If you’re one of the 36 million Americans who still smoke, you probably already know all the ways it can harm you. Tobacco use is still the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the country. In 1977 the American Cancer Society began to sponsor the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November to encourage Americans to quit.
Our concierge family doctors at MD 2.0 in Jupiter encounter many skin conditions in the course of treating our patients, but perhaps none is as frustrating as the common ailment known as eczema. Because this condition affects more than 30 million Americans, we’d like to explore the symptoms and triggers of this condition and explain how to treat it.
Stress is a part of life, and cortisol is one of the results of stress. You may have heard of cortisol, but not understand how too much of it can impact your health. So our concierge family doctors at MD 2.0 in Jupiter want to explain what it is, and offer ways to help control it.
It’s back-to-school time, and one thing you may not be prepared for is your child coming home from school with a lice infestation. If the very thought is making your skin crawl, our concierge family doctors at MD 2.0 in Jupiter want to assure you that, while head lice are annoying and distasteful, they are not dangerous.
The concept of air conditioning was first proposed by Florida physician and inventor Dr. John Gorrie in the 1840s. Gorrie believed that cooling was the key to avoiding diseases like malaria and making patients more comfortable, but his rudimentary system for cooling hospital rooms required ice to be shipped to Florida from frozen lakes and streams in the northern United States.
To get around this logistical challenge, Gorrie began experimenting with the concept of artificial cooling. He designed a machine that created ice using a compressor powered by a horse, water, wind-driven sails, or steam, and was granted a patent for it in 1851.
But it wasn’t until 1902 that Willis Carrier perfected the process and introduced it at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
Nowadays, most Americans, especially here in Florida, have air conditioning in their homes. But if you’re one of those who prefer not to use it, or if your power goes out, or you travel somewhere that lacks it, our concierge family practice doctors at MD 2.0 in Jupiter want to offer some tips on how to get a good night’s sleep in the summer heat.
The only thing worse than having insomnia is having insomnia on a hot summer night. To keep your cool, try the following.
Cool the room
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), if you are sleeping and the temperature rises above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, it can wake you up. So be sure to keep the room as cool as possible by:
• closing the blinds and windows during the day to prevent heat buildup during the hottest part of the day;
• using a fan to keep the air circulating and supply “white noise” to block out street sounds;
• placing a bowl of ice or ice packs in front of the fan, which will help chill the air;
• dampening a sheet and hanging it across the window, both to block out light and heat, and to take advantage of cooling evaporation as it dries.
Cool the bed
• Use cotton, linen, or bamboo sheets, which provide breathability. Also avoid high-thread-count sheets, which tend to trap body heat. Opt for sheets with thread counts under 400.
• Some pillows—like those stuffed with buckwheat—are specifically made to stay cool. Or you can try putting your pillow inside a plastic bag in the freezer for an hour or so before bedtime. Alternatively, place ice packs inside the pillowcase.
• Remove all extraneous bedding, including blankets and extra pillows, which tends to hold heat.
• Avoid alcohol or heavy meals—especially carb-heavy foods—in the evening. Alcohol dehydrates you as well as making you feel hotter, and large meals produce extra heat in your body during digestion.
• Take a cool bath or shower or a dip in the pool just before bedtime. The evaporation of the moisture on your skin acts to cool you.
• Fill a hot water bottle with water and freeze it, then take it to bed and place it beneath your knees or neck, or on your chest or wrists.
• Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day, because your body needs water to help keep you cool.
• Remember that warm air rises, so if you have the option, sleep on the lowest floor in the house.
What if none of this helps?
If you’re still having trouble getting sufficient shut-eye in the summer, you might try the supplement melatonin. A hormone made by the pineal gland, it has been used successfully by many people for sleep issues. Most people can take it without a problem, but some experience such side effects as dizziness, anxiety, or daytime sleepiness. It is also contraindicated for those taking several medicines (blood thinners, birth control pills, and immunosuppressants, among others). So check with us first.
In extreme cases, let us know. If necessary, we can prescribe sleep medications for a few nights. These will help you sleep but can also induce troublesome side effects. Ideally, they should be used only for short periods of time in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. We can also recommend various types of sleep studies that might help pinpoint more serious issues such as sleep apnea.
We’re not even halfway through summer yet, and we’ve already seen record-high temperatures here in south Florida, which can bring dangerous health impacts. The two most serious are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Our concierge doctors in Jupiter want to remind you of ways you can keep your family safe as temperatures soar.
What to watch for
The Red Cross warns that some people are more at risk of developing a heat-related illness. These include: people aged 65 and older, who are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature; people with chronic medical conditions, who may be taking medication that can worsen the impact of extreme heat; infants and young children; and, outdoor workers and athletes, who may be more likely to become dehydrated, particularly in extreme heat.
When keeping an eye on the weather forecast, here’s what the various warning terms mean:
- Excessive Heat Watch: Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local Excessive Heat Warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.
- Heat Advisory: Heat Index values are forecasted to meet locally defined advisory criteria for the next one-to-two days
- Excessive Heat Warning: Heat Index values are forecasted to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least two days.
