Fewer than 14 percent of American adults smoked cigarettes in 2017, the lowest level seen since data collection started in 1965, government health officials reported Tuesday. “Certainly, it is fantastic that the U.S. smoking rates continue to drop,” said Dr. Adam Lackey, chief of thoracic surgery at Staten Island University Hospital. “I suspect education is a large part of why the rates are dropping.” “Unfortunately, I suspect part of the drop is also related to more and more people switching to the various other methods of consuming nicotine,” he noted. “Vaping seems to be taking off, and I am always dismayed to have patients proudly tell me that they don’t smoke, and thank goodness for all those vaping products that they use now.” “Yes, vaping doesn’t have the high levels of tar and soot that are the major contributors to the cigarette lung cancer risk,” Lackey said. “But you are still inhaling heated chemicals into your body. And you are still getting nicotine, which in and of itself is not particularly healthy, aside from the addiction standpoint.” Meanwhile, the report unearthed some bad news along with the good. Twice as many of those who smoked lived in rural areas and smaller cities than in cities of 1 million or more — about 22 percent versus 11 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — It is important to protect your eyes from sun-related ultraviolet damage. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests how: Choose sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays. Wear sunglasses every day, even when it’s cloudy. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to block UV rays from affecting your eyes from the sides and above the glasses. Some contact lenses also have UV blocking. Ask your eye doctor about how much protection your contact lenses provide.

You’d better think twice before taking booze to the beach or out on a boat. Alcohol increases the risk of injury and death in and on the water, safety experts warn. For example, alcohol is a factor in up to 70 percent of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults, according to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA). Drinking impairs judgment and makes people more likely to take risks, a dangerous combination for swimmers, the institute noted. Even experienced swimmers may go farther out than they should and not be able to make it back to shore, or they may not notice how cold they’re getting and develop hypothermia. Diving after drinking is especially dangerous, according to the NIAAA. Being drunk may cause divers to collide with a diving board or to dive where the water is too shallow, the institute noted in a news release. In addition, alcohol can lead surfers to become overconfident and try to ride a wave beyond their abilities. And drinking while boating presents another set of challenges. NIAAA-funded research shows that alcohol may play a role in 60 percent of boating deaths, including falling overboard. Also, a boat operator who’s had four to five drinks is 16 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than one who hasn’t had any alcohol.…  read on >

It’s often said salt water is good for cuts. Or that sunscreen isn’t needed on cloudy days. But both are incorrect, says Isabel Valdez, a physician assistant and instructor of family medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. When you head outdoors this summer, you should be aware of some common health myths, she noted. “Salt water from the beach can actually contain germs or bacteria that can infect an open wound,” Valdez said in a college news release. “You should wait until the wound is healed and sealed completely before submerging it in fresh or salt water.” Wash wounds with warm, soapy water. See your doctor if the wound becomes red, sore or warm to touch, Valdez advised. It’s also a myth that you don’t need to wear sunscreen when it’s cloudy. “You definitely want to wear sunscreen even when it’s cloudy because you are still going to be exposed to some UV rays,” Valdez said. “I recommend always wearing an SPF over 30.” Reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially if you are swimming or sweating, she added. You probably know you need to drink more fluids in the heat. But don’t assume all liquids are equal. Drinking soda or an alcoholic beverage will not hydrate you. In fact, too much alcohol or caffeine actually can dehydrate you because they are diuretics that…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — Which sunscreen is right for you? There may be no easy answer unless you understand sunscreen lingo, the American Academy of Dermatology says. A recent study in JAMA Dermatology found that fewer than half of people asked at a dermatology clinic understood the meaning of “broad spectrum” or “SPF.” The academy offers this primer about sunscreen lingo: “Broad spectrum” sunscreen means it can protect you from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. This will help prevent skin cancer, early skin aging and sunburn. Sunburn protection factor (SPF) determines how well sunscreen protects from sun damage. SPF of 15 filters 93 percent of UVB rays, while 30 SPF filters 97 percent of those rays. No sunscreen is entirely waterproof, but some are water-resistant. The product is considered water resistant if it stays on wet skin for 40 to 80 minutes. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours, even if your skin stays dry. A chemical sunscreen absorbs the sun’s rays, while a physical sunscreen protects you by deflecting the sun’s rays.

