Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

Issue #37 07/14/10 Protecting Your Skin in the Sun!

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Fun in the Sun without Getting "Well Done"

By Omar Shamout

"If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it."

—Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich

While it's easy to ignore advice like that in the quote above, it's an important message. Cancer is a disease we generally do everything we can to prevent, but it's hard not to wonder exactly how much of an effect our efforts have in the face of its underlying causes. Fortunately, when it comes to skin cancer—the most common form of human cancer—the causes (particularly sun exposure) are often easier to see, and the preventative treatments (including sunscreen) are often easier to undertake. Just a few simple precautions every day can help you protect yourself from this disease and its debilitating effects. Unfortunately, the market for sun care products is cluttered and confusing, so let's look at some information that might help ensure that your aerobic adventures in the sunshine aren't hurting your skin while they're helping your heart and muscles.

Woman in Hammock Putting on Sunscreen

Why is UV radiation so bad?

By now, virtually everyone knows about the dangers of skin cancer, but with more than 1.3 million cases reported in the United States last year alone, it seems that people just don't think they spend enough time in the sun for it to affect them. In addition to cancer, ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause cosmetic damage, including wrinkles and age spots, and can worsen conditions like lupus. Sunglasses that block at least 99.5% of UVA and UVB rays are also crucial to avoid the damage the sun can cause to your eyes, which in some cases can lead to blindness. People who take drugs like antibiotics, anti-depressants, diuretics, and retinoids are at risk for being particularly sensitive to sun damage.

UVA (long-wave ultraviolet) rays make up 95% of the radiation that penetrates Earth's atmosphere and are primarily responsible for the darkening of the skin commonly referred to as tanning. UVB (short-wave ultraviolet) rays are less plentiful, but damaging to our skin nonetheless. UVB rays are mostly blocked out in winter months, and on colder, more overcast days, but UVA rays are prevalent year-round. The key thing to remember is that both types of rays are dangerous, and can lead to melanoma. And summer isn't the only time of year you need to protect yourself.

What is SPF?

Sunscreen LotionSPF stands for sun protection factor. Here's a quote from the Skin Cancer Foundation to help you understand the term and its use:

"It takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red. Using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer—about 5 hours. Another way to look at it is in terms of percentages: SPF 15 blocks approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97 percent, and SPF 50 blocks 98 percent."

At least one ounce (two tablespoons) of lotion is needed to be applied to the entire body surface. Just remember—don't be skimpy, and frequent reapplication is crucial. Water, sweat, and friction can all cause sunscreen to wear off more quickly than the time stated on the package, so it's essential that you don't go longer than 2 hours without reapplying sunscreen to your skin. Knowing your own skin type is an important element in determining how long you should be in the sun, what type of sunscreen you should apply, and how often you should reapply it.

What about tanning?

It used to be that when summer rolled around, everyone wanted an impressive natural tan to show off. Tans were, after all, considered an attractive and normal sign of summer. Now, however, a majority of people realize that with tans come a lot of unhealthy baggage—hence the prevalence of the spray-tan establishments that coat folks like the cast members of Jersey Shore with their characteristic orange glow. Truth be told, the only truly safe way to tan is either with one of those salon spray tans, which can be expensive, but provides a relatively even tan, or with either a sunless tanning lotion or spray-on color that can be applied at home more affordably, but can result in streaks and blotches.

There are also salons with tanning beds and booths, but if you choose to go that route, know that you're being bombarded with UVA rays 12 times more powerful than those emitted by the sun. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, tanning salon patrons are two-and-a-half times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and one-and-a-half times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. The SCF also notes that exposure to tanning beds during one's youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent.

Don't I need the vitamin D we get from sunshine?

Woman Drinking MilkVitamin D is an important nutrient that helps your immune system, muscles, and bones stay healthy and strong. However, the sun is not the only source of vitamin D, and about 10 minutes in the sun at midday is enough exposure for most Caucasians to get all the vitamin D they need. (Darker-skinned people can require two to six times as much sun to get the same amount of vitamin D.) If you have questions or concerns about how much sun is good for your skin, consult your doctor or dermatologist. Calcium-rich dairy products are typically rich in vitamin D, as are oily fish like salmon, trout, and fresh tuna. Beachbody Core Cal-Mag™ supplements are also a good way to boost your intake of Vitamin D, as well as helping to build stronger bones and a stronger immune system.

