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

9 Surprising Health Benefits of Exercise

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Yesterday, on New Year’s Day, millions of Americans resolved to begin exercising and lose weight in 2013. While exercise helps you burn calories and lose weight, it also has numerous other health benefits that will help you have a truly healthier, happier 2013.

Here are 9 surprising health benefits of exercise:

1. Sleep better. Regular exercise helps you sleep better, provided it’s not done within 2 to 3 hours of your bedtime. Exercise can also reduce and sometimes eliminate sleep apnea, a frustrating and potentially health-threatening sleep disorder that causes disruptions in breathing.

2. Reduce your risk for skin cancer. Studies show that regular exercise lowers your risk for skin cancer, including life-threatening melanoma.

3. Be happy. If you’ve heard of “runner’s high,” then you know that exercise makes people happy. That’s because exercise boosts mood-enhancing or feel-good endorphins.

4. Reduce heartburn. Studies show that regular exercise, especially less stressful aerobic types like swimming and walking, reduce the severity of acid reflux or heartburn. And reducing heartburn can also help you sleep better.

5. Improve your acne. Because regular exercise helps regulate blood sugar, it helps reduce inflammation which can improve acne. It also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, which is an acne trigger.

6. Have more energy. Many studies show that exercise, even just a few times a week, boosts energy. And morning exercisers reap the biggest benefit. If you need some help learning how to exercise in the morning, check out this post on 5 Tips for Starting a Morning Exercise Routine.

7. Improve chronic pain. Losing weight is critical to improving chronic pain since the  more weight you carry, the more pressure and pain to your joints and bones you’ll experience. Exercise also reduces pain because it reduces inflammation.

8. Reduce your risk for Alzheimer’sA 2012 study from Rush University Medical Center showed that daily exercise significantly reduced your risk for Alzheimer’s, even if —get this— you start exercising after the age of 80.

9. Reduce your risk for psoriasisA 2012 study from Harvard Medical School showed that vigorous aerobic exercise and calisthenics are associated with a reduced risk of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition.

While this isn’t a direct health benefit, regular exercise saves you money by reducing the  the number of medications and doctor’s visits you’ll need. And who wouldn’t like that?

Photo credit: FCC, Yogrenda174

Why Do My Lips Dry Out At Night?

Lips dry out at night because all the moisture evaporates off your delicate lip skin. Drinking water doesn’t help. It’s a like a dolphin drying out when he’s out of water — giving him water to drink won’t help. Applying a barrier to prevent water from evaporating will help.

  • Use petroleum jelly (Vaseline, Aquaphor) or any lip balm that you like. Keep it at your bedside. Apply whenever you wake up.
  • Use a room humidifier and avoid antihistamine sleeping medications such as diphenhydramine.
  • Sleep with your mouth closed (not so easy, though).

Photo: Leo Reynolds, Flickr CC

Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Drink Alcohol?

Many people notice that after drinking alcohol their face turns red. Often acne or rosacea looks much worse. Sometimes people become sweaty and flushed. This is because your liver is eliminating the alcohol in your body and creates acetaldehyde, a toxic by-product. Acetaldehyde causes facial redness, flushing, sweating, and nausea. Asian people are more susceptible. In this video I explain how this happens, why it happens to people of Asian descent more often, and how you can avoid having a red face.

Two Things You Must Do To Prevent Razor Bumps

Razor bumps are painful red bumps that develop from ingrown hairs. Shaving against the grain or using a razor with many blades can cause them. In this video I’ll show you what causes razor bumps, also called pseudofolliculitis barbae (in case your date asks and you’re trying to impress her). I’ll also give you two tips to prevent them.

3 Ways To Keep Warts From Spreading on Your Hands

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Warts aren’t just for witches. People of all ages and races get warts, those ugly, sometimes painful skin growths, most commonly found on hands, feet, and genitals. That’s because warts are caused by a virus, the human papillomavirus (HPV), that’s highly contagious and easily transmitted. You can get a wart by touching someone else’s warts, by touching contaminated surfaces such as soiled towels, or by picking at a wart, causing it to spread to other areas.

Here are three ways to keep warts from spreading on your hands:

1. Stop chewing your nails. Nail biting is the fastest way to spread warts. Nail biting causes tiny tears in the skin on your fingertips and on the nail beds which pokes a whole huge in your front line defense against HPV. The virus finds these tiny openings, takes root, and grows.

2. Stay moisturized: By keeping your skin moisturized, you create a powerful barrier against viruses. Remember that moisturized skin is healthy skin. When skin is dry and cracked, it’s vulnerable, making it easy for HPV to enter the skin and infect you.

3. Wash your hands regularly: Hand-washing is cheap, easy, and effective in the battle against spreading warts. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds and to dry them throughly with a clean towel, paper towel, or air dryer.

Photo credit, FCC, koiart71.

Why You Might Be Missing Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer. Catching it early is critical. The best way to find melanoma is to check your moles using the ABCDs. However, nodular melanomas can be trickier to find. A recent study from the Archives of Dermatology suggest that we might be missing these nodular melanomas which might be the reason why the death rate for melanoma has not improved in 20 years. How can we find nodular melanomas? Add “E” to your ABCDs.

  • Is the mole Asymmetric?
  • Does it have irregular Borders?
  • Does it have more than one Color?
  • Is the Diameter larger than 6 mm?
  • Is it Evolving (changing) or Elevated?
If it has any of the above and you have any concerns, then make an appointment to see a doctor. If a mole has 2 or more of the above, then it is by definition atypical and it must be checked by a physician.

In this video I’ll explain how examining your moles for the ABCDEs is the best way to catch melanomas as early as possible and to minimize the chances that it has spread.