Hold the Snooze
Can your chronotype—your propensity to feel sleepy or alert during a 24-hour cycle—inform when you should sleep, work out, even answer emails?
The simple answer is yes, says Samer Hattar, a chronobiologist at the National Institute of Mental Health who teaches at Johns Hopkins. “Be consciously aware that you have a biological clock that changes during the day. Although the clock itself is not conscious, the actions associated with it (hunger, alertness, sleepiness) are all conscious,” he says. “You can see the hands of the clock even though you don’t see the mechanics.”
Being conscious of your chronotype can help you organize your day. “You’ll start noticing that there are certain things you like to do at certain times,” Hattar says. Match your naturally changing levels of alertness throughout the day to your tasks—if you’re sluggish in the morning, use that time to sort through a messy inbox and save important projects for when your energy peaks later in the day.
Enhanced H20: Beneficial or Bunk?
The grocery aisle is loaded with a new guard of enhanced waters— alkaline, pH-balanced, electrolyte-boosted—which promise to work better with your body’s natural pH level and up your intake of minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Despite the marketing claims gushing about enhanced waters that can enhance your health, there’s no evidence they’re any better than regular old H20, says Johns Hopkins internist Bimal Ashar. “There have been absolutely no proven benefits of enhanced waters,” he says.
In fact, despite the wallet-straining price tags, enhanced waters may not be any more or less healthy than tap water. “Many of these waters use a process called reverse osmosis,” which in addition to removing impurities like chlorine, Ashar explains, “will also remove some minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium that may be beneficial.” Hence the need to “enhance” by adding what was there in the first place. In the end, you’re better off buying an at-home filter for your tap.
Spotting Skin Cancer
Sharp-eyed manicurists and hair stylists sometimes spot what we can’t: signs of skin cancer in unexpected places. While rare, “melanoma can occur in any part of the skin, including areas we might not normally think to check, such as the scalp, ears, palms, soles, and between the toes and fingers,” says Johns Hopkins dermatologist Elise Ng, “even under nails.”
Cancer doesn’t always appear as dark moles but may also be colorless, Ng adds. Called amelanotic melanoma, the skin-colored to pinkish or reddish bumps or patches can be hard to recognize, Ng says. Enlist the help of your stylist’s bird’s-eye vantage to check your scalp during your next haircut, or pause your next mani-pedi to look for moles between fingers and toes or brown streaks or bands under the nail.
“Rarely, melanoma can present as brown spots on the eye, in the mouth, or on the genitalia,” she adds. “Ask your ophthalmologist, dentist, or gynecologist to look for any suspicious moles during routine checkup appointments.”
If it seems you’re leaving more hair in the shower drain during the summer months, you’re right—seasonal hair loss is real. According to Johns Hopkins dermatologist Shawn Kwatra, it’s normal to experience slightly increased hair loss in the summer. We can thank evolution for thinning seasonal strands. “From an evolutionary perspective, one of the major functions of hair is to provide warmth and a protective barrier,” Kwatra says. As temps rise, prepare to see some of your hair fall.
Smartphone, Dumb Posture
Smartphone slump is real. “The more you bend your head forward to look at your phone, the greater the force placed on the cervical spine,” says James Bukowski, a Johns Hopkins specialist in occupational and environmental health. “Over a long period of time, this could cause permanent damage.” At the very least, you’ll have a sore neck.
That’s not the end of smartphone-induced ergonomic issues. You can develop repetitive strain injuries to your hands and wrists from overuse. “If you spend a lot of time texting and writing emails on your smartphone, you run the risk of developing pain in your hands and wrists from the awkward postures used to type,” Bukowski says.
Luckily, there’s an easy fix for each: raise your phone to eye level while reading that text and switch to a real keyboard to type anything longer than a quick note.
Your New Guide for Hypertension
There are about to be more people in this country diagnosed with high blood pressure. Last fall, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released a revised series of recommendations for practitioners to evaluate and manage high blood pressure. Hypertension used to be defined as readings equal to or above 140/90. Now, anything that tops 130/80 is considered too high.
Johns Hopkins cardiovascular risk management specialist Cheryl Dennison Himmelfarb, who served as a co-author on the guidelines, says the switch reflects studies showing the benefits of lower blood pressure. “There’s a large body of evidence that shows that risk for heart attack, stroke, and other consequences of high blood pressure begin to occur at any level above 120, and risks double at 130.”
The number of adults diagnosed with hypertension will likely spike from a third to nearly half. But that’s the point. “The real benefit is that people will be identified much sooner,” Dennison Himmelfarb says, and they will be able to make lifestyle modifications that could substantially decrease their risk without necessarily resorting to prescription drugs. Many of the newly diagnosed should be able to tackle the problem with a heart-healthy diet and exercise.
It’s time to take a pedi break. Yellow or flaking nails that look like a nail fungus could actually be damage from chemical-laced nail products, says Patrick Felton, a podiatrist at Johns Hopkins. Acetone, which is found in nail polish and nail polish remover, “acts as a lowgrade caustic agent, which damages the upper layers of the nail plate,” Felton says. To discontinue the damage, let nails go nude every once in a while, or look for nonacetone removers and nail polishes made with wheat protein to protect nails.