What other precautions can I take?

A 2009 study by the Environmental Working Group concluded,"Sunscreen can only provide partial protection against harmful effects of the sun. Limiting sun exposure and wearing protective clothing are even more important when it comes to protecting against skin cancer and premature skin aging." But before you start jogging in your winter parka, keep in mind that many clothing companies have sprung up in recent years in response to increased consumer demand for UV protection. Just remember to apply sunscreen to your uncovered parts.

It's easy to overlook everyday dangers like sun exposure, but it's important to remember to use sunblock and wear protective clothing whenever you're going to be in the sun for prolonged periods. Closely monitor how much time you spend in the sun and make sure you reapply sunblock often, especially after swimming or sweating it off. Following these relatively simple precautions can go a long way toward keeping you safe from the dangers of the sun.

For more information about the data and studies mentioned above, visit:

  1. The Skin Cancer Foundation: http://skincancerfoundation.org
  2. American Cancer Society: http://www.cancerorg/docroot/PED/content/ped_7_1x_Protect_Your_Skin_From_UV.asp
  3. The Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards) in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, July 19, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Hands-On Approach

Stephanie S. Saunders

It's another Tuesday. You're sitting at your desk, and as you continue to type your report, you feel a dull ache in your wrist and hand. Sometimes you can put it out of your mind, but often the pain that travels up your arm is too sharp to ignore. Is it tendinitis? Is it bursitis? Has your hand been possessed by some otherworldly demon? Or is it a case of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)? And if it is CTS, what should you do? Let's take a look at CTS, a condition that plagues 50 of every 1,000 Americans, and perhaps discover how you can avoid both the condition and the surgery that is often performed to treat it.

Hand Massaging Wrist

The carpal tunnel is a passageway on the palm side of the wrist that connects the forearm to the middle compartment of the palm. Housed in this passageway are 10 long flexor tendons. When any of these tendons swell or degenerate, the narrowing of the tunnel often compresses the median nerve, which can cause pain. This is what is known as CTS. Those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome experience pain, numbness, and tingling sensations in the arm, which can extend to the shoulder and neck area. Symptoms may increase over time, and may include burning, swelling, and the loss of grip strength. If left untreated, in extreme circumstances CTS can cause loss of mobility in one or both hands.

What actually causes CTS is unknown and is a subject of heated debate among workers' compensation case handlers. CTS can be associated with anything that causes stress on the wrist. Genetic disposition, pregnancy, arthritis, obesity, hypothyroidism, smoking, and diabetes are all factors. Pressure on the outside of the tunnel, be it from benign tumors or vascular malformation, can also play a part in CTS. Then there are overuse issues, which is where the debate begins. Some believe that repetitive and manipulative motion is the cause of CTS, but there's no scientific data to date to establish that this type of work is actually the cause. There is greater incidence of CTS in industrial jobs where force, posture, and vibration play a part, but little distinction has been made between work-related arm pain and CTS. CTS is most prevalent in those performing assembly line work, and, believe it or not, in musicians.There is actually, however, little evidence to support CTS in compter based jobs.

Prevention

If CTS is in fact determined by genetics and structure, than acquiring it would seem to be unavoidable. However, if recent research is correct, there are quite a few things you can do to avoid CTS:

