Indian-American scientist finds why cholesterol worsens in winter

Cholesterol levels usually go up in colder months – a trend that may be driven by behavioural changes that occur with the changing seasons, new research by an Indian-American researcher shows.

While previous studies have shown that heart attacks and heart-related deaths increase during the winter, researchers at Johns Hopkins’ Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease were interested in finding out whether cholesterol parameters might follow a similar pattern.

They studied a massive data representing 2.8 million adults – the largest study so far to look at seasonal lipid trends in adults.

“We found that people tend to have worse cholesterol numbers on average during the colder months than in the warmer months – not by a very large amount, but the variation is significant,” said Parag Joshi, a cardiology fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

“The data instead validates a clear seasonal pattern and underscores the need to pay attention to behaviours that are critical to minimising cardiovascular risk,” Joshi said.

“In the summer, we tend to get outside, we are more active and have healthier behaviours overall,” Joshi added.

“In the colder months, we tend to crawl into our caves, eat fat-laden comfort foods and get less exercise, so what we see is that LDL and non-HDL bad cholesterol markers are slightly worse,” he added.

So you have a lipid signature of higher risk but it is driven by behaviours that occur with the changing seasons.

Researchers speculate the shorter days of winter – and limited time spent outside – also mean less sun exposure and, subsequently, lower concentrations of vitamin D, which has also been associated with the ratio of bad to good cholesterol.

More research is needed to further tease out what might be behind these seasonal variations, Joshi told the gathering at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session recently.

Source: samachar

Daily shower bad for your skin? Try the ‘soak and smear’

The East and the Midwest have been suffering a frigid, seemingly endless winter. The West, mainly California, has been mired in drought. Neither is good for skin.

The cold can keep people indoors in dry heating, while drought is, well, dry.

Combine this weather with the American love of frequent showers and baths and you’ve got a recipe for itchy, parched skin, or aggravated conditionslike dermatitis and eczema. Should we stop showering so much, as suggested by a recent Discovery News story, and embrace our stink?

Not necessarily, say dermatologists. It’s not so much how often you bathe, but how you bathe that matters.

Forget about that all over-sudsing, suggests Dr. Casey Carlos, assistant professor of medicine in the division of dermatology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

“It’s the hardest thing to get people to use soap only where they need it,” Carlos told Because soap is designed to remove oils from the skin, it’s drying. So Carlos suggests using it in armpits, the groin area, feet — the potentially smelly places —and skipping chest, back, legs, arms.

“People don’t realize that the skin does a pretty good job of cleaning itself,” Carlos said.

Use lukewarm, not hot, water, and keep showers short. (Water authorities in drought areas will thank you.) “Then, as soon as you get out of the shower, moisturize,” Carlos said.

Some research has shown using an emollient body wash can clean and moisturize as well as using an after-shower product. One risk, however, is that in-shower moisturizing can leave the shower or tub as slick as a used pasta plate.

“I used one, and the next time I stepped into the shower, I almost slipped,” Carlos said.

Baths can actually be therapeutic for dry skin sufferers because a soak in lukewarm water helps the skin absorb the moisture. Dermatologists use the phrase “soak and smear.” Soak for 10 or 15 minutes, then smear on moisturizer. That technique can be superior to moisturizing after a shower.

The American Academy of Dermatology says that small children and the elderly need to shower less often (unless, of course, your child has been building the Panama Canal in the backyard, or if they’ve been swimming in a lake, pool, or ocean.) The skin of small children is more delicate and elderly skin is naturally drier.

Many people, Carlos said, think that tight, after-shower feeling is a sign of cleanliness. It’s not. It means your skin is too dry

Source; Today health


Do your muscles hurt more when it’s cold outside?

Cold weather causes muscles to lose more heat and contract, causing tightness throughout the body. Joints get tighter, muscles can lose their range of motion and nerves can more easily be pinched, according to Los Angeles-based orthopedic physical therapist Vivian Eisenstadt.

Thanks to the effects of colder temps, muscles are forced to work much harder to complete the same tasks they complete easily in milder weather. This causes more damage to the muscle tissue and can result in increased soreness. To counteract the damage, be sure to warm up for a little longer than usual.

“It is normal to feel muscle soreness for a few days after exercise, especially if it is a different type of activity or at a more intense level than your body is used to,” says Amy McDowell, a physical therapist and Pilates instructor from ARC Physical Therapy in Chicago.

“If you feel more sore in the winter after the same level of exercise than you do the rest of the year, it could be that your body needs a longer warm-up period.”
Try beginning your workout with light cardio exercises, like brisk walking. This will raise your core temperature and ensure that oxygen and blood are flowing throughout your body.

