The summer is a great season for getting in shape. Whether by playing a sport, doing an aerobic exercise routine, or just returning to that familiar running path — this is the time for activity.
Dr. Holly Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, says, “Exercise is the fountain of youth, and summer is the perfect time to re-connect with your body.”
However, exercising during the warmest season of the year can lead to dehydration, profuse sweating, exhaustion, and even a cardiac event.
“For those who have already undergone open heart surgery, it is especially important to begin an exercise routine. However, patients should start slowly,” says Dr. Arash Salemi, cardiothoracic surgeon at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Cardiac surgery patients should begin by exercising at a cardiac rehabilitation center first and then gradually move on to an exercise program that they can complete on their own.”
Dr. Andersen and Dr. Salemi offer the following tips to those looking to resume or begin a workout routine this summer:
* Talk to your doctor. Consult your physician before beginning or changing your exercise regimen.
* Take your workout indoors. When it is too hot or humid outside, exercise in a cool, air-conditioned space. Extreme temperatures can alter your circulation, increasing the work of your heart and making breathing more difficult.
* Remember to stretch. Even in the summertime, our bodies need to warm up. As you are exercising, take time to work on breathing and posture — improving these will greatly enhance your health.
* Drink plenty of fluids. Throughout your workout routine it is important to drink plenty of water, even before you feel thirsty. If you are prone to lightheadedness (from low blood pressure), an endurance athlete, or over age 75, you should replenish your “electrolytes” as well — having a little salt can be important for you.
* Try to maintain an even body temperature. After your workout you should not take an extremely hot or cold shower or a sauna, as these can increase the workload on your heart.
* Be an early bird. If you truly enjoy exercising outdoors, take advantage of the coolest times of day — the early morning and evening hours.
* Wear sunscreen. If you have a sunburn, it will decrease your body’s ability to cool itself off. Always remember to apply sunscreen to your entire body every morning.
* Take it slow. Start your exercise regimen slowly and pace yourself throughout the workout, including plenty of time for breaks and to drink fluids.
* Have fun. Taking time to exercise is taking time for you. Enjoy it — smile, breathe deeply and clear your mind. Exercising to music is mood and energy enhancing, but if you are outside wearing headphones, PAY ATTENTION!
Fireproof Your Fourth of July and the Entire Summer With Tips From the Hearst Burn Center
Take extra care this Fourth of July and at all of your summer celebrations by ensuring that accidents do not interfere with summer fun. Dr. Roger Yurt, director of the Hearst Burn Center of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, recommends the following safety tips to avoid burns from barbecues, fireworks and other routine activities that can pose a hazard this season.
* Fireworks and sparklers should be handled by trained professionals. Sparklers can get as hot as 1,200 degrees!
* Stay at least 500 feet away from the fireworks display.
* Always open the cover before lighting a gas grill.
* Under no circumstances should you use your grill indoors.
* Always light the match before turning on the propane gas.
* ALWAYS wear sunscreen to avoid serious and painful sunburns.
* Road, sand and playground surfaces can get extremely hot. When playing on these surfaces always wear shoes to avoid injuries and foot burns. Playground surfaces can reach temperatures of 180 degrees.
Top Five Ways to Sunblock Your Eyes This Summer How to Make Healthy Sunglass Choices
Like your skin, overexposure to the sun can wreak havoc on your eyes. Sun damage can cause severe conditions such as photokeratitis (sunburn to the cornea), pterygium (tissue growth on the whites of eyes that can block vision), skin cancer of the eyelids and even intraocular malignancies like melanoma. Excessive sun exposure has also been implicated in the development of cataracts and possibly macular degeneration.
“Although everyone should protect their eyes from overexposure to harmful UV rays, there are some groups that are at higher risk. People with retinal disorders, cataract surgery patients, people with light-colored eyes, and those taking medications that increase eye sensitivity to light should take extra steps to protect their eyes from the sun in the summer and all year round,” says Dr. Christopher Starr, an ophthalmologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Dr. Stephen Trokel, an ophthalmologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, adds, “There are strong indications that chronic exposure to the components of sunlight may accelerate aging of ocular tissues. Any protective eyewear should have side shield protection or wrap around the eye so light cannot enter the eye from side reflections.”
Many of us are very good about protecting our skin with high SPF sunblock but we often forget about our eyes. This summer think of your UV-blocking sunglasses as “sunblock for your eyes” and you’ll be doing yourself and your eyes a great service.
Drs. Starr and Trokel offer a five-point checklist to help you choose the best sun protection for your eyes during the summer and all year round:
* Check the UV protection level. UV and sunglass protection is desirable year round, and they should also be used during daylight hours, even through cloudiness and haze. Even on cloudy days the UV index can be dangerously high. Your sunglasses should provide more than 95 percent UV protection and ideally 100 percent (sometimes labeled as UV400 on the glasses).
