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Your Sun IQ: Skin cancer facts and fiction

Your Sun IQ: Skin cancer facts and fiction

The sun is shining, beckoning you to enjoy its warmth on your skin. We all know how good it feels to soak up its rays. We also know that too much sun over time can put us at risk for developing skin cancer. As the summer months ramp up and the sun becomes stronger, it’s a good time to separate skin cancer prevention facts from fiction so that you can safely enjoy the outdoors.

Fiction: A base tan will protect you.

Fact: When your skin comes in contact with the sun’s harmful UV rays, it produces more melanin, or pigment. As a result, your skin becomes darker. The increased pigment is your body’s way of trying to defend itself. A base tan on the skin merely indicates that damage from the sun’s UV rays has already occurred. Each subsequent exposure to the sun increases your risk of getting skin cancer.

Fiction: Only people with pale skin get skin cancer.

Fact: Don’t be fooled. Even though people with pale skin or blond or red hair sunburn much more easily, UV rays can damage skin of any color—even the darkest—and cause skin cancer.

Fiction: You’re safe from skin cancer if you use sunscreen.

Fact: Sunscreen is helpful if it’s broad spectrum SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 15 or higher. For extended outdoor activities use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Reapply generously every two hours while working or playing in the sun, and after each dip in the pool or run through the sprinkler.

7 additional skin cancer prevention tips

The Skin Cancer Foundation offers the following tips

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Do not burn.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreen 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.

Stay healthy this summer

Consider signing up for CarePlus—a free concierge healthcare service. When you sign up for CarePlus our team will help you:

  • find the right doctor
  • get appointments quickly
  • get faster access to your medical information—like lab results
  • obtain referrals to specialists and the pre-authorizations you may need
  • get your insurance questions answered
A stroke is a “brain attack” that can happen to anyone.

A stroke is a “brain attack” that can happen to anyone.

Many people think of strokes as a disease of the elderly, but it can happen to anyone at any time, even very young people. A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off depriving brain cells of oxygen and causing them to die. As brain cells die, the abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control can be lost.

How a person is affected by a stroke depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged. People who suffer a small stroke may have temporary, minor problems such as weakness in an arm or leg. Those who suffer larger strokes may have permanent problems such as paralysis on one side of the body or loss of speech. Some people recover completely from strokes, but most survivors have some type of disability caused by the stroke.

According to the National Stroke Association there is good news—80% of strokes can be prevented. Having information about the signs of stroke, your risk of stroke and stroke prevention is the best way to save your life or the life of someone else.

Signs of stroke—F-A-S-T

The American Stroke Association has developed an easy-to-remember acronym to help people detect the signs of a stroke—F-A-S-T. The letters stand for the symptoms of stroke and the words tells us how we should act if someone is having a stroke.

F—face drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile lopsided or uneven?

A—arm weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S—speech difficulty. Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.”

T—time to call 9-1-1. If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 9-1-1. Time is important.

Other signs of stroke can include sudden:

  • confusion
  • trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • severe headache with no known cause

Your risk of stroke

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from a stroke is to understand your risk and how to control it. There are two types of risk factors for stroke:

  1. those you can control
  2. those out of your control

Risk factors you can control

High blood pressure—is the single most important risk factor because it is the number one cause of stroke. When blood pushes too forcefully against the walls of your arteries, it can damage or weaken them and lead to stroke. Ideally your blood pressure should be below 120/80. If your blood pressure is climbing toward 140/90 or higher you are at risk for stroke.

Diabetes—increases your risk of stroke because it can cause disease of the blood vessels in the brain.

High cholesterol—increases the risk of blocked arteries to the brain resulting in a stroke.

Smoking—doubles the risk of stroke when compared to a nonsmoker. Smoking increases clot formation, thickens blood, and increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries.

Physical inactivity—being inactive can increase your risk of heart disease, becoming overweight, developing high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.

Talk to your doctor about managing your blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, as well as increasing your physical activity and getting help with smoking cessation.

Risk factors you cannot control

Age and gender—as you age your risk for stroke increases. The likelihood of having a stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after age 55. Each year women have more strokes than men.

