We all know that summer time brings glorious hot weather, and with it sunburns, heat stroke, and dehydration. And we all know how to prevent these problems.
But could there be some other summer health problems that we don’t hear about everyday? Here is a list of tips for summer ailments that are a little less obvious.
1. Summer Weight Gain
While having a beach body is important to many, summer weight gain is more common than one would suspect.
The food that we consume at the beach may be some of the most fattening foods we eat all year. Think about it. Chips, hot dogs and burgers, mayonnaise-based potato and pasta salads, ice cream, sugary iced drinks, beer and frozen cocktails make up the base of our summer diets.
But that’s not all. Alarmingly, according to the International Journal of Obesity, air conditioning may be a major factor in summer weight gain. When we are in a space with a comfortable temperature our bodies do not need to work as hard to stay cool, and since our bodies are not as hot, any decrease in appetite–usually seen in the summer–disappears. We eat more and burn fewer calories!
Another study at Ohio State University found that children’s BMI increased on average more than two times as much during summer break than during the school year. (Keep in mind that the school year is four times longer than summer vacation.)
Yet summertime is the best time of year to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally keep the body hydrated and energized. Try grilling vegetables, fish and shrimp and eat watermelon for dessert. Enjoy a day with family at a local farmers market trying out new types of produce or go berry picking at a local farm.
2. Air Pollution
Exercising outdoors is something many of us do in the summer. But there is one factor that we should all watch out for: air pollution. High temperatures mixed with air pollution can cause ground level ozone to form. Ground level ozone worsens asthma and breathing problems, and overexposure can lead to reduced lung function and lung disease.
Make sure to check the air quality forecast in your neighborhood before going out for a run or jog, or even before a long day at the beach.
You can check air quality forecasts and conditions at: http://www.airnow.gov/
If you are looking to reduce stress this summer, try gardening. New evidence suggests that a bacteria found in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, may boost your spirits. Mice who ingested this bacteria experienced higher production of serotonin, a mood-boosting hormone. A second study on lung cancer treatment found that patients who received an injection of the same bacteria experienced better moods and fewer symptoms.
4. Brain Health
Summertime can be a great time to improve your brain health. According to Dr. Paul Nussbaum Ph.D., ABPP, there are two important factors to keeping your brain healthy: novelty and complexity.
Novelty can be achieved by learning a new skill, travelling to a new place, or even taking a different route to work each day. Rather than sticking with a routine, try to change up the order of your morning activities, which will improve brain awareness and engagement.
Complexity is related to learning new skills and improving those areas where you are weakest. For example, if math is not your strong suit, try doing a few problems each day. Improving what we are already good at does not do as much for the brain as stimulating areas that we may avoid. Both of these techniques will improve brain function and help fight dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other types of brain degeneration.
Sunscreen should not be just for the skin. Lips can be just as important to protect to avoid melanoma, or skin cancer, on the lips. Avoid lip-gloss or shiny lipsticks, which function like tanning oil by attracting sunlight. In order to avoid this exposure it is important to block both UVA rays, which contribute to visible aging as well as skin cancers, and UVB rays, which cause skin reddening and sunburn and are the dominant causal factor in skin cancers. Both men and women should make a point of using chapstick that contains SPF with both UVA and UVB protection, especially during long periods of sun exposure.
Written by Georgina Muri, MA.
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Von Hippel, P. T., Powell, B., Downey, D.B., & Rowland, N.(2007). “The effect of school on overweight in childhood: Gains in children’s body mass index during the school year and during summer vacation.” American Journal of Public Health, 97(4), 796-802.
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