Category Archive

2023 February

Cholesterol: The Good & The Bad

Walking down a grocery store aisle, you may notice some items toting phrases such as “lowers your cholesterol” or “heart healthy.”

These benefits are often sought after because high cholesterol is an issue one in every six American adults is dealing with (despite it not having any apparent symptoms), and it’s a risk that can potentially lead to severe consequences — including coronary heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance the body uses to produce cells, vitamins, and other hormones. A person’s liver generally produces enough cholesterol, but a person’s diet can also include cholesterol.

Not all cholesterol is bad. In fact, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is commonly known as “good” cholesterol. If you have too little HDL, it can increase the risk of the “bad” kind (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) building up within your arteries.

A person’s lifestyle — diet, exercise, and weight management — contributes to their cholesterol levels. And in some cases, a person may be prescribed cholesterol-lowering medicine.

The following suggestions below are proven to support healthy cholesterol levels:

  • Limit salt
  • Restrict saturated and trans fats
  • Avoid cholesterol-heavy foods (like meat, dairy, and tropical oils) and consume less than 200 mg of cholesterol a day
  • Choose healthy fats, including lean meats and unsaturated oils
  • Consume soluble fiber in the form of whole-grain products, beans, lentils, and certain produce
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Eat fish like tuna and salmon, high in omega-3 fatty acids

While it’s essential to exercise and consume a healthy diet, know that other factors can play a role. Smoking and drinking alcohol can contribute to high cholesterol, as well as increased stress levels, age, other health conditions (i.e., diabetes, PCOS, Lupus), and even family genetics.

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It’s no secret prolonged sun exposure is dangerous for your skin, but for photosensitive people, limited exposure to the sun, ultraviolet (UV) light sources, or even indoor fluorescent lighting can lead to irritations.

Skin that is highly susceptible to UV light is known as photosensitivity and can result in itching, blistering, peeling, and other symptoms. Photosensitivity may be caused from:

  • Medications, including some antibiotics, NSAIDs, antihistamines, and others
  • Autoimmune disorders like lupus
  • Other medical conditions
  • Ingredients found in retinol or other skincare products that target acne and fine lines on the skin’s outer layer

If you’ve ever gone to an esthetician, dermatologist, or even a photofacialist, they should ask if you’re on any new medication or if you’ve had recent skin exposure before rendering a new service or treatment. Not doing so could result in a photosensitive reaction.

This condition can be tricky to diagnose and presents itself in two distinct types of reactions. The more common reaction — a phototoxic reaction — can feel like a rash or sunburn occurring not long after skin is exposed to UV lights and is typically caused by a new medication or skincare product’s ingredients.

However, a photoallergic reaction is less common. It occurs when your body’s immune system treats sun exposure (combined with ingredients in certain medicines and topically applied products) as a foreign threat and produces an antibody reaction. This can result in blisters, rashes, and even lesions for several days.

Diagnosing photosensitivity is done by taking a detailed history and evaluation of the skin, performing specialized tests or photosets, and investigating other parts of the body, including blood count, connective tissue antibodies, and liver function.

Photosensitivity isn’t simply an irritating condition — it can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Key actions you can take to protect against and manage photosensitivity are:

  • Minimizing your skin’s exposure to sun and UV radiation
  • Using broad-spectrum SPF (50 or higher)
  • Talking to your physician about potential side effects of any new or current medication
  • Discussing your skincare routine with your dermatologist
  • Reading the warning labels on skincare products

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Legal Assistance

For most of us non-experts, legal matters can be confusing, whether it’s dealing with paperwork for adoptions, ensuring that estate-related documents are in place in the event of your passing, or even dealing with traffic tickets. The idea of hiring a lawyer for help with these matters is also daunting given the potential cost.

The good news is that many employers provide access to affordable legal help for your personal needs, often paid for with per-pay-period deductions directly from your payroll, just like your medical coverage. It’s like having your own lawyer on retainer for a very reasonable cost. These attorneys are licensed and experienced, able to help you (and usually your dependents) with:

  • Estate planning, wills, and trusts
  • Real-estate matters
  • Identity-theft defense
  • Financial matters, such as debt-collection defense
  • Traffic offenses
  • Document review
  • Family law, including adoption and name change
  • Advice and consultation on personal legal matters
  • Divorce

This is not a comprehensive list, as plans differ slightly between employers and vendors. Check your benefits guide or with your HR department to see whether this is an optional benefit your employer offers. While most of us don’t plan on needing legal help, it may be worth the peace of mind knowing you have immediate, affordable access to it should the occasion arise.

Addiction Help

The misuse of alcohol and drugs (including prescription, over-the-counter, and illegal) is commonly known as substance abuse, but it can evolve into addiction when brain functionality is impacted.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences.

Despite what some believe, addiction is not simply about a person’s inability to exert self-control. Addiction impacts the brain and affects someone’s ability to stop using — despite the harm their behavior causes. Addiction impacts all kinds of people, regardless of age or financial circumstances, but there is hope for those who suffer.

Today, opioid addiction is a severe public health problem in the United States. Opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, tramadol, and other prescription drugs used to relieve pain.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the primary treatment for opioid addiction and aims to tackle withdrawal and cravings. To help prevent opioid addiction, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking prescription drugs and do not take any medications not prescribed to you.

It’s essential to work with professionals trained in addiction and rehabilitation when developing a treatment program. Treatment options that have proven successful in helping addiction include behavioral counseling, medication, and identifying and treating co-occurring mental health issues (depression, anxiety, etc.). Remember considerations like long-term follow-up and maintenance to prevent relapse down the line.

If you or someone you know needs help battling addiction, trained specialists are available via SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), to route callers to intake centers or connect you with local resources for assistance and support.

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