses.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cocoa may help diabetes, heart failure

Patients with advanced heart failure and type 2 diabetes showed improvement after three months of consuming epicatechin-enriched cocoa, U.S. researchers said.

Dr. Francisco J. Villarreal of University of California, San Diego, said epicatechin is a flavonoid found in dark chocolate.

The researchers examined five profoundly ill patients with major damage to skeletal muscle mitochondria -- structures responsible for most of the energy produced in cells. These "fuel cells" are dysfunctional as a result of both type 2 diabetes and heart failure, leading to abnormalities in skeletal muscle, Villarreal said.

Patients with heart failure and diabetes experience abnormalities in both the heart and skeletal muscle that can result in impaired functional capacity. They often complain of shortness of breath, lack of energy and have difficulty walking even short distances.

Trial participants consumed dark chocolate bars and a beverage with a total epicatechin content of approximately 100 milligram per day for three months. Biopsies of skeletal muscle were conducted before and after treatment.
After three months, the researchers looked at changes in mitochondria volume and the abundance of cristae, are internal compartments of mitochondria necessary for efficient function of the mitochondria.
"The cristae had been severely damaged and decreased in quantity in these patients," Villarreal said in a statement. "After three months, we saw recovery -- cristae numbers back toward normal levels, and increases in several molecular indicators involved in new mitochondria production."

The findings were published in the journal Clinical and Translational Science.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Keep skin hydrated to combat winter skin

When the temperature drops, dry, flaky winter skin can develop. You can prevent the itchy, red and tight feeling with a few simple tips. Drinking plenty of water is one way to help hydrate skin. Unfortunately, this alone is not enough during colder months. Often you will need to change your skin care method, dermatologists recommend. If you follow a few simple guidelines, you can keep your skin moist and dewy, year-round.

Keep the air humid
The key to preventing winter skin is to stay hydrated, inside and out. Outdoors, the harsh winter winds dry out your skin. Inside, the hot air from heaters dries out your skin. But, there is a way around this dilemma. Return moisture to the air (and to your skin) by using a humidifier in your room and workplace, if possible.  Also, make sure that the heat in your house is not at an unnecessarily high temperature during these winter months.

Protect against the unforgiving climate
Make sure to bundle up when you step outside. Your hands are particularly vulnerable this time of year. To avoid spreading diseases, we often over-wash our hands and over-use alcohol-based (i.e. drying) hand sanitizers, according to experts. Try to take it easy on your hands and remember to wear gloves when you walk out into the cold!

Use a gentle cleanser
The same over-washing problem can affect the face as well. Many people use a facial cleanser that is too strong because they want their skin to be perfectly clean. Make sure you aren’t using an excessively harsh cleanser that robs your skin of the natural oils it needs to keep you hydrated.

Keep away from hot water in the shower
Hot baths and showers sound delightful, especially when it’s cold out, but the lasting effects might not be worth the heat.  It may sound like a paradox, but spending more time drenched in water does not add to your skin’s hydration. Hot water can break down the lipid barrier of your skin, which robs your skin of moisture. You should use warm, rather than hot, water to cleanse and limit your time in the tub.

Moisturize, and don’t forget the SPF
Moisturizers can work wonders in keeping your skin healthy and in countering the drying effects of the season. You might need to use a thicker, more substantial moisturizer in the winter. The goal here is to lock in hydration that could be escaping under dry air. You should moisturize once in the morning and once before bed. During sleep your body repairs itself in many ways, and this includes your skin. 

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Top 10 Tips for Preventing Weight Gain