* Check the lens tint. Most people believe that darker sunglasses provide better protection against the sun, but that is not true. The lens tint should block 80 percent of transmissible light but no more than 90 percent to 92 percent of light; neutral gray, amber, brown or green are good colors to choose from.
* Make sure they block all of the light. Choose sunglasses that wrap all the way around the temples, and/or wear a hat with at least a three-inch brim that can block the sunlight from overhead.
* Wear shades over your contact lenses. People who wear contact lenses that offer UV protection should still wear sunglasses. Sunglasses are helpful for preventing the drying effect most contact lens wearers get, which is caused by wind.
* Buy shades for your children. Children’s eyes are not able to block UV rays as well as adults. For the greatest protection, consider providing UV-protected sunglasses for your children, and remember that the eyes of very small infants should always be shaded from direct exposure to the sun.
The Healthy Vacation Checklist
There are millions of vacation destinations to visit this summer and thousands of sights to see, but there is one surefire way to ruin your trip — getting sick. Although you may not be thinking about viruses and bacterial infections when you plan your trip, there are a few nasty bugs you should be aware of as you pack your bags.
“The world is big and beautiful and we can enjoy it at our own pace without taking unnecessary risks and by protecting ourselves whenever we can,” says Dr. Mirella Salvatore, acting director of the Travel Medicine Service of the Division of Infectious Diseases at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Dr. Salvatore offers the following checklist to help you stay healthy and active in whatever corner of the world you may find yourself this summer.
* Update your vaccinations. If you are planning a trip you should consult your doctor or a travel medicine specialist four to eight weeks before you leave to make sure that you are up to date with the routine vaccinations, including tetanus, MMR and pneumococcus for the elderly. High-risk destinations may require additional vaccines. Elderly travelers and people with health issues should check with a physician even before booking a trip to a high-risk destination.
* Pack a healthy travel kit. Prepare a separate bag that will get you through any unforeseen illness and help you manage any chronic conditions while away from home.
* Bring all your medications with you. Do not assume you will be able to find your medications in a foreign country. This includes any prescription or over-the-counter drug that you take regularly or occasionally. Keep all drugs in their original containers to avoid any problems with customs officials.
* Pack Imodium for mild diarrhea. While on vacation, only eat meat that is thoroughly cooked. You should also steer clear of raw vegetables, dairy products sold by small independent vendors, and any dairy products that seem to have been left out in the sun. You should also talk to your doctor about bringing an antibiotic for the treatment of traveler’s diarrhea.
* Pack acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever. However, you should consult a physician immediately if you have any of the following symptoms while on vacation: bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, high fever or dehydration.
* Don’t forget the insect repellent. Bring insect repellent containing 30 percent to 35 percent DEET. Insect repellents reduce the chances of infection with insect-transmitted diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Use a bed net at night if you are in a malaria region.
* Also remember to include important first-aid supplies. Your travel bag would not be complete without sunscreen, antibacterial wipes or gels, and first-aid supplies such as Band-Aids, disinfectant and antibiotic ointment.
* Keep your emergency contact information handy. Have copies of emergency contact numbers, copies of all evacuation insurance, and contact information and addresses for local embassies.
* Suggestions for long flights. If you are on a long flight you should also try to stand up and walk and/or stretch for several minutes every hour or so, to avoid blood clots that can form in your legs. To avoid jet lag, eat a light meal during your flight, and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
* Drink water. Travelers frequently become dehydrated during long flights. Drink fruit juices or bottled water to prevent dehydration during your flight.
The Dietitians’ Guide to a Healthy Summer Barbecue
The summertime is filled with outdoor activities, and for most, this will also mean hosting or attending many barbeques throughout the season. While these events offer us a time to indulge in our favorite foods, these frequent splurges also lead to an expanding waistline.
“A barbecue party is a great excuse to try new recipes and spice up the healthy foods that we try to incorporate into our diets all year round,” says Alissa Ritter, a registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Jessica Miller, a registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, adds that “Every season offers us new ways to improve our diets, and the summer is no exception. By making a few slight changes to your cooking routine and adding seasonal vegetables and fruits the summertime can become an ideal time to lose weight and keep it off.”
Alissa Ritter and Jessica Miller offer the following guide to stay healthy and enjoy those summertime barbecues:
* Ditch the beef. Try bison or vegetarian burgers instead of beef burgers. Beef can have up to six times as much total fat as bison meat and about seven times as much saturated fat. If you want to stick with beef, choose lean cuts such as a loin, round or extra-lean hamburger meat, and trim any visible fat.
