The Healthiest Thing You Can Do For Yourself

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An overweight patient of mine who is frustrated that exercising isn’t helping her lose enough weight told me that she plans to stop exercising and just keep dieting. Can you relate? I know that slow weight loss can be disheartening. But, if there is one change you make in 2013, please have it be to start exercising every day.

We humans were never meant to live the sedentary lifestyle we do. Our prehistoric ancestors had to hunt and forage to survive. We order take-out from the comfort of our couches and have it delivered. And our bodies don’t like it. That’s part of the reason why 1 in 3 Americans is obese.

Here’s the truth about weight loss: Diets alone can help you lose weight. But a combination of diet and exercise will help you become healthier in many ways and live a happier, longer life.

The best part is that even if you’re older or overweight, exercise still has clear health benefits. An August 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that people who were most fit in midlife were at a reduced risk for developing chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s longer. Why? Researchers believe that regular exercise leads to strong cardiovascular health and improved cellular function.

And if reducing your risk for diabetes and Alzheimer’s isn’t enough, a November 2012 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that regular exercise can literally add years to your life — anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 years — even if you’re obese. Indeed, they found that obese people who exercised were healthier than their thinner couch potato counterparts. That’s because exercise, even without weight loss, is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Physically fit people also suffer fewer side effects from illness.

By the end of our appointment, I felt like I had convinced my patient to not give up on exercise, despite her slow weight loss. I also shared with her some other surprising health benefits of exercise such as a reduced risk for skin cancer, which she was happy to learn about. I also hope that by the end of this post, I’ve inspired you to exercise for your overall health. If not, I’ll keep working at it because you’re worth it.

Photo credit: FCC, ozanhatipoglu

Why Do We Bruise Easily?

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A bruise is blood that has leaked into your skin. The blood is red, but it appears blue when seen though the skin layers. Bruises can be frustrating, especially for women who always get them on their legs the day they wear their new INC empire-waist jersey dresses.

Bruises are a normal response to injury. Who among us has not walked into the corner of the bed or miscalculated the exact location of the coffee table when crossing the room? Most of the time bruising does not indicate any underlying diseases, except for clumsiness.

Women bruise more easily than men, especially on their thighs, calves and buttocks. This easy bruising is because women have exposed blood vessels and thinner skin as compared to men, so even unnoticed injuries to their legs leave noticeable bruises.

Usually bruising is a minor, lifelong problem. However, if bruising develops rapidly or is getting progressively worse, then investigation is needed. Also, bruising that is associated with taking medications like aspirin, plavix or coumadin should be discussed with a physician. Bruises that appear on the face, back, or abdomen are not typical and should also be evaluated by a physician. Also, if bruising is accompanied by bleeding such as heavy periods, recurrent nose bleeds, bleeding from the gums, or blood in your urine or stool, then you should see a doctor.

There is little you can do to prevent bruises. When bruising is the result of taking certain medications such as ibuprofen, fish oil or ginkgo, then stopping these can lessen bruising. Also, wearing long sleeves and long pants can be the difference in whether a bruise develops or not after a minor injury.

After an injury, try to minimize the amount of blood that leaks out to minimize the bruise. Sit down and apply pressure to the injured spot for 10-15 minutes. You can also use ice, but only for 15-20 minutes (longer than 20 minutes can cause worsening of the bruise). Apply ice with a wash cloth or other layer between it and your skin. Avoid hot showers or hot baths for 24 hours after the injury as the heat can restart bleeding into the skin.

Vitamin K and bromelain (found in pineapples) might be helpful in resolving bruises more quickly. Look for them in topical products or in oral supplements that can be taken for a few days after a bruise develops. And look out for the coffee table.

Post written by Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, Copyright The Derm Blog 2009.

Photo: Christy Gordon (flickr)

Eczema and Asthma Link

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Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a common skin disorder seen mostly in children. It is characterized by a red, scaly, itchy rash that can occur on the face, neck, arms, legs, and sometimes the trunk.

We have known for some time now that eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is also associated with asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever). At least 50% of children with severe eczema also develop asthma. Research from the Washington University School of Medicine might shed light on why these diseases go together.

The research, published in the journal PLoS, found that in mice, eczema-damaged skin produced a substance called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP). TSLP is a signal to the body that the skin has been damaged. When TSLP circulates through the blood, it elicits a powerful immune response. As such, TSLP is your skin’s way of warning you that its protective barrier has been breached and that backup defenses are needed to keep you protected.

Similar to your skin, your lungs are in direct contact with your environment as well, although we don’t often think of it that way. Like skin, lungs are exposed to the air with all its potential pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. It is not hard to see how an inflammatory disease that affects the skin might also affect the lungs. This is exactly what researchers found — when TSLP from the damaged skin traveled in the bloodstream to the mice’s lungs, it triggered inflammation in the lungs (similar to an asthma attack in humans). The researchers believe that TSLP is the link between eczema and asthma.

Ideally, if a drug was developed that blocked the production of TSLP, this might be a way to prevent people with eczema from developing asthma later in life. It also suggests that minimizing damage to the skin can help limit production of TSLP and improve both eczema and asthma.

Photo: Penreyes (flickr)