A basic rule of thumb is that you should warm up for 10 minutes when the temperature is between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. For each 10-degree temperature drop below 35, extend your warm-up by five minutes.

Some bodyweight exercises — like push-ups, dips, squats, lunges and bicycle crunches — are ideal for getting your blood flowing after your warm-up walk, Mentore says. Then, after those exercises, stretch only the tightest muscle groups in your body; for most people, these groups include the hamstrings, quadriceps, chest and shoulders.

Follow your warm-up with a cool-down that takes about the same amount of time. However, in addition to stretching the body’s tightest muscle groups, also focus on other areas like the back, arms and calves. “This will prevent muscle soreness and enhance your overall performance during the winter,” Mentore says.

Source: upwave

Natural cosmetics, fresh from a winter garden

Sof McVeigh, author of ‘Treat Yourself Natural’, shares three recipes for cosmetics you can make using ingredients from your garden this winter

Winter is the time to hunker down and make the most of what you have gathered over the year. Don’t worry if you didn’t collect much; there are still many evergreen herbs available to use, such as rosemary and sage.
This is also the time of year when the kitchen spice rack comes into its own: cinnamon, ginger and cloves all make great cold busting remedies.

With the cold winter days this is a fantastic time of year for indoor activities and making presents is a fun way to keep out of the cold – even after Christmas. Try making ginger chocolates, relaxing bath salts or invigorating body scrubs. Whatever gifts you choose to make, adding a personal label and a pretty ribbon makes all the difference, so let your creativity run wild.

Sage makes a good toner for oily skin due to its antibacterial and astringent properties. Create your own oily skin toner with sage, witch hazel (to tighten the pores) and rosemary (to increase circulation to dull skin). Also for a lovely smell add either rose essential oil to soothe, or lavender essential oil to cleanse. Apply nightly with cotton wool, although it is important to carry out a skin sensitivity test before using for the first time. Once made up, this skin toner will last for three months.

What you need
• 200ml (7fl oz) still spring water
• 4 tsp (20ml) glycerine
• 2 tsp (10ml) sage tincture*
• 1 tsp (5ml) witch hazel tincture*
• 1 tsp (5ml) rosemary tincture*
• 5 drops of rose essential oil or lavender essential oil
1. Mix all of the above in a bottle.
2. Use nightly with cotton wool.

Winter body scrub

This was one of the first ‘potions’ I ever made and is incredibly easy; it also makes a great present with the addition of a pretty ribbon and label. Body scrubs are great for reviving dull winter skin: the salt sloughs away dead skin and the oil moisturizes it. Depending on the herbs you use, a body scrub can be invigorating or relaxing. Your herb choice is personal: you can choose ones whose scent you like, or you can choose them for their benefits. Mint, eucalyptus and rosemary or sage work well together as a winter decongestant body scrub, which is also invigorating and warming.

You can use this as a body scrub or add a spoonful to a hot bath rather like bath salts. However please don’t use it if you have sores or cuts, as it will really sting. If you can’t find some of the herbs or plants, just add a few drops of their essential oil instead.

What you need
To make enough to fill two 300ml (10fl oz) jam jars:
• 600ml (20fl oz) fi ne sea salt, or enough to fill both your jars
• Approximately 3 sprigs of rosemary, or 20 sage leaves, 30 mint leaves and 20 eucalyptus leaves
• 650ml (1¼ pints) olive or sunfl ower oil, to fill both your jars plus a little extra
• Pan
• Sieve lined with muslin
• 2 clean jars and labels

1. Roughly chop the plants and put them in a pan.
2. Cover them with oil and warm them on a very low heat for one hour. Do not even simmer, as the idea is just to warm the contents, encouraging the plants to release some of their goodness into the oil.
3. Line a sieve with muslin and drain the mixture into a bowl, keeping the oil; the leaves can be thrown away.
4. In another bowl pour in your sea salt, then slowly stir the oil into the salt until it reaches a consistency where the salt has completelyabsorbed all the oil. Keep any left over oil in a jar for later use.
5. Finally, spoon into clean jars and label.
6. This will last for up to one year, though the smell may start to go.

Alternative herbs
To make your own unique scrub you could try some other ideas:
• Marigold (calendula) makes a healing skin scrub.
• Lavender or chamomile creates a relaxing and soothing one.
• Honey, with it natural antibacterial properties, will add an extra element to any body scrub, as well as providing it with a great consistency and smell.
• As well as changing the herbs you use, you can also replace the salt with any of the following: sugar, ground almonds, ground oats, ground rice, bran, jojoba exfoliating grains, or apricot kernel powder. The latter two are even smooth and gentle enough to use on your face

Witch hazel spot gel

This recipe makes a strong gel to put on individual spots only, as it is very drying. Always carry out a skin sensitivity test before using.

