As we start a new year, let’s take inventory of some common health-related questions that often pop up over the course of 12 months. Here is our first edition of “Three Solutions to Three Common Health Questions.”
Question #1: I’m a grown adult still battling acne. What can I do, short of spending a ton of money on a dermatologist and prescriptions, to zap the zits?
Acne can strike at any age, not just among eager prom dates. It affects an estimated 50 million Americans a year, and it comes in many forms, including blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, and nodules. Per prevention.com, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health reported that acne affects close to half of all women between the ages of 21 and 30, and nearly one in eight women 41 and over.
Let’s bust a few myths about what causes acne, which webmd.com identifies as the most common skin problem in America. Despite parental warning to kids about junk food, pizza, greasy burgers, and fried foods, consumption of such food usually has little to do with the emergence of pimples, per medicinenet.com. Neither do fistfuls of chocolate, a diet heavy on milk and/or carbs, sweat mixed with dirt, or stress (at least not directly)
So, what is the real cause of acne? In short, it’s the result of when a pore in the skin gets clogged with oil and dead skin cells, per webmd.com. That oil is sebum, a natural substance that lubricates and protects the skin. Acne usually appears at the onset of puberty, although hormonal changes can also be a factor.
Solutions to the Problem of Acne
Following are some tips and possible remedies for preventing or eradicating acne:
- Zinc, either as a supplement or topical treatment. Studies have found it effective in decreasing oil production in the skin and guarding against bacterial infection and inflammation, per healthline.com.
- Tea tree oil. A worthy alternative to benzoyl peroxide, an ingredient commonly found in acne creams. It can kill bacteria and reduce oil production.
- Salicylic acid, available in some products not needing a prescription. It works to prevent pores from getting clogged.
- Reduce salt in diet. The iodine found in salt can worsen acne breakouts, per prevention.com.
- Blue-light therapy. Devices, to include at-home models, which emit powerful rays that can penetrate hair follicles to eradicate bacteria that contribute to acne, per prevention.com.
Question #2: Flu season is here, and I didn’t get a flu shot. What measures can I take to guard against catching the flu?
Well, first, it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Check with your doctor or local chain/grocery store – many of them offer annual flu shots at a nominal cost. But as we all know, not all flu vaccines are effective – most are created as hit-or-miss propositions. Then again, many people purposely choose not to get flu shots, and are willing to roll the dice.
One sobering fact in all this is that everyone is at risk of being victimized by the flu, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Typical symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny of stuffy nose, muscle aches, headaches, chills, and fatigue. Nausea and vomiting also show up, and in the most severe cases flu-rated deaths in the U.S. have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000 people a year. It most often peaks between December and February each year, per webmd.com.
Shot-less Solutions to the Threat of Flu
There is no 100 percent foolproof method for preventing the flu, which can spread fairly easily among friends and loved ones, as well as co-workers and schoolmates. Here are some suggestions on how to reduce your risk of getting sick from the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people you know to be sick. Likewise, if you are sick, do others a favor and steer clear. There is nothing heroic about showing up at work knowing you are sick.
- Wash your hands frequently. Most flu viruses are spread through the hands, per webmd.com. Use soap, warm water and rub hands vigorously for at least 15 seconds.
- Cover your nose and cough when you cough or sneeze .A tissue is preferable over a cloth hankie, or cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm. Then wash your hands.
- Be careful about not touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Got an itch up there somewhere? Wash your hands first.
Question #3: In recent months, I’ve started experiencing moderate joint pain, mostly in my knees. Any suggestions?
A joint is where two or more bones are joined, held together by ligaments and supported by cartilage that permits the bones to move smoothly over one another, per webmd.com. Maintaining joint health allows us to run, walk, throw, jump and perform dozens of other activities around the house, workplace and just about anywhere we occupy space.
The most common type of joint affliction is osteoarthritis, which involves the wearing away of a joint's surface cartilage, resulting in bones rubbing together. Causes could include aging, inflammation, or previous injuries.
Other forms of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease), gout (usually in the big toe), juvenile arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia and psoriasis. Most forms of arthritis need to be treated with a combination of rest and consistent exercise as well as medication, and vitamin and mineral supplements.
Solutions for Solving Joint Pain
Here are some tips for taking proper care of your joints:
- A cardio workout such as swimming or biking is easier on the joints than running or high-impact aerobics.
- Wear braces for added support, such as a knee brace, elbow brace, or ankle brace.
- Stretch after a workout vs. before. Stretching is more effective when the muscles are warmed up.
- Fish consumption can reduce inflammation. Salmon and mackerel are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Maintain good posture.
- Keep moving. If your job has you nailed to a chair, get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour.
- Apply a cold pack if you feel joint pain after a workout. Ice wrapped in a towel or a bag of frozen vegetables works, too, numbing the pain and minimizes swelling.
- Lose weight.