Shedding some weight can be hard. For many men, keeping it off is even harder. Diets become stale and depriving. Training becomes overly laborious and boring. Follow these 10 tips to keep off the weight that you’ve worked so hard to lose.
No. 10 - Throw out junk food
No matter how disciplined you are, if junk food is there, you’ll eventually eat it. All it takes is a long day at work or a rushed meal to push you toward grabbing the quick fix. Do a quick search through your house (cabinets, refrigerator, under your pillow, and so on) and get rid of unhealthy snack food. If your spouse, significant other or kids have junk in the house, throw their stuff out, too. They’ll thank you later.
No. 9 - Stay hydrated
Consuming a couple cups of water before you eat will fill up your stomach and cause you to eat less. Research has shown that people using this strategy lose more weight than people who don’t. If you don’t like water, try adding a lemon or lime to it or try drinking a zero-calorie beverage with a little more flavor like green tea or POWERADE ZERO. The important thing is that you’re staying hydrated and filling up your stomach with liquid while not taking in additional calories.
No. 8 - Get a dog
A big part of keeping weight off is maintaining an active lifestyle. It sounds ridiculous, but research has shown that people tend to become more active when they have a pet. Letting your dog take you for a walk at night will get you off the couch and keep your hand out of the junk food that you should have thrown out already.
No. 7 - Eat breakfast
Your metabolism plummets while you sleep; you go into a state of catabolism (read: breakdown). The best way to jump-start your metabolism and give your body the fuel it needs for the day to come is to eat a quality breakfast. At a bare minimum, your breakfast should have at least one serving of fruits and vegetables, a lean protein source and a glass of water. You can also add a quality whole-grain carbohydrate source, such as steel cut oats, to your breakfast.
No. 6 - Avoid sugars, pasta and white bread
When you take in a whole-grain carbohydrate source, it takes time for your body to break down the food. As a result, you receive a slow, consistent supply of food, similar to a time-release drug. On the other hand, foods like pasta, white bread or anything high in sugar are rapidly digested and give your body a quick supply of a ton of energy. Since your body doesn’t need all of this energy at once, it defaults to storing it as fat. Overall, these foods have little nutritional value and generally lead to metabolic damage and fat storage.
No. 5 - Learn how to cook
Short-term diet interventions never work long-term. In order to keep weight off, you need to change your lifestyle to make it conducive to keeping weight off. This sounds simple, but for some men it can be a rough transition. If you associate healthy eating with bland foods, you probably won’t continue to eat healthily for too long. Learning how to use spices and prepare foods in different ways that you enjoy will help ensure that you’re eating the right foods for the rest of your life. You can start by perusing the grocery store for prepackaged spices like Cajun, Italian seasoning, Montreal steak and/or chicken, and seasoned salt. Eating healthily does not need to be boring.
No. 4 - Lift weights
Muscle has a significantly higher metabolic rate than bone and fat. Simply put, this means that it takes more energy (read: calories) to fuel muscle than it does other tissues within the body. By lifting weights and adding some muscle mass, you keep your metabolism and the number of calories you burn at rest high. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a quality fat-loss program and is essential as part of a weight-loss maintenance program.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Facts about trans fats

The History of Hydrogenation
Solid shortening, the thick white paste that made your grandmother's pie crust so flaky, was created nearly a century ago by adding hydrogen to liquid oils to make them turn solid at room temperature (the process known as hydrogenation). 
Originally intended as a cheap substitute for butter and lard, partially hydrogenated oils―what we now call trans fats―became known for their ability to increase the shelf life and improve the texture of baked goods and other food products. Soon food manufacturers were adding them to everything from cookies to nondairy creamers to frozen foods, and restaurants were using them for deep-frying and more.
Reasons for a Trans Fat Backlash
In 1994, a study at Harvard University reported that people who consumed the highest amounts of trans fats had twice the heart-attack risk of those who consumed little. 
"The more we look at trans fat," says Walter Willett, who worked on the study, "the more we see it is a metabolic poison." Trans fats are particularly harmful because they lower levels of good cholesterol and raise levels of bad cholesterol.
New Rules for Food Companies
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now requires food manufacturers to list trans fats (often called partially hydrogenated oils) on nutrition labels, which prompted many food companies, including Kraft, Campbell's, and Wendy's, to reduce or remove trans fats from their products.
Trans Fats vs. Saturated Fats
Unfortunately, many companies replace trans fats with saturated fats. That's dangerous because saturated fats already make up a larger percentage of most Americans' diets―around 11 percent, as opposed to just 1.5 to 2.5 percent for trans fats, notes Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer Center on Aging at Tufts University, in Boston. It's important not to consume more saturated fat because you're looking only at the trans fat amounts. 
"We should try to cut down on trans fats as well as saturated fats," says Lichtenstein.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Skin cancer drug reverses Alzheimer's in mice

Scientists say they "serendipitously" discovered that a drug used to treat a type of cancer quickly reversed Alzheimer's disease inmice.