What you need
• 40ml (1½fl oz) water
• 40ml (1½fl oz) homemade witch hazel decoction*
• 1 tsp xanthum gum
• 5 drops of tea tree oil
• 5 drops of lavender essential oil
• 12 drops of Preservative 12, used in the vegan food industry in Denmark (optional)
• Small, clean pot, approximately 80ml size
1. First add the witch hazel decoction to the water.
2. Sprinkle on the xanthum gum, whisking it in well so there are no lumps.
3. Add five drops of tea tree oil for its antibacterial properties then five drops of lavender essential oil for its lovely smell and antibacterial properties.
4. Then add 12 drops of Preservative 12 if you want the gel to last; if you don’t use this, the gel will last for a week.
5. Pour the gel into a small pot and dab it on a spot when you need to.


Make a tincture with any part of the plant you choose: put it in a jar, cover it with strong 40 per cent proof vodka and then let it soak for at least two weeks. The alcohol extracts the beneficial properties of the plant and acts as a preservative; if you don’t like the idea of using alcohol, you can substitute it with vinegar. Tinctures last a long time – on average three to four years – and they can be used either externally, or internally for some plants.


Decoctions are easy to make, using just water. Boil the plant in water for between 15 to 20 minutes so that all the goodness from the plant is extracted into the water. Once boiled, drain and throw away the plant and use the liquid either externally, or internally for some plants. The best parts of the plant to use for making decoctions are the ‘tough’ ones: the roots, woody stems, bark, seeds and berries. As decoctions are water-based, bacteria grows in them so they don’t last as long as tinctures and vinegars: either use them straight away or add a preservative, such as sugar or citric acid. Decoctions are the base for many syrups and jellies, and are also useful for some skincare recipes.

Source: The Telegraph

Tips for taking care of skin during winters revealed

Winter time can be hard on the skin, making it dry, flaky and itchy, but with proper care you can effectively banish your skin woes. Dermatologist Rita Pichardo-Geisinger, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, provides tips that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine to help keep your skin and hair in prime condition.

First of all use a fragrance free soap because perfumes and additives can dry the skin which can lead to flaking and itching or exacerbate conditions like eczema. It is also important to use a moisturizing lotion after the shower because when you apply a moisturizer to damp skin right after showering, this helps seal in water to prevent skin from drying out. “A moisturizer helps to act as a barrier of protection for your skin so look for one that has ceramides, a new technology that helps restore and protect the skin barrier,” she said.

Next, keep the temperature at home on the cool side, not too warm, to avoid skin dehydration because if your home or workplace temperature is warm enough to make it feel like a sauna, you might be drying your skin out. Do not forget to use a fragrance free detergent and liquid fragrance free conditioner for the clothes because some people with skin sensitivities can experience skin irritation or rash after wearing clothes washed in a detergent with fragrance additives.

Also, do not forget your moisturizing lotion with sunscreen for your face, even if it is winter time. If lips get chapped, avoid cracking by using a lip balm with sunscreen to get the double benefit of smooth and protected lips, Rita asserted. And, your hair can get dry in the wintertime too, so you might need to use a hydrating shampoo or an anti-frizz leave-in conditioner.

Lastly, tend to your toes and feet and treat them with good lactic acid creams that can help keep feet soft and supple.

Source: Times of India

Chilly winter can affect the eyes too

Chilly winter can affect the eyes too

A dry-eye condition caused by cold winds evaporates the tears, which could partially affect vision and cause constant eye pain.

Blurred vision, scratching and burning sensation and irritation in the eye – these are not minor irritants in your daily routine but might be the pointers to a condition called the dry-eye syndrome which plagues many people during an extreme winter.

According to doctors, even though a person’s entire body might be covered up as a protection against the chilly winter winds, there is one part that is always exposed: the eyes.

The surface of the eye is covered with a thin layer of liquid known as the tear film, which is essential for its health. A dry-eye condition caused by cold winds evaporates the tears, which could partially affect vision and cause constant eye pain.

“Occurrence of dry-eye syndrome is very common during the winter season because of the cold, dry outdoor air and dry indoor heat,” Sanjay Dhawan, director of ophthalmology at Fortis Hospital, told IANS.

Dhawan said when there is insufficient lubrication in the eye, the conjunctiva (the white part of the eye) becomes much less moist than normal.

He said this causes severe pain, discomfort and inflammation of the conjunctiva and cornea of the eye, due to inadequate tear secretion.

It is a common problem faced by both men and women above 50.

“Sometimes it becomes severe as this abnormality may result in disruption of the ocular (eye) surface, causing difficulty in vision,” Dhawan said.

The other symