FOR YOUR HEALTH: Is Your Sunscreen Harming The Reefs and Your Health?

What You Need to Know Before You Buy Sunscreen

(NAPSI)—With news heating up as Hawaii’s governor signs a bill into law banning chemical sunscreens, consumers are starting to question how safe their sunscreen really is. Their concern is warranted as research has shown that the same chemical sunscreen—some of the most popular brands—that is killing our oceans’ reefs, has been found to harm the human body.

“If it’s killing our oceans’ reefs, imagine what it’s doing to you?” said Lisa Palmer, co-founder of TropicSport, a reef-friendly, mineral sunscreen and skin care line. “Now we know from a recent study that when chemical sunscreen is mixed with chlorine and exposed to ultraviolet light it can potentially result in kidney and liver dysfunction and nervous system disorders. It took us four years to develop our product, paying attention to the tiniest detail for maximum protection and safety, while using natural ingredients. We knew back then that the toxins were an issue. It’s now becoming clear that these chemicals are harmful to humans and raising questions from the FDA.”

According to a study by Dr. Craig Downs, executive director, Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, “Oxybenzone is an emerging contaminant of concern in marine environments—produced by swimmers and municipal, residential, and boat/ship wastewater discharges.”

Most popular chemical sunscreens contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone and octocrylene. These chemicals can cause coral bleaching and coral death, as well as reproductive diseases in fish. Their toxicity also prevents the natural restoration of a damaged reef, ultimately leaving the seascape barren and desolate.

Many mainstream sunscreen brands claiming to be a safe alternative have removed most of the chemicals but now use avobenzone, a derivative of oxybenzone, as a stabilizer, making the sunscreen just as harmful. Avobenzone degrades within 30 minutes when it’s exposed to the sun, which results in harmful free radicals being released into the system. These free radicals can actually accelerate the aging process and increase the risk of illness including cancer.

Palmer recommended checking sunscreen labels and using only pure mineral sunscreen like TropicSport with non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, ensuring that no particles are absorbed into the bloodstream. Instead, they sit on top of the skin acting as a physical blocker that deflects and scatters the UV rays away from the skin.

“It’s better for you, is kid friendly, and unlike other mineral sunscreens, is easier to apply, smells better, and is one of the few that have passed the U.S. FDA 80-minute and Australia 240-minute water resistant tests,” said Palmer.

TropicSport is available at TropicSport.com.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: How To Stop A ‘Silent Killer’

(NAPSI)—High blood pressure is often silent—showing no signs or symptoms—but it’s not invisible. Survivors are speaking out to show the real impact of high blood pressure, and a new campaign from the Ad Council, American Heart Association and American Medical Association provides resources to help you and your doctor create a treatment plan that works for you.

Survivors William, Jill, Francisco, Allyson and others show you what high blood pressure looks like while telling their stories at LowerYourHBP.org to encourage you to get your blood pressure under control before it’s too late.

Understanding High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is any level of blood pressure above 130/80. Its consequences include heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, vision loss, sexual dysfunction and peripheral artery disease. According to the American Heart Association, 46 percent of Americans have high blood pressure, but only about half of them have it under control.

Committing To A Plan

Once you know you have high blood pressure, you can manage it very effectively through changes in eating habits, physical activity, and, when needed, medication. The best way to avoid the consequences of high blood pressure is to talk to your doctor and commit to a treatment plan that works for your life. Here are some questions to answer in preparation for your doctor visit:

  • How have you been feeling?
  • Is anything preventing you from sticking to your current plan?
  • Any changes in your blood pressure?
  • Any side effects from any medication or symptoms?
  • How do you treat your side effects and/or symptoms?
  • What questions or concerns do you have for your doctor?

Overcoming Everyday Hurdles

If your treatment plan feels overwhelming, your doctor can help you create a more achievable plan. The most effective plan is the one you actually follow. You can use the guide at LowerYourHBP.org to start the right conversation with your doctor.

If a hectic schedule, the cost of medication, or your habits are keeping you from sticking to your treatment, talk to your doctor about ways to overcome these barriers. Be clear about your concerns and get all the answers you need.

Learn More

You can find important facts, stats and tips and see the campaign’s videos online at www.LowerYourHBP.org. There, you can also find helpful tools as you work with your doctor to create or get a treatment plan to bring your blood pressure under control.

You can save yourself from the “silent killer.”

FOR YOUR HEALTH: New Transplants Are Changing Lives

(NAPSI)—Organ transplants have been saving lives for many years. You may even know someone who has received a kidney or a heart transplant, and what a difference that gift of life has made.

Another type of transplant has been changing lives in incredible new ways—the transplantation of hands and faces. More than 100 people worldwide have received these types of transplants: a veteran who lost his limbs in war, a woman whose face was devastated in an attack, a child who lost his hands to severe infection. All have had their lives transformed.

These procedures are called “Vascularized Composite Allograft” organ transplants, or VCA transplants. They are composed of multiple types of tissue. With a hand transplant, for example, bones, blood vessels, nerves and skin must all be attached to the remaining arm.

So many tissues, however, make VCA transplants extremely complex. The surgery requires the involvement of dozens of surgeons and other medical professionals and can take 16 hours or more. Recovery is also demanding for patients; rehabilitation can be a full-time job for one to two years.

Yet, the results are life changing. VCA transplants can restore abilities and independence in ways that artificial limbs and reconstructive surgery cannot. Just consider the difference a working hand with moving fingers and a sense of touch could make. It can mean the ability to take care of oneself, work, drive and play. Face transplants enable recipients to rejoin society, often ending isolation and depression.

VCA and traditional organ transplants are the same in some respects. Criteria for matching donors and recipients include the need for compatible blood and tissue types. However, VCA requires matching for additional features such as skin tone, body size and hair color. Gender may also be taken into consideration.

A commonly asked question about face transplants is whether the recipient will look like the donor. The answer is yes and no. Yes, skin characteristics such as moles, freckles and scars will transfer to the recipient. However, because the recipient’s underlying bone structure is apt to be different from the donor’s, resemblance will likely be minimal.

Like with kidneys, livers and other organs, there is a national waiting list for VCA transplants that matches donors with potential recipients. However, enrolling as an organ donor on a state or national registry does not mean you’re authorizing VCA donation. Your family would make the decision about VCA donation after your death.

You can learn more at www.organdonor.gov, a website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Three Cool Ideas For A Better Night’s Rest

(NAPSI)—The next time you find yourself kicking your leg out of the side of your blankets to cool off or turning your pillow over because it’s too hot—you won’t be alone. Some 50 million Americans are affected by intermittent sleep problems, potentially created by bedding choices, according to the National Sleep Foundation—but you don’t have to be.

Not many people realize it, but surrounding yourself with breathable fabrics while you sleep is essential for a restful night. Airflow matters because it lets heat naturally dissipate away from your body and helps keep your temperature regulated. Overheating can lead to a night of tossing and turning, leaving you groggy the next day because you didn’t recover properly the night before.

What To Do

So what’s the solution? It’s possible to get more out of each day by enhancing your sleep environment. There are options that can cater to your individual sleep position, body frame and temperature to help you maximize recovery at night.

Consider these facts and tips for a better night’s sleep:

  1. There are 24 vertebrae in your back, eight of which are supported by a pillow and the rest by your mattress. Therefore, while you’re sleeping, 30 percent of your comfort comes from your pillow and 70 percent comes from your mattress. This is why it’s important to have the right fit of sleep equipment that supports your body’s needs.
  2. Get personalized. It’s true that one size doesn’t fit all—especially when it comes to your bedding. You might want to check out Bedgear, which offers a personalized Performance Sleep System and a Pillow ID fitting process, used by professional sports teams such as the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks. The process is designed to fit people with individualized products for the best sleep every night.
  3. Spend the last hour before bed away from electronics. Taking some time to relax and unwind calms your body and helps your brain transition more easily into deep sleep. At the same time, you’re removing artificial sources of the blue light found in electronic devices that activates your brain to stay awake and can disrupt sleep.