Consequences of extreme heat exposure
Such excessive heat as we’ve been experiencing recently can lead to life-threating heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Most people have heard these terms, but may not fully understand what they mean. We want to explain the differences between the two, because the treatments for each are different.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says muscle cramping might be the first sign of heat-related illness. It lists the warning signs of heat exhaustion as:
- heavy sweating
- cold, pale, clammy skin
- fast, weak pulse
- nausea or vomiting
If you or someone you’re with experiences these symptoms, you should move to a cooler location, lie down and loosen your clothing, apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible, and sip water. If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.
The signs of heat stroke are:
- high body temperature (above 103 degrees)
- hot, red, dry, or moist skin
- rapid and strong pulse
- possible unconsciousness.
This is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately. While waiting for the ambulance, move the person to a cooler environment, and try to reduce the person’s body temperature with cool cloths, or if possible, a cool bath. Do NOT try to give fluids.
Staying safe in the heat
Here are steps you can take to avoid experiencing either of these serious conditions.
- Limit outdoor activity. The sun is hottest from 11 a.m. (D.S.T.) to 3 p.m., so try to stay indoors, or at least in shaded areas, during those times. If you must be outdoors, take frequent breaks, preferably in air-conditioned environments, and, if possible, take cool showers or baths to cool down.
- Dress appropriately. Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Wear a hat with a wide brim.
- Drink water frequently, from two to four cups of water every hour. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, because by then you’re already started to dehydrate. Monitor urine color: If your urine is dark, you’re not drinking enough water. Urine should be light yellow or clear. And avoid alcoholic drinks, which can not only impair judgment regarding time spent in the heat but also dehydrate you.
- Never leave children or pets in cars for any amount of time. Also check on animals frequently, ensuring they have access to shade and plenty of cool water.
- Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone, or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
Keep these safety tips in mind as you enjoy the outdoor fun in summer, and check with us if you feel more bothered than usual by the heat. This could be a sign of a medical condition that warrants investigation.
Sausages. Mayonnaise. Pizza. Potato chips. Bacon. Even whiskey, gin, and rum. All these foods and many more share two common traits: All were “processed” into their familiar form by humans, and all have been implicated in an increased risk for early death.
Our concierge primary doctors in Jupiter want to make you aware of the latest studies on the dangers of consuming these foods as the primary part of your diet.
The difference in these studies is that they don’t just address so-called “junk” foods like cookies and fast foods, but many of the items that all of us have in our kitchens and rely on as staples of our diet.
Published last month in the journal BMJ, one study followed more than 100,000 adults in France for five years. They found that those who ate the most processed foods were 23 percent more likely to experience a heart condition or stroke than those who consumed the lowest amounts.
The second study, also published in BMJ, tracked 20,000 Spanish adults over 20 years. Those who ate the most processed foods were 62 percent more likely to die during the study period than those who ate the lowest.
“High consumption” was defined as four or more servings of ultra-processed foods daily, with health risks rising 18 percent for each additional daily serving.
While researchers cautioned that correlation doesn’t prove causation, both studies controlled for such other possible risk factors as lifestyle, demographics, physical activity, weight, and overall health in drawing their conclusions. They also noted that their findings correspond to other earlier studies showing an association between highly processed foods and higher risks of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and some cancers.
Researchers classified foods into roughly three categories:
- “unprocessed or minimally processed” foods included fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, legumes, meats, poultry, fish and seafood, yogurt, white rice and pasta, and natural juices;
- “processed” foods included cheeses, breads, beer, wine, ham, and bacon;
- “ultra-processed” foods included potato chips, pizza, cookies, chorizo, sausages, mayonnaise, chocolates and candies, artificially sweetened beverages, and whisky, gin, and rum.
They also created a separate category called “processed ingredients,” which included salt, sugar, honey, olive oil, butter, and lard.
The problem seems to stem from the processing, which changes foods from their natural state into something that will last longer on our shelves. These tend to be high in poor-quality fats, additional sugar, salt, and preservative chemicals, and low in vitamins and fiber. The common factor can be summed up in the phrase “convenience foods”; that is, foods that are quick and easy to prepare at home.
Dr. Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist who was not involved in the study, told CBS News, “I like to say: The longer the shelf life, the shorter your life.” Freeman directs cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver.
The takeaway in both these studies, as well as preceding ones is, the closer to a food’s natural state that you can eat, the better the effect on your overall health.
Freeman told CBS News that the most heart-healthy diet is one rich in whole foods, particularly plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. He added that, for affordability and convenience, fresh-frozen vegetables were perfectly acceptable.
Simply switching from sodas to water is another good choice, as well as substituting fresh fruit for sweets. Options for quick snack foods include such treats as homemade sweet potato chips, and oven-“fried” vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli, as well as celery and carrot sticks cut up and stored in water.
If you have any questions about a healthy eating plan, please let us know. We can help you substitute a healthy diet for foods likely to negatively impact your health.