Protect Eyes from UV Damage

Majida Gaffar, MD

While most are aware of the dangers of excessive sun exposure to skin, many are not aware that ultraviolet (UV) light can harm eyes as well. UV rays can damage the eye’s surface tissue. Studies show that exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration as well as cancer of the eye.

Some helpful tips for adults and children alike:

  • Wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection--even if you wear contact lenses with UV protection.
  • Choose sunglasses that wrap around to the temples so UV rays can’t enter from the side.
  • Wear a hat in addition to sunglasses.
  • Be especially vigilant about protecting eyes during early afternoons and at high altitudes, where UV light is more intense.
  • Never look directly at the sun. Doing so can hurt central vision due to retinal damage.
  • Using tanning beds--which is never a good idea--can cause corneal burns and retinal damage without proper eye protection.


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The High Cost of Smoking

Pat Folan, RN

The New York State Department of Health has launched an anti-smoking TV campaign that illustrates the hefty price New York’s smokers pay for their addiction.

Smoking takes away the ability to pursue the athletic activities and costs an exorbitant amount of money -- both for cigarettes and ensuing healthcare needs. And it’s a product that will most likely cost your life. 

Although cigarette smoking alone increases your risk of coronary heart disease, it greatly increases risk to your entire cardiovascular system. Almost immediately after quitting smoking, the lungs and other smoke-damaged organs start to repair themselves.

Quitting tobacco is the number one thing a smoker can do for his or her health.

Quitting is hard, but with help from North Shore-LIJ’s Center for Tobacco Control and your doctor, you can succeed. For free help, call 516-466-1980.

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Watch Out for Hidden Calories

Nancy Copperman, RD

Of the top five major sources of calories for adults, only two foods are good sources of protein, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. They are chicken and yeast breads. The rest of the foods--grain-based desserts (for example: cookies, cakes, pies, muffins) and sweetened sodas, energy drinks and alcoholic beverages--are not a significant source of nutrition, but they are a significant source of calories. So try to cut down on portion sizes and frequency of these foods and instead to replace them with fruit, water, flavored seltzers and decaffeinated iced tea flavored with sliced lemons, lines, oranges and mint.

Top 5 Sourcees of Calories

Improve the quality of chicken dishes and yeast breads (for example, bagels, croissants, fruit breads) by considering the following:

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How to Prevent Osteoporosis

Nina DePaola, PT

Osteoporosis, defined as “a porous bone,” is a condition in which a loss of bone density or mass occurs. Bones become weaker and more susceptible to fracture. Since bones are a living tissue made up of mainly calcium and protein, it is important to maintain and monitor their strength.

Gradual loss of bone mass generally occurs by the age of 35; the medical cause remains unknown. However, factors known to contribute to development of osteoporosis include aging, calcium and vitamin D deficiency, estrogen deficiency, excessive alcohol use, caffeine, smoking, low body weight, physical inactivity and family history. Therefore, prevention is key. Since factors such as aging and family history are beyond anyone’s control, it is important to focus on what can be controlled through lifestyle.

The top 5 tips for preventing osteoporosis are:

  • Make sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D
  • Exercise at least 3 to 4 hours a week; focus on weight-bearing exercise and posture (see your physician or physical therapist for an individualized plan)
  • Avoid smoking
  • Monitor alcohol intake
  • Maintain a healthy body weight

Early testing is an important step toward reducing bone loss and preventing fractures, and can include tests for bone density, a physical examination, and/or medical history review among other things. Playing an active role in your health at an early age can be the first step to reducing the risk. For more information on the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis, visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation Web site.

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Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

Adam Penstein, MD

At the beach last week, I was very pleased as my friends and family slathered on their sunscreen. After all, I always remind my patients not to forget their SPF (sun protection factor).

However, the recent report by the European Working Group (EWG) on sunscreen safety gives everyone reason to pause and consider the safety and effectiveness of sunscreen products on the market. The report reviews many sunscreens and recommends the safest and most effective products.

The EWG focused on the use of several concerning ingredients in many of the most popular sunscreen products--in particular, certain types of Vitamin A, which could raise the risks of skin cancer, and one of the chemical oxybenzone, which may have untoward hormonal effects.

The most important thing to take from the EWB report is something I have been preaching to my patients for many years: Sunscreens should not be your primary form of sun protection.

Sunscreens allow more time in the sun without burning. But this additional time in the sun can lead to much higher rates of radiation exposure--and potentially to an increased risk of skin cancer.

We all need to be sun smart. This means wearing a shirt, hat, swim-shirt when in the water, and sitting in the shade as much as possible. Also, avoid the sun at midday by scheduling outdoor activities in the morning and late afternoon. During sun exposure, apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 every two hours.

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