Personalization, coupled with fabric technologies that are engineered to promote airflow and assist with temperature regulation, can ensure that your sleep environment is optimized for the best rest.

Learn More

For further information on how to upgrade your sleep, visit www.bedgear.com.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Five Tips For Prescription Medication Success

(NAPSI) — For people who are on one or more daily prescription medicines, forgetting to take a pill can happen from time to time. Planning ahead for such schedule-disrupting events as vacations and special events can help you stay on track and minimize any health risks that might result from not “taking as directed.”

Doctor’s Advice

“It’s really important to take your medication exactly as prescribed, even if you don’t feel different after missing a day or two,” explained Dr. Victoria Losinski, director of pharmacy services at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “This is especially true for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, because their risk of ending up in the hospital is 2.5 times greater when not following a doctor’s treatment plan.”

The mantra “you have to take the medicine for it to work” goes beyond diabetes control. People who don’t take their prescribed high blood pressure medication on a regular basis have a 42 percent higher chance of developing chronic heart failure. And people on high cholesterol medications are twice as likely to develop heart disease if their cholesterol is not under control.

What You Can Do

To help, here are five tried-and-true tips for strengthening your everyday prescription medication habits:

1. Talk to a pharmacist. Some drugs have very specific instructions on when to take them, whether to take them on an empty stomach, with certain foods or to avoid in conjunction with certain medications. Your pharmacist can help you understand your medications and map a plan to stay on track. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota members can also call the number on the back of their cards and speak with a nurse guide.

2. Write it down. If you’ve got several medications to manage, write down the details to keep them straight. Consider using a small one-page calendar, such as the kind found in a checkbook or available through a downloadable tracker, to mark off that you have taken your meds each day.

3. Get organized. Using a pillbox is a simple low-tech way to make sure you take exactly what you need when you need it. There are also pharmacies, including PillPack, that sort your prescriptions, vitamins and other over-the-counter medicines into dated packets to make taking your meds even easier. You can also ask your pharmacy if it offers a similar program.

4. Set an alarm. Use your smartphone to schedule reminders. If you’re looking for an app, try Rxremind, which can be downloaded for iPhone or for Android.

5. Refill on time. Accessing your pharmacy’s auto-refill program, requesting a 90-day supply and using a mail-order prescription service are all good ways to help make sure you don’t run out and miss your medication.

Learn More

For additional facts, tips and resources, visit Bluecrossmn.com/ManageMyMeds.

FOR YOUR HEALTH – Be The Boss Of Your Diabetes: Three Self-Management Tips

(NAPSI) — Diabetes is one of the fastest-growing conditions in the U.S. Today, the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes has skyrocketed to nearly one in 10, compared to one in 100 just 50 years ago. Chances are that you or someone you know is coping with it.

What You Can Do

Hearing from your doctor that you have diabetes can be an overwhelming experience. From that day forward, your “new normal” may involve some lifestyle changes. Managing diabetes is a 24/7 responsibility, and many people don’t know where to turn for help to get started. The good news is that diabetes self-management education classes and resources are widely available. Diabetes education can help you to navigate changes and learn simple ways to improve your overall health.

Diabetes self-management means a number of key behavioral changes, including tweaks to diet and exercise, and learning to manage your medication. And while you can attempt those tweaks by yourself, you don’t need to go it alone. Most insurance plans, Medicaid and Medicare cover diabetes self-management education. Unfortunately, studies show only 6 percent of people take advantage of diabetes classes meant to help them manage their diabetes within the first year of being diagnosed.