"It's really exciting," said Maria Carrillo, senior director for medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association. "They saw very positive and robust behavior effects in the mice."

In the study, researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine gave mice mega-doses of bexarotene, a drug used to treat a type of skin cancer called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Within 72 hours, the mice showed dramatic improvements in memory and more than 50% of amyloid plaque -- a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease -- had been removed from the brain. The study was published Thursday in the journal Science.

Gary Landreth, the lead researcher at Case Western, cautioned that even though his results were impressive in mice, it may turn out not to work in people.

"I want to say as loudly and clearly as possible that this was a study in mice, not in humans," he said. "We've fixed Alzheimer's in mice lots of times, so we need to move forward expeditiously but cautiously."
Mice -- and humans -- with Alzheimer's have high levels of a substance called amyloid beta in their brain. Pathology tests on the mice showed bexarotene lowered the levels of amyloid beta and raised the levels of apolipoprotein E, which helps keep amyloid beta levels low.

Landreth said he hopes to try the drug out in healthy humans within two months, to see if it has the same effect.

Those participating in the trial would be given the standard dose that cancer patients are usually given.
Researchers tested the memories of mice with Alzheimer's both before and after giving them bexarotene. For example, the Alzheimer's mice walked right into a cage where they'd previously been given a painful electrical shock, but after treatment with bexarotene, the mice remembered the shock and refused to enter the cage.

In another test, the scientists put tissue paper in a cage. Normal mice instinctively use tissues in their cage to make a nest, but mice with Alzheimer's can't figure out what to do with the tissues. After treatment with the drug, the Alzheimer's mice made a nest with the paper.

Carrillo said one of the major advantages of bexarotene is that it's already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in humans, which means the researchers can move into human trials sooner than if it were a completely new drug.

The Alzheimer's Association is funding Case Western's next phase of research, which will involve using bexarotene at the levels used on cancer patients, Landreth said. Since the drug does have some side effects -- it can increase cholesterol, for example -- he hopes to use it in even lower levels as the study goes on.
Landreth said his lab had been working on other drugs for Alzheimer's for 10 years when a graduate student, Paige Cramer, decided to try bexarotene, which works on a receptor involved in amyloid beta clearance. Some other drugs that worked in mice were too toxic to use in humans.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dry hands? Try these winter skin care tips

Winter can be rough on the skin – especially the hands, which are often exposed to the colder, more severe weather.  An NYC-based dermatologist shared her tips for keeping your hands healthy and smooth through the season.
“During the winter, the decrease in humidity, as well as the harsher winds, causes us to lose a lot of water in our skin, so that makes everything dry,” explained Dr. Anne Chapas, the medical director at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. “Once our skin is dry, it’s more prone to letting irritants and other harmful substances in, which causes redness and other problems.” Naturally, one of the best ways to combat skin dryness and irritation is to use moisturizers.  But first, Chapas said, it is important to distinguish between the two different classes of moisturizers.  The first class, called humectants, brings water into the skin, while the second class, called emollients, seals the water in.  For colder, drier months, Chapas said people should turn to emollients.
“Emollients are heavier, thicker, greasier lotions that contain ingredients like dimenthicone and lanolin,” Chapas said.  “You should use them especially at night before bed and after taking a shower.”
In addition to moisturizers, Chapas recommended products like Vaseline and Skinfood by Weleda to treat dry skin.
“I find Skinfood is really nice for hands,” Chapas said.  “It essentially repairs the skin barrier to prevent water from evaporating.” Sleeping in cotton gloves after applying lotion or these other products can also help seal moisture into skin.
“Cotton is very breathable, and it helps moisturizers penetrate into the skin better,” Chapas said.
To prevent dryness from occurring in the first place, Chapas said people should try to limit excess hand washing in favor of using alcohol-based sanitizers, because soaps and other detergents can be drying.  When it is necessary to wash your hands, use lukewarm water instead of hot.
For hands that have been severely affected by winter weather – think red, ashy and cracked – applying lotions and other skin products can be irritating, even painful.  Chapas said covering the cracks with liquid bandages can help with the stinging.
“For really bad, cracked, fissured hands, skin glues can be helpful,” she said. “Band-Aid makes a liquid bandage that can heal the skin.”
However, if the problem is not going away, or spreading, it may be a sign of a more serious condition, like psoriasis or eczema.

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