Race and ethnicity—statistics show that African-American people have much higher risk of stroke than Caucasian people.

Personal or family history of stroke—if your parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke—especially before reaching 65—you may be at greater risk. In addition, a person who has had a stroke has a much higher risk of having another stroke.

You can learn more about your risk factors for stroke from the American Stroke Association.

Preventing stroke

Preventing stroke means choosing to live a healthy lifestyle, including:

Eating healthy—a healthy diet involves restricting high fat foods and those high in salt and sugar, as well as eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Moving more—recent studies show that people who exercise five or more times per week have a reduced stroke risk. The latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control includes doing 150 minutes of activity at a moderatly intense level per week (biking, aerobics, brisk walking) and two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activity.

Quit smoking—if you smoke, try as hard as possible to stop. Ask your doctor about quit-smoking aids like nicotine patches, counseling, and programs that are available to you.

Use alcohol moderately—drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure and the risk of stroke. Aim to drink no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

One more way to live a healthier lifestyle is to find the right doctor and get a regular physical. Are you looking for a doctor or do you need an appointment?

Consider signing up for CarePlus—a free concierge healthcare service. When you sign up for CarePlus our team will help you:

  • find the right doctor
  • get appointments quickly
  • get faster access to your medical information—like lab results
  • obtain referrals to specialists and the pre-authorizations you may need
  • get your insurance questions answered
Headaches: How to get rid of them

Headaches: How to get rid of them

That throbbing, squeezing, unrelenting pain in your head can drive you to distraction. It can get in the way of your work or play—and in the case of a migraine it can lead to nausea and vomiting.

Background: a little heads-up on your head

There are actually about 150 types of headaches, each with its own unique symptoms, triggers and treatments. There are tension headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, sinus headaches, acute headaches, hormone headaches, post-trauma headaches, chronic progressive headaches and more. Ice-cream headaches even make the list.

A very important note about headaches

Headaches are nothing to laugh at; they can be a symptom of a serious condition, such as a stroke, meningitis or encephalitis, so it’s important to see a doctor immediately if:

  • your headache is more painful and disruptive than previous headaches
  • worsens or fails to improve with medication
  • is accompanied by other symptoms such as confusion, fever, sensory changes, and stiffness in the neck

Pain relief starts here

The most common way to get rid of a headache is to rest in a dark quiet place and use an over-the-counter pain relief medication. You can also try:

  • applying a heat or ice pack to your head or neck
  • drinking a little caffeine
  • taking a hot shower or bath
  • gently and steadily apply rotating pressure to the painful area of your head with your index finger or thumb
  • going for a walk
  • eating regular meals to avoid blood sugar drops
  • avoiding stress when possible

Our best headache relief tip

If you suffer from headaches often, have had a headache for a few days or have recurring headaches, it is important to figure out what type of headache is causing your pain. The key to figuring that out is making an appointment with your doctor. If you know what type of headache you are having, then you can treat it correctly.

Most headaches can be diagnosed without tests; however, your doctor may order a head MRI or CT, or a lumbar puncture to help diagnose and evaluate your condition.

If your headache does not have a serious underlying cause, your doctor may try to identify what is “triggering” your headaches and recommend preventive medication or lifestyle changes to manage your symptoms.

Are you looking for a doctor or do you need an appointment?

Consider signing up for CarePlus—a free concierge healthcare service. When you sign up for CarePlus our team will help you:

  • find the right doctor
  • get appointments quickly
  • get faster access to your medical information—like lab results
  • obtain referrals to specialists and the pre-authorizations you may need
  • get your insurance questions answered
Spring is Here: 10 Fitness Tips

Spring is Here: 10 Fitness Tips

If your New Year’s resolution has become a distant memory, why not use this natural season of new beginnings—spring—to rev things up again. Leave the ankle-deep slush and puddles of the winter melt behind you. Get up, get out and make it happen with 10 tips that will break you out of your winter stagnation.