* Avoid using mayonnaise on your salads. Use mustard or low fat plain yogurt in place of mayonnaise in potato or pasta salads.
* Add non-alcoholic options to your beverage selection. Have a bar of fresh-squeezed juices and flavored seltzer waters so that guests can make their own non-alcoholic drinks. Use blends of fresh or frozen berries, peach nectar and ice for refreshing smoothies; add low-fat yogurt for protein and a more filling snack.
* Make seasonal vegetables the focus of your meal. Indulge in salads and steamed vegetables. Season vegetables with spices, lemon and balsamic vinegar, a little Parmesan cheese and low-fat dressings. Make these the largest items on your plate and add small portions of protein and/or starch.
* Grilling your food is a great way to add flavor while reducing fat and calories. Grilling meats allows some fat to drip off, which lowers fat and calorie content. Try wrapping fish or chicken in foil and add vegetables and seasonings to the grill.
* Satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruits. Bypass cakes, cookies and ice cream and opt for fresh berries, melons and even some of the more exotic fruits that are available instead. Fruit is fat-free, high in nutrients and fiber, and a natural energizer.
* Try “calorie banking.” Cookouts with family and friends should not signal a diet disaster. By cutting back on your calories a week before special occasions, you can indulge a little more and enjoy yourself. Once at the event, you can use a smaller plate such as the ones usually put out for dessert or fruit. This will prevent you from taking extra-large servings.
* Stay away from empty calories. It is important to drink plenty of fluids during these warm summer months, but juice, whole milk, regular soda and alcoholic beverages are high-calorie drinks that you want to avoid. Alcoholic beverages contain empty calories and may stimulate your appetite. Instead, fill up on water, seltzer, juice diluted with seltzer, low-fat milk or iced tea.
Stop the Summertime Sniffles and Other Allergic Reactions
Every spring and summer, millions of Americans dread the trip to the park or the playground and avoid the myriad activities that trigger outdoor allergy symptoms.
Dr. David Resnick, director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, says, “No matter where the symptoms show up, the problem affects the entire individual and could last a lifetime.”
Dr. Elizabeth Leef Jacobson, an internist with a specialty in allergy and immunology at the Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, says, “Allergies can be difficult any time of year, but in the summer it is especially important to plan your outdoor activities in a way that minimizes your exposure to outdoor allergens and to ensure that you keep those outdoor pollens and particles from getting into your home and other inside spaces.”
Drs. Resnick and Jacobson offer the following strategies to help allergy sufferers survive the winds of spring and summer:
* Stay in an air-conditioned space. If you are allergic to pollen, it is recommended to run the air conditioner as much as possible during the warm-weather months instead of using a fan. Air conditioners can filter out large airborne pollen particles, whereas window fans draw pollen in. You should keep your windows closed and your air conditioner clean.
* Cut back on morning activities. Pollen counts are usually highest in the early to mid-morning hours between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m., so minimizing early morning activities may help you get a jump start on a symptom-free day. Shower and shampoo after playing or working outside.
* Avoid stinging insects. If you are allergic to bee stings, avoid wearing brightly colored clothing, flower prints, or perfumes and lotions with flowery scents. Always wear shoes when walking in the grass, cover your body as much as possible when working outside, and don’t forget to carry medication in case of an emergency.
* Take medications. Eye drops, nose spray and non-sedating antihistamine can relieve symptoms temporarily, and taking it an hour before exposure can decrease symptom severity.
* Remove contact lenses. If you wear contact lenses, remove them if you have red, swollen or itchy eyes. Contact lenses can further irritate eye allergies and make the condition worse.
High-Risk Alert: Sun Protection Tips for Tweens and Teens
It’s never too early to start protecting yourself against sun damage, and if you are a teenage girl this message is especially important.
“Even one blistering sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer. Sun exposure plays a significant role in the development of melanoma. Although more adults are using sunscreens during outdoor activities, many are unaware of how important it is to make sure that their children are getting the necessary skin protection,” says Dr. Desiree Ratner, director of dermatologic surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.
Teenage girls should be particularly careful, since melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer, is the most common cancer in young women between the ages of 25 and 29. Much of the damage from the sun in these young women will already have occurred in their teens.
Dr. Ratner recommends the following guidelines to help protect teens and tweens from the harmful effects of the sun:
* Use self-tanning creams. Tanning beds are not good for anyone. Teenagers and young adults looking to get that perfect tan should use tanning creams to get a safe summer glow.
* Be wary of freckles. If you develop freckles on your skin, this may be a sign of sustained sun damage. Freckles generally develop in sun-exposed areas such as the face, chest and arms, and they are more likely to develop in fair-skinned people with blonde or red hair.