You can get a better handle on self-management for your “new norm” with these three tips:

  • Attend a diabetes education class. Most health care providers offer classes to help people with diabetes learn how to manage their condition. You’ll learn best practices and tips for meal planning, monitoring blood sugar, medications, stress management and more. In addition, many community organizations offer classes to support continued learning and management of diabetes.
  • Discover healthy lifestyle ideas. As diabetes becomes increasingly prevalent, more organizations are offering a variety of classes to help support healthy living. These classes can include healthy eating tips and recipes, or a variety of fitness opportunities such as ballroom dancing or yoga. You can check a nearby community center or fitness center to see what classes they offer. Some health insurers also offer diabetes resources and classes for members and nonmembers alike at brick-and-mortar retail stores. Check with your health insurer for options.
  • Get moving with easy-to-use fitness technology. Physical activity offers huge benefits for people with diabetes, including lowering blood glucose levels, helping with weight loss, and controlling blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Fitness trackers and apps for phones and tablets make it easier to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. For example, the Blue Cross “do.” app can help you choose activities and set reminders throughout the day to stand up, stretch, walk and more.

By successfully managing your diabetes, you can improve your quality of life and help prevent complications down the road—including cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, eye damage, hearing impairment and more.

A diabetes diagnosis changes your life, but your new norm can lead to changes that can help you feel better and stay healthier.

Learn More

For more information about diabetes self-management education and how you can help take control of your diabetes, go to www.bluecrossmn.com/newnorm.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Don’t Let Nausea Spoil Your Life

(NAPSI) — If you ever get sick to your stomach due to pregnancy, chemotherapy, surgery, riding in a car, a boat, a plane or an amusement park ride, or even virtual reality gaming, you may be relieved to learn two things:

First, you’re not alone. Nausea affects millions of people every day. Scientists are not sure why, but according to a study published in the journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, there is a significant genetic contribution that may be responsible for as much as 57 percent of the people who suffer from motion sickness.

What To Do

Next, whatever the cause, you can feel better with the help of these four anti-nausea tips:

  • Eat light, plain food, such as dry bread and crackers.
  • Avoid anything too sweet or greasy.
  • Sip certain liquids if you can—ginger ale, ginger tea, mint tea and plain water may all help.
  • Get a fast-acting, drug-free, nausea relief band that works without the side effects of medications such as drowsiness and constipation.

How It Works

Featuring a clinically-proven technology, it’s a specially designed wristband that uses patented scientific knowledge, endorsed by health care professionals, and that emits accurately programmed pulses with highly specific waveforms, frequency and intensity. These pulses signal the median nerve at the P6 location on the underside of the wrist. This stimulation of the nerves, known as “neuromodulation,” uses the body’s natural neural pathways to send messages to the part of the brain that controls nausea, retching and vomiting. The signals have a rebalancing effect, normalizing nerve messages from the brain to the stomach and quickly reducing symptoms of nausea, retching and vomiting.

The unique band is easy to use and comfortable to wear, even over time, and the attractive design rivals the most fashionable wearables. Called Reliefband 2.0, it features a latex-free band and hypoallergenic surgical steel contacts for efficient transmission of pulses. The intuitive display has 10 intensity settings that can be moved up and down at the touch of a button and a battery that lasts about 18 hours on a full charge and recharges quickly. This adjustable band, designed to control nausea, helps put you back in control so you can live your life in full motion.

Learn More

For more information, go to www.reliefband.com, and to find a community of fellow nausea sufferers and learn how they cope, visit www.nationalstopnauseaday.com.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Is LASIK Safe? Plus, Answers To Six More Questions About LASIK

(NAPSI)—You’ve had it with glasses and contacts getting in the way of your lifestyle. You’ve heard about LASIK and maybe even talked to one of the more than 19 million people who have had the popular laser vision correction procedure. Dr. John Vukich, assistant clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin and member of the Refractive Surgery Council, answers six of the most-asked questions about LASIK:

1) Is LASIK safe?

