Tuesday, May 16, 2017

To Your Health: Debating hand sanitizers, sun screens, and statins

Contrary to the prevalent myth, science is never settled. The following items concern three big debates about your health. I've tried to capture the essence of each article, but you should read them in their entirety if you are concerned. Then show them to your doctor.

Do Hand Sanitizers Really Cut Down on Illness? The short answer is no one knows, because no one has studied it. On a personal level, good hand hygiene clearly can make a difference in health. A 2008 study in The American Journal of Public Health concluded that improvements in hand hygiene, regardless of how the participants cleaned their hands, cut gastrointestinal diseases by 31 percent, and respiratory infections by 21 percent. More advice here.

The Great Sunscreen Debate: Vitamin D vs. Skin Cancer. Try a middle ground. Dr. Anne Marie McNeill, PhD, and Erin Wesner write: “The truth is, it doesn’t take much sun exposure for the body to produce vitamin D. Even committed proponents of unprotected sun exposure recommend no more than 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to arms, legs, abdomen, and back, two to three times per week, followed by good sun protection. That minor amount of exposure produces all the vitamin D your body can muster. After that, your body automatically starts to dispose of vitamin D to avoid an overload of the vitamin, at which point your sun exposure is giving you nothing but sun damage without any of the presumed benefit.”

Statins: How safe are they? "We know that statins can prevent a significant number of heart attacks and strokes. We know there is a small increase in the risk of diabetes, and at high doses there is a very small increase in myopathy, but overall the benefits greatly outweigh the harms," says Peter Sever, professor of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics at Imperial College London. "Widespread claims of high rates of statin intolerance still prevent too many people from taking an affordable, safe, and potentially life-saving medication."

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