* Apply sunscreen generously. Teens and tweens should apply sunscreen to the entire surface of their body about 30 minutes before going outside; if they are swimming, they should reapply once they are out of the water. Be sure the SPF of the sunscreen is 30 or higher and that it has both UVA and UVB blocking ingredients. The Food and Drug Administration recently announced new rules requiring that all sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
* Minimize exposure to the sun. In addition to applying sunscreen, everyone should be guarding against the sun with hats, sunglasses and umbrellas when appropriate.
Stay in the Game This Summer With R.I.C.E.
The summer is fast approaching and sports players will soon fill the courts, fields, greens and trails looking to get back in shape and practice their game. However, this also means there are plenty of opportunities for cuts and bruises, ankle sprains, muscle strains, and knee injuries, to name a few.
Dr. William Levine, chief of sports medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, recommends R.I.C.E., a first-aid technique that can be applied to most sprains, strains and joint injuries.
* Rest: If you are injured during any activity, stop the activity immediately and rest the injured area. Do not try to work through the pain.
* Ice: For the first 24 to 48 hours apply ice packs to the injured area every two hours for 15 minutes. Make sure that the ice is not in direct contact with the skin; a cotton handkerchief covering is helpful.
* Compress: Bandage the area firmly, extending the wrapping above and below the injury. This pressure will stop any bleeding and reduce any swelling of the injured area.
* Elevate: Whenever possible, elevate the injured area above the level of your heart. Elevation and compression are typically used for acute injuries such as a twisted ankle.
Once an injury has occurred you should always consult a physician to ensure proper rehabilitation. However, prevention is always better than cure. Dr. Levine offers these simple tips for preventing sports injuries:
* Start slow. You are probably not in the same condition that you were last summer; new activities require muscles and joints to respond in new ways. This may result in minor soreness that could develop into something more serious if you push yourself too hard.
* Warm up. Get your blood pumping to those under-used muscles and joints before you begin, and do some gentle stretching once you are done. This will help you retain and improve flexibility.
* Take breaks. Every so often it is recommended that you rest the body parts that are working hard and are susceptible to injury — even tennis pros rest between sets.
* Listen to your body. Don’t ignore the little aches and pains you feel in your joints and muscles because they may help you prevent serious injuries.
Seniors Keep Their Cool This Summer and Learn How to Prevent Heat-Related Injuries
The dog days of summer are fast approaching, and while we cannot control the rising temperatures on the streets, we can control the heat index of our bodies.
When temperatures rise, so does the risk for heat stroke and other heat-related injuries, but often the warning signs for these conditions go dangerously unnoticed. Older adults are at an especially high risk of experiencing heat stress and heat-related injuries throughout the summer.
Dr. Michael Stern, co-director of the Geriatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, says, “As a person ages, the body’s response to higher temperature changes. Compared with a younger person, an older adult may not be able to sense elevations in temperature as quickly or be able to cool down as readily. In today’s society we are also seeing an increased number of seniors doing vigorous exercise routines, which can become bad for their health if they don’t slow down for scorching temperatures.”
The effect of the sun on the skin of older adults can also be heightened because of changes in the skin as one ages. “You can burn much quicker even with short exposure to the sunlight,” says Dr. Evelyn Granieri, director of geriatrics at NewYork-Presbyterian/Allen Hospital.
“Heat-related injuries range from minor issues such as muscle cramps due to loss of water and salt through perspiration, dizziness, clammy skin and rapid heart beat; to heat exhaustion in the form of headaches, nausea and weakness; and finally heat stroke, which can be fatal,” says Dr. Granieri. There are also several medical conditions that can place you at higher risk for heat stroke, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Drs. Stern and Granieri offer seniors the following tips for a cool and injury-free summer:
* Slow down. When temperatures begin to reach extreme highs you should stay in the coolest place available out of the sun or in an air-conditioned room, and reduce or eliminate all strenuous activities.
* Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. You should minimize the amount of caffeinated beverages and alcohol that you drink, and grab a water bottle or a sports drink instead. A good test of hydration is to make sure that your urine is always clear in color.
* Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult. Always remember to use sunblock (SPF 15 or greater) when outdoors for prolonged periods of time in the summer months, even on hazy or cloudy days. It is also important, if you have a loved one or friend who has memory problems, to ensure that he/she is not in the sun for any extended period of time. That person may not recognize or be able to tell you that he/she is uncomfortable.
* Dress cool. Lightweight, light-colored, loose clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.
* Anticipate change. Turn air conditioning systems or other ventilators on as soon as you go inside and take off extra layers of clothing when going outside. For seniors having trouble recognizing temperature changes, these automatic actions help maintain a comfortable indoor and outdoor environment.