“All surgery comes with risk, but there is a huge amount of clinical research backing LASIK as safe and effective,” assures Dr. Vukich. “That research, and the clinical experience with the procedure, shows it has a 96 percent patient satisfaction rate and the risk of sight-threatening complications is extremely low—less than 1 percent.”

2) Does it hurt?

“The procedure is relatively painless because numbing drops are used throughout,” Dr. Vukich confirms. “Some people experience some mild discomfort after the procedure, mostly irritation and dryness, but that usually disappears within 24 hours.”

3) What are the side effects?

“Some patients experience dry eye symptoms. Some have light sensitivity, glare, halos, ghosting or starbursts,” says Dr. Vukich. “These generally go away with time and healing, but sometimes additional medication or other treatment may be needed.”

4) Will I be rid of glasses forever?

“LASIK doesn’t stop the aging process, so everyone needs reading glasses at some point,” answers Dr. Vukich. “LASIK improves the vision you have at the time of the procedure, but it won’t prevent the vision conditions that occur naturally over time, such as presbyopia and cataracts.”

5) Can anyone have LASIK?

“About 20 percent of patients aren’t good candidates for the procedure,” says Dr. Vukich. “Eye health, the shape of the cornea, medical conditions like lupus and diabetes, or certain medications can make it a less than ideal choice. It is important to share your complete medical history with your eye surgeon.”

6) Do they actually shoot lasers into your eyes?

“The short answer is yes! Today’s laser technologies reshape the cornea and correct vision without damaging any surrounding tissue,” says Dr. Vukich. “The technology we use today is so precise, the vision correction is customized to the individual patient’s eye, not just his or her prescription.”

If you are thinking now is the time to seriously look into LASIK, get the facts and go into it as an informed patient. Get started by visiting www.americanrefractivesurgerycouncil.org/blog.

FOR YOUR HEALTH – Atrial Fibrillation: When The Heart Skips A Beat

(NAPSI)—Every heart has a built-in pacemaker that ensures it beats regularly. When that natural pacemaker doesn’t do its job, however, a person may experience an irregular heart rhythm, the most common and undertreated of which is atrial fibrillation (AF). This irregular heartbeat isn’t always noticeable at first but can cause chaos over time.

Understanding AF

AF, which affects more than 33.5 million people worldwide, occurs when the upper chambers of the heart beat significantly faster than a normal heartbeat or quiver irregularly. Some people with AF have no symptoms, while others have chest discomfort or pain and experience fainting or light-headedness, as well as fatigue, shortness of breath or weakness.

“When I was young, my heart did funny things. It fluttered, it skipped a beat, but mostly it resolved by itself,” said Sue Halpern, a lifelong AF patient. “When it didn’t resolve by itself, I somehow learned how to make it stop. I began to notice in my 20s and early 30s that it was getting harder to make it stop, but I still didn’t know anything was wrong with me.”

Because the heart isn’t pumping normally, blood can pool in the heart and clot; these clots can also make their way through the bloodstream. If left untreated, people with AF have a much higher risk of stroke and an increased risk of heart failure.

AF is typically caused by damage to the heart from disease, an abnormality from birth, surgery or a heart attack. However, adopting healthy behaviors such as monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure, avoiding smoking and excessive caffeine, and not abusing alcohol can help prevent disease.

How To Tell If You Have AF

As with so many diseases, early detection of AF is important. Physicians may obtain an electrocardiogram (ECG) or stress test, or recommend short-term monitoring with a cardiac event recorder or Holter monitor. Unlike these short-term methods, a small insertable cardiac monitor (ICM) automatically detects and records abnormal heart rhythms for up to three years, while remaining barely detectable under the patient’s skin. For example, the Medtronic Reveal LINQ ICM is approximately one-third the size of an AAA battery, yet it can accurately detect AF.

What To Do If You Have AF

Once diagnosed, living with AF doesn’t have to be a burden. While treatment options vary, many people respond well to medications. For those whose natural pacemaker needs an extra boost to keep the beat, treatment may include an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) or a pacemaker that can respond to and reduce the duration of AF episodes. An ICD can also detect a dangerous and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm and send a lifesaving therapy to correct it.