  1. Get in the garden. Your landscaping will be beautiful and you’ll burn approximately 250 to 350 calories an hour. Anything that makes you sweat—mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, hauling mulch—qualifies as exercise. Rotate tasks every 20 minutes or so to give all your major muscle groups a workout and to avoid overstraining one set of muscles.
  1. Sign youself and the kids up for swimming lessons. Summer days at the pool or lake are going to be here soon. Get ready with this scheduled activity.
  1. Take a walk during your lunch hour. It will give you a chance to get away from your desk and provide that moderate exercise you keep hearing is so good for you.
  1. Other ideas to get moving include getting out jogging, teeing up for a round of golf, or playing a few sets of tennis. Whatever you put on hold during the long winter, take it up again.
  1. Start your spring activity slowly. Remember you aren’t at the same place you were before you started hibernating for the winter. Start with 10 to 15 minutes of activity every day or every other day for a week. The following week add five minutes. From there, work your way up in five-minute intervals each week until you reach a 30 to 40 minute period of activity.
  1. Remember your sunglasses. They help shield your eyes from the spring sun and from any cold winds that may be lingering around from the winter months.
  1. Spring showers can erupt at any time. But don’t let that stop you from getting outside. Put on your raingear, stash an extra pair of socks in your pocket and get out for a walk. A little water won’t hurt you.
  1. Vary your routine to keep things interesting and to stay motivated. If you’ve been walking for weeks, try a few nights of dancing. If you jog, try swimming or a Zumba class a few days a week.
  1. Remember what moving can do for you:
  • improve your heart and lung function
  • reduce your risk for heart disease
  • help you sleep better
  • boost your happiness
  • aid in weight loss
  • increase strength and flexibility
  • improve memory and self-confidence
  1. Don’t let your busy life become your excuse for not taking care of yourself. Be mindful and deliberate about carving out time to move your body every day.

One more healthy tip

Sign up for CarePlus—a free concierge healthcare service. CarePlus makes taking care of your health easier, because when you sign up our team helps you:

  • find the right doctor
  • get appointments quickly
  • get faster access to your medical information—like lab results
  • obtain referrals to specialists and the pre-authorizations you may need
  • get your insurance questions answered
5 Stress Relieving Techniques You Can Use Anywhere

5 Stress Relieving Techniques You Can Use Anywhere

It can happen anywhere: all of sudden you start freaking out about an upcoming work deadline, a presentation you have to do, a test, being on time for an appointment, having lunch with a new client or things that need to be done at home before guests arrive for the weekend. You feel your muscles tense up, your heart starts beating faster, your stomach may get upset, your head starts to throb.

Catch Stress Early

Before things get too bad, try some of these “do anywhere” stress relievers to calm your brain, relax your body and get back in control.

  1. Breathe—inhale through your nose for the count of four, then exhale through your nose for the count of four. This breath is called Sama Vritti in yoga or equal breathing. It can help take your mind off your racing thoughts.
  1. Visualize—take a moment to see yourself handling the situation with calm, ease, and clarity. Try not to pay attention to your current mental state. Focus on the feeling that you can and will get through the situation without any problems.
  1. Tense and Relax—focus on slowly tensing and relaxing your muscles. Start with your toes and progressively work your way up to your neck and head. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat. This method is called progressive muscle relaxation.
  1. Walk Away—get up and walk away for a few minutes. Turn off your phone. Get away from your computer, or any other screen. Go for a walk around the block or just sit in a private, safe, calm space.
  1. Listen—put on something calming. Classical music works great for this. After about five minutes of listening, your breathing will start to match the calming beat of the music.

High stress can impair concentration and creativity. It can affect your sleep, your mood, how you function. When you feel yourself slipping into your next little freakout try one of the above techniques. See what works best for you or try a combination of techniques.

It you feel like you may be dealing with an anxiety disorder, please talk to a medical professional about treatment. There are lots of options available to manage your symptoms.

Here’s another way to relieve stress

If you haven’t already, sign up for CarePlus—a free concierge healthcare service designed to take the stress out of staying healthy. When you sign up for CarePlus our team will help you:

  • find the right doctor
  • get appointments quickly
  • get faster access to your medical information—like lab results
  • obtain referrals to specialists and the pre-authorizations you may need
  • get your insurance questions answered