cancer risk

6 Tips for Better Eye Health

July 25, 2011

Sunglasses As a physician, I find patients often overlook one of the most important aspects of their health - their vision!  During the summer, people often think about protecting their skin. But what about their eyes?  Whether you’re on the beach, walking the dog or even driving in the high-heat of summer, it’s easy to find yourself squinting as bright sunlight reflects off water, the road, sidewalks and buildings. So what can you do to protect your eyes from the sun and keep your eyes healthy all year long?  I’ve got a few tips: 

Look stylish and protect your eyes at the same time. Sunglasses can be much more than a fashion accessory - they provide protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. You can reduce your risk for some eye conditions by wearing sunglasses that block out nearly 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. UV damage can add up over time, so make sure to start encouraging your kids to wear shades too! Be careful of those sunglasses that are only a few dollars - cheap glasses usually offer limited protection. 

Bring vision "power foods" to your next potluck.  We used to think it was just carrots that helped with vision.  Now we know that a diet that includes daily fruits and vegetables like oranges, carrots and dark leafy greens, and fish like salmon and tuna, are important for keeping your eyes healthy. Key nutrients to include in a healthy eye diet include vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Start a conversation. If your next vacation or BBQ includes family, take some time to ask about their eye health history. Many eye conditions are actually hereditary, so knowing what other members of your family have experienced with their eyes can help you discover whether you are at higher risk for certain eye problems.

Get moving! Just like our heart and other organs of the body, our eyes need good circulation and plenty of oxygen to perform at their best. Exercise helps get your blood flowing to provide essential nutrients to your eyes. Another benefit of regular exercise? It can help keep our weight in the normal range - reducing the risk of diabetic eye disease.

Move away from the computer.  We strain our eyes by looking at screens for hours at a time both at work and at home. You can reduce computer-use eye strain by moving your computer screen at least two feet away from you, making sure your work area is properly lit to reduce any glare and taking regular breaks from looking at the screen.

Say no to smoking. Smoking is bad for your eyes and the rest of your body. Period. Research has shown that smoking is linked to an increased risk of conditions that cause blindness, including cataracts, macular degeneration and optic nerve damage.


If you follow these tips and get a yearly eye exam, you’ll be well on your way to seeing good eye health!

More on UV Safety:

How UV Radiation Works

How to Care for Your Eyes

Eating for Eye Health


Photo Source: Thinkstock/Stockbyte

How to Choose the Best Sunscreen

July 06, 2011

Sunscreen_girl I remember when there were basically two types of sunscreen – lotion or oil. Nowadays, there’s over 10 different brands and types.  So, how do you choose your sunscreen?

 There are so many different labels, it is easy to become confused. They all have different SPF numbers. Some say they are “waterproof”; others say “water resistant”. What is the difference? Still others say “broad spectrum” while others are labeled “high UVA”. Many of my patients want to know which should they put on before they head out into the sun.

Hopefully, all these different labels will be less confusing. Starting next summer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will require new labeling that cracks down on confusing claims and makes choosing a sunscreen easier. Meanwhile, we’ve still got a big chunk of summer left—prime time for being out in the sun. Here's a look at the new labels and some tips on how to choose the right sunscreen for you.

What Does the SPF Rating Mean?

I’m sure you already know that SPF 30 means more protection than SPF 15. But did you know that SPF, which stands for “sun protection factor”, only measures one element of sunlight?  SPF tells you about protection against ultraviolet B radiation (usually called UVB). UVB is the main cause of sunburn. However, it’s only part of the picture.

“Broad spectrum” sunscreens protect against both UVB and another type of radiation in sunlight, ultraviolet A (UVA). Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer as well as premature skin aging. Right now, it’s hard to tell how much UVA protection you’re getting in a “broad spectrum” sunscreen. Starting next year, when you see “broad spectrum”, it will mean the level of UVA protection meets a certain standard, proportional to the SPF number.  

How Much Protection Do I Really Need?

So far, it’s not certain that SPF levels above 50 really provide extra protection. The FDA is thinking about making “SPF 50+” the highest level you’ll see on a sunscreen label. At the same time, sunscreens with an SPF between 2 and 14 must state that the product has not been proven to prevent skin cancer.

Are They Really Waterproof?

Now about “waterproof” sunscreens. It sounds like you could go swimming all day and never bother to reapply your sunscreen, right? But that’s not quite true. Beginning next year, manufacturers can only say that a sunscreen is water resistant, and they have to give you an idea of how long it lasts while swimming or sweating. There will be two categories, 40 minutes and 80 minutes. The term “sweatproof” will also be gone because it’s simply not a true claim.

Remember, the reasons why you should wear sunscreen isn’t just to prevent skin cancer; it’s also to prevent sunburn as well as premature aging, such as wrinkles. So wear at least SPF 15, and reapply every few hours. Make sure you get a product that protects against UVA and UVB. And don’t forget about wearing sunglasses and hats – they help with protection too!