Another treatment for paroxysmal (fleeting) atrial fibrillation (PAF) is cryoablation, a minimally invasive procedure that isolates the pulmonary veins, which are a source of erratic electrical signals that cause PAF. The device used in the procedure uses cold energy to interrupt these irregular electrical pathways in the heart.

In Halpern’s case, cryoablation greatly reduced her PAF episodes and has given her a new outlook on life.

“For someone who was having episodes every seven to 10 days for eight to 12 hours at a time, I wouldn’t have dreamed of having a life free of AF,” Halpern said. “My advice is, if you feel something off with your heart, do something about it.”

Learn More

Those who are living with or who suspect they may have AF can get further facts about therapies that may help get their heart back in sync and find a physician by visiting www.medtronic.com/us-en/patients/conditions/atrial-fibrillation-afib.html.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: What You Should Know About Heart Valve Disease

(NAPSI)—Even serious cases of heart valve disease can occur without symptoms or go unnoticed or be mistaken for other conditions because symptoms develop slowly.

One Man’s Story

Al Ridgely figured his increasing shortness of breath and lagging stamina were symptoms of his emphysema and getting older, until a fainting episode led doctors to discover he was one of the 2.5 percent of Americans with heart valve disease (HVD).

The American Heart Association is working to raise awareness about the symptoms, risks and treatments for the condition, in which one or more of the heart valves have been damaged, disrupting blood flow by not opening or closing properly. HVD becomes more prevalent with age, affecting one in 10 adults age 75 and older.

Ridgely, who is from Traverse City, Michigan, underwent open-heart surgery to repair both his mitral and tricuspid valves and encourages others to talk to their health care providers about any health changes, rather than just assume it is part of aging.

“It never entered my mind that I could have heart disease,” said Ridgely, who is now 83. “As I get older, it can be hard to recognize what’s aging and what’s something more serious.”

Advice From A Health Care Practitioner

Romeatrius Moss, DNP, RN, an AHA volunteer, said understanding HVD and making lifestyle changes are crucial for protecting heart health, especially in African Americans, where the disease is more prevalent.

“In the black community, we need to understand what our risks are and follow up with necessary testing,” said Dr. Moss, founder, president and chief executive of Black Nurses Rock, the nation’s largest minority nursing association.

While HVD is relatively common, three out of four Americans reported knowing little to nothing about the condition, and six in 10 heart valve patients didn’t have or didn’t recognize their symptoms, according to surveys released by the Alliance for Aging Research.

Medical advancements mean HVD can often be successfully treated either through repair or replacement; however, an estimated 25,000 people die from the condition each year.

According to the American Heart Association, some people, even those with serious HVD, may have no symptoms, while others have symptoms that change very slowly over time or come on quickly. Symptoms can include chest pain or palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness or inability to maintain regular activity level, light-headedness or loss of consciousness, or swollen ankles, feet or abdomen.

In addition to age, risk factors for HVD include a history of rheumatic fever or infective endocarditis, heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmia, or previous heart valve conditions from birth, called congenital heart defects.

Those previously diagnosed with a heart murmur, mitral valve prolapse or other mild form of HVD should maintain regular checkups with a health care provider and watch for any changes should the condition worsen over time, Dr. Moss said.

She was diagnosed with a heart murmur as a child, but didn’t realize it could pose significant health risks until a physical for the Air Force revealed she had mitral valve prolapse. Thirteen years later, Dr. Moss gets regular checkups with her health care provider and watches for signs that her condition may be worsening. She also exercises regularly and watches her diet to minimize her risks.

“Know your body and know how you can protect yourself,” Moss said. “Sometimes, patients have to lead this discussion and as nurses we try to help our patients advocate for themselves.”

Learn More

For more fact about heart valve disease, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment, visit www.heart.org/heartvalves.