Many migraine sufferers skip recommended behavioral treatments, such as stress management and talk therapy, a new study finds. Lack of time, cost and skepticism are among the reasons why, said Dr. Mia Minen, director of research for NYU Langone’s headache division in New York City. Previous studies have shown that treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, stress management, relaxation techniques and biofeedback may reduce migraine symptoms by 50 percent or more, Minen and her team said. (Biofeedback involves using a monitoring device to reduce muscle tension.) These treatments can cost less than medications and have long-term benefits for migraine reduction, the researchers noted. “Migraines can be debilitating, so it stands to reason that many patients would want to access a treatment that reduces symptoms by half. However, our research shows this is far from the case,” Minen said in an NYU news release. Migraine headaches affect about 36 million Americans. The moderate to severe throbbing headaches are often accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. For the study, Minen and her colleagues looked at 53 migraine patients who were referred for behavioral treatment with a specially trained therapist. The patients were interviewed within three months of their initial appointment. Only 30 (57 percent) made an appointment for behavioral treatment. Patients who had previously seen a psychologist were more likely to begin…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — Your weight can be a strong indicator of your general health. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says three weight calculations are good predictors of how healthy you are: body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and risk factors for diseases and conditions associated with obesity. BMI is calculated from your height and weight. The higher your BMI, the higher your risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems and certain cancers, the agency says. If most fat is around your waist rather than at your hips, you’re at a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This risk goes up with a waist size that is greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men, the agency says. To measure your waist, stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hips. Measure your waist just after you breathe out. And along with being obese, certain conditions increase your risk of heart disease and other chronic medical problems. These factors include: High blood pressure. High LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Low HDL (“good”) cholesterol. High triglycerides. High blood sugar. Family history of early heart disease. Insufficient exercise. Smoking.

If mindless eating can put on the pounds, it stands to reason that mindful eating can help with diet success. In fact, studies show that “eating-focused” mindfulness can bring significant changes in weight, in how you approach food, and even in psychological well-being. This makes it especially helpful for binge eaters, but it’s also good for anyone whose first reaction to stress or any uncomfortable emotion is to reach for food. The goal of mindfulness is to help you develop a greater awareness of true hunger and the feeling of fullness, and to identify and work through the various triggers that lead to unnecessary eating. One simple way to apply the principles of mindfulness it to keep an eating diary. Whether in a traditional journal or through a food tracking app, you want to write down not just what you’re eating but also why you’re eating — are you hungry or just bored or stressed? To delve deeper into the practice of mindful eating, your options range from books for self-starters to training through mindfulness-based weight loss programs with weekly group meetings. These meetings can include one or more forms of meditation as well as mindful-eating homework so you can put into action what you learn in class. As with any technique designed to change behavior, the more effort you put in between sessions, the…  read on >

Basketball provides a great full-body workout. But there are steps you should take to reduce your risk of knee, ankle and foot injuries, an orthopedic specialist says. In 2016, more than 60,500 people were treated for basketball-related foot injuries in U.S. emergency departments, doctors’ offices and clinics. More than 355,000 sought help for basketball-related ankle injuries, and more than 186,000 people suffered basketball-related knee juries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. “Foot and ankle injuries are the most common injuries in basketball,” said Dr. Matthew Matava, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at Washington University in St. Louis. He’s also an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery spokesperson. “Non-contact twisting injuries to the knee and ankle while racing for the ball, coming down from a rebound, or defending an opposing player can lead to knee ligament and cartilage tears and sprained ankles,” Matava said in an academy news release. Simply wearing shoes designed for basketball can lower some of these risks, he noted. “Proper shoes with ankle support and good traction for basketball court surfaces are essential,” he added. Matava also shared these other injury-prevention tips: Maintain a balanced fitness program during the off-season. Always warm up and stretch before a game with activities such as jumping jacks, stationary cycling or running or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Learn and follow proper technique.…  read on >

When you fire up the grill for your Memorial Day cookout, beware: Those tantalizing aromas hold an underestimated health risk. Grilling meats at a high temperature can produce cancer-causing compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). You can be exposed to significant PAH levels simply by breathing in the sweet scent of barbecue. A new study from China suggests letting your skin come into contact with PAHs when you grill food is even more harmful than just savoring the aroma. And clothing won’t fully protect you against them. PAHs can cause lung disease and DNA mutations, the researchers said. Though eating barbecued meats is the most common source of exposure, just standing near a grill and breathing PAH-contaminated air can be risky, previous studies have shown. For the latest study, published May 23 in Environmental Science & Technology, a team led by Eddy Y. Zeng at Jinan University closely examined skin exposure to PAHs from barbecue fumes and particles. The researchers divided volunteers into groups based on various levels of exposure to grilled foods and smoke. Urine samples revealed the greatest PAH exposure came from eating grilled foods, but skin contact was in second place, followed by inhalation of barbecue fumes. Clothes can help protect you from the smoke, but only for a short period, the researchers noted in a journal news release. Once fabrics become…  read on >