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Health Chat April 2014

If your Thai spouse (or boyfriend, girlfriend, third-gender friend) has not shamed you into showering two to six times a day, it may mean s/he doesn’t really love you. On the other hand, that person may be doing you a favour, albeit inadvertently…

Those April Showers

april showersThe weather forecast for this month is sunny and sweltering. No April showers here. Nevertheless, for a full one-third of the month anyone wandering the sois of Pattaya can expect to be rained on by revelers--young and old, drunk and sober, Thai and farang--promising to drench everything and everyone in the city.

Beyond the wet dreams of Songkran merrymakers, April marks the most uncomfortable time of year here; a time when an intentional daily shower--or two or three—offers refreshing relief from oppressive heat and humidity, washing away perspiration, body odor, bacteria, and even cares and woes. But showering every day may not be such a good idea, and showering several times a day is definitely a bad idea.

Yes, to maintain good personal hygiene, it is important to cleanse the body regularly. But to maintain healthy skin, it is more important to shower less often. If you’re concerned about the health of your skin, shower only every other day; the respite from hot water, soap, and scrubbing enables your skin to better sustain its oil, moisture, and pH balance. On off days, use a wash cloth to gently clean body areas for hygienic or odour-related reasons.

Your skin is hydrated from moisture in the air and from beneficial oils and water in your body. When the atmosphere is dry, your skin becomes dry as well. You may apply a moisturizer to replenish dry skin, but a better option is fewer showers, because water—particularly hot water—softens the skin’s oils, making it easier for them to wash away, thus drying out your skin. For that same reason, it’s also advisable to avoid using harsh or anti-bacterial soap; opt for the mildest body soap you can find.

If skipping a shower raises concerns about emitting unpleasant body odours, you might consider switching deodorants. On the other hand, natural body scents are linked with sexual attraction. It is an innate, unconscious means of mate selection. So showering less frequently may actually help you attract a compatible lover.

More importantly, it will help you maintain the good bacteria essential to healthy skin. Most of us know that our stomachs need good bacteria to function effectively; not everyone knows this is true of skin cells as well. Beneficial bacteria help skin cells learn how to produce their own antibodies as protection from harmful bacteria. Excessive bathing removes good bacteria.

Moreover, retaining oils and inert cells on your skin is beneficial as well. These elements provide a barrier to unhealthy germs and certain chemicals, some of which can damage the skin and other body parts. Frequent showering removes these oils and dead skin cells from your skin, making it easier for chemicals to enter your body. This is even worse if you use harsh soaps or body washes that contain chemicals. Use simple, non-toxic soap with minimal ingredients.

Wiping yourself dry with a towel is another problem related to showering too often. That rubbing damages your skin. Air drying is the optimal way to dry off following a shower. When you don’t have time to wait for the water to evaporate, use a soft towel to gently pat your body, or dry off with a blow dryer. No rubbing.

Jocks take note: Go ahead and shower as often as necessary if your daily routine includes weight lifting, jogging, aerobics, etc. Same goes for those working in labour-intensive jobs, in hospitals, or around people with contagious diseases.

Health News

Men’s longevity lags in Europe

Health NewsEuropean men are lagging behind women in terms of life expectancy, says a new report from the World Health Organization. Although people are living longer than ever before, men have seen less improvement and are "a generation behind" women, says the report.

The gap between the sexes is 7.5 years. Women in Europe can expect to live for an average of 80 years, while men reach an average of 72.5 years. The team, which studied data for nearly nine million people in 53 countries, says men have not yet reached the average rise in years of life that women enjoyed back in 1980.

The researchers note that lifestyle and occupational differences largely explain this gap, as well as major inequalities in life expectancy among different countries—again, the differences are greatest in men. The gap between the best and worst countries for male life expectancy is 17 years. For women it is 12.

Countries with the widest male-female difference in survival include Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Montenegro, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. Those with the smallest were Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK. In the UK, the average life is 82.5 years for females and 78.5 for males.

The leading health-risk factors are tobacco and excessive alcohol. Cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer, followed by cancer.

Focus on Food

Listen Up

What do carrots, salmon, and almonds have in common? They can help reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss.

Researchers in Australia found that people who regularly eat carotenoid-rich vegetables like carrots and vitamin E-rich foods like almonds experienced a 47 percent reduced risk of hearing loss. The same researchers determined that people who eat two servings per week of omega-3-rich fish, like salmon, also experienced hearing protection. At the end of a two-year study, participants who ate fish at least twice a week had a 42 percent lower risk of developing age-related hearing loss.

Why are those nutrients beneficial to hearing? As we age, a rising level of free radical molecules are thought to damage the inner portion of the ear associated with hearing. But antioxidant nutrients like carotenoids and vitamin E may help fight that dynamic. The anti-inflammatory qualities of omega-3s also may help prevent hearing loss.