  1. When possible, avoid repetitive stress. If you work in an industry that requires you to perform the same hand and arm motions every day, that might be difficult. You can try to offset these activities performed during your required work hours by taking appropriate breaks and stretching your fingers, hands, wrists, and arms. Shorter, more frequent breaks have been shown to help alleviate this repetitive stress more effectively than longer, less frequent breaks.
  2. Hands on a Computer KeyboardWorking in an environment that lets you maintain an ergonomically correct position can help you keep CTS at bay. Finding and maintaining that correct position for your hands and wrists can make a huge difference. For desk jobs, proper placement of your keyboard and positioning your body correctly while sitting play an important role. Wearing wrist splints to maintain proper wrist angle can help stabilize the area and avoid inflammation.
  3. Using supplements like turmeric, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins can be helpful. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, and B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids also seem to help with the symptoms of CTS.
  4. Psychosocial factors, extreme deadlines, and low levels of job satisfaction seem to play a role in the numbers of CTS cases reported. Finding a balance between work and rest might be the key, as stress can take a toll on any part of your body.
  5. If you're in a highly repetitive job, ask your employer about rotating jobs among employees, so each person doesn't have to perform the same repetitive action all day long, or every day of the week. Your employer might be especially receptive to the idea if you point out that preventing CTS can help him or her save money on workers' compensation claims.

Treatment

So if you wake up in the middle of the night with shooting pain in your wrist and arm and a numb hand, what should you do? First of all, get tested and find out if what you're dealing with is actually CTS. The diagnosis is fairly simple, from muscle testing to electrodiagnosis. And if you are indeed suffering from CTS, remember that although it isn't life-threatening, it can truly alter the quality of your life. The following are some ways to treat CTS:

  1. Rest is your first order of defense with CTS. Keep the area immobile for a couple of weeks, and allow the swelling to return to normal. Ice and compression can be extremely helpful too.
  2. Stretching is not only helpful in the prevention of CTS, but it can actually alleviate pain. You should put your wrists, hands, and forearms through range-of-motion exercises, stretching them just to the point before you can feel pain. Traditional yoga has also been shown to create vast improvements in CTS by actually increasing grip strength in patients who try it.
  3. There are also a few simple exercises you can do to help with CTS. Our resident fitness guru, Steve Edwards, recommends extensor exercises. "So far, I've had a 100 percent success rate curing CTS over time using simple reverse wrist curls," he explains. "In one case, with someone who had two surgeries and a couple of cortisone injections, she was better in three weeks!"
  4. Hand Being MassagedPhysiotherapy is extremely effective in alleviating and managing the symptoms of CTS. This can include soft tissue massage and exercises to directly mobilize the nerve tissue. Seek the advice of your physical therapist about effective stretches you can do.
  5. Although there is little hard scientific evidence about the effectiveness of chiropractic and acupuncture in treating CTS, there are many patients who consider these two systems of therapy to be their salvation. A chiropractor can help realign the wrist and upper spine, which may take some pressure off the median nerve. Acupuncture can release natural pain-relieving chemicals into the body and promote circulation in the affected region.
  6. Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications, including NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium, can help reduce swelling. Steroid injections can reduce pain by taking pressure off of the nerve. Steroids can also be taken by mouth, but can have some extra side effects.
  7. Surgery is the most extreme form of treatment for CTS, but it has been shown to correct the problem approximately 95% of the time. Once the pressure is taken off of the nerve, it tends to stay off. The goal in carpal tunnel release surgery is to cut the transverse carpal ligament in two. This takes pressure off of the median nerve. Surgery can be performed openly, or as an endoscopic procedure; both leave a small scar on the wrist or hand. Recovery is fairly rapid, from a few weeks to a couple of months, and results are generally positive. Damage to the median nerve is a possibility, but this happens in a fairly small percentage of cases.

If you think you feel CTS coming on, as with any medical condition, you should seek advice from your health care provider. Remember, addressing the problem immediately may help you avoid severe pain, numbness, tingling, and even atrophy of the muscles in the hand and wrist.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards) in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, July 19, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Recipe: Grilled Dijon Chicken

Grilled Dijon Chicken

We love the lean protein of skinless chicken breasts, but let's face it: we're always looking for new ways to make them taste great. Here's a tasty—yet simple!—way to prepare chicken breasts that works especially well on your summer BBQ grill.

  • 2 fresh skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs—parsley, thyme, etc.
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Ground black pepper (to taste)

Preheat grill or broiler. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Mix garlic, mustard, herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper together in flat bowl or casserole dish, then coat chicken liberally with mixture on both sides. Grill or broil chicken for 5 to 10 minutes on each side, or until center is no longer pink. Makes 2 servings.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 to 20 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
314 38 g 4 g 6 g 15 g 2 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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