More on Summer Skin Care:

FDA Q&A on Sunscreen Regulation Changes

American Academy of Dermatology - Skin Care Safey

5 Spots Commonly Missed When Applying Sunscreen


Photo Source: Thinkstock/Stockbyte

Resolutions need to be from the heart, and for the heart

January 11, 2010

Oh yes, 2010 has finally arrived. The start of a new decade!  Hard to believe that many of us were worried about the "Y2K" bug just a decade ago!  Does that really seem ten years ago? Where has that time gone? Before we know it, we will be writing about 2020.

 Just as in 2000, certain traditions prevail, including the esteemed tradition known as the New Years Resolution. I bet you have made one or two...and by this point, some of us have already broken those resolutions.

My good friend, Dr. Mehmet Oz, has discussed this issue as part of the "Ultimate 20," and believes that resolutions have the best success rate when they have a personal meaning.  Specifically, he believes that people do not simply follow through on their resolutions based on what they know alone (the "factual component"); instead, they require an emotional component for the greatest success rate. So what exactly comprises the "emotional component" for successfully obtaining a New Year's resolution?

For instance, let's say you are trying to focus on removing two "vices" from your lifestyle, specifically  smoking and unhealthy diets. Already, many of us know about the need to quit smoking or follow a healthy diet. Smoking has been linked in literature with lung cancer and increased mortality. Diseases such as hypertension and diabetes can result, in part, from an unhealthy diet that is high in salt and sugar. Surely the literature proclaims a need to change your lifestyle, but one is often left pondering the question- "what is in it for me besides some academic findings from literature?" And somebody always knows somebody who smokes and seems fine.

The answer is simple- other people are depending on you and your attainment of these New Year Resolutions! When you know a spouse, dear friend, or significant other wants you to quit smoking and improve your diet, this strikes at your emotions. You certainly don't want to let them down; of course they believe in you and they will certainly be there for support! So this embodies the "emotional support." Facts are good to know, but they do not always have a personal touch!

But of course, training for this lifestyle modification will not be easy. In light of this challenge, Dr. Oz mentions that the pathway to better health is similar to a marathon. If you are aiming for a successful completion- you need to keep on a constant training regimen. You cannot start one day and then stop a few days later.  Of course, similar to an exercise program, if you have someone who is ready to "practice" with you on that "marathon" to fulfill your New Year's resolution, it makes achieving and maintaining your goals all that much easier.

So, when feeling that your New Year's resolutions are somehow unobtainable, think of Dr. Oz and his philosophy. Don't just think of only yourself, think of the benefits you will give for others!  Think of the way that achieving your goals will help both you and your special team of support! Here's to a great 2010 for all of you and to making sure that you both accomplish your New Year's resolutions and maintain them going forward!

Sleep—Too Much of a Good Thing?

January 08, 2010

I realize that everyone is talking this month about the need to get more sleep. With the
holiday season over and busy work days back upon us, we are flooded with messages
urging us to get sleep despite the numerous time constraints of our daily lives. And I
have even written in the past to sleep better.

It is true that too little sleep is bad for your health – it can cause a heart attack, it can
make you gain weight, as well as increase your risk for cancer and even make you die
prematurely. But what about the flip slide – is it possible to get too much sleep? And
what counts as “too much”?

A recent article in the Journal of Sleep Research looked at the association between the
number of hours we sleep and the possible health risks. After looking at the results from
over 20 other research studies, researchers discovered that adults who sleep on average
more than 9 hours per night experienced more health problems such as obesity and stroke
than those who got a restful 7-8 hours. Some scientists believe that too much sleep is
actually more dangerous to our health than too little sleep.

Now I’m not talking about those of us try to “catch up” on sleep on the weekends, trying
to make up for the nights we sleep too little. (And I might point out there’s no such thing
as “catching up on sleep.”!) The exact mechanism for the increased health problems is
not known but some think longer sleep leads to less exposure to daylight, as well as lower
levels of beneficial stress. That’s right…some stress can be beneficial.

 I often find that when patients come in complaining of too much sleep that there is often
an underlying problem. Often, they are depressed and don’t have an interest in getting
out of bed. Depression is often under-diagnosed and too much sleep can be an early sign.
Luckily there are good therapies – both with and without drugs to fight depression.
Others actually are equating the number of hours in bed with sleep, when in fact they are
getting too little sleep due to restlessness and sometimes chronic pain. And if you are
sleeping during the day, that could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea.

I also want to point out that as we get older, we do not need more sleep. I can’t tell you
how many patients come in with elderly parents and complain they sleep all day. Well,
something is wrong there and should be evaluated. As we get older, the quality of our
sleep decreases but the total amount of sleep should stay the same --- 7-8 hours.

Like many of you, I do like to sleep! One of the reasons I did not go into surgery or
anesthesiology is that I don’t like to get up before 6 am! I do recognize, however, that
developing a good sleep regimen is important for good health. So like many others have
told you, establish a regular sleep time in the evening and wake-up time in the morning
and stick with it every day, including weekends. Sleeping longer on weekends actually
messes up our biologic clocks. It’s only natural that there are going to be days when you

sometimes get more, and sometimes get less. But aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and
you will do well! Like a lot of things, too much sleep isn’t good for you!

John J. Whyte, MD, MPH is the Chief Medical Expert & Vice President for Continuing Medical Education where he develops, designs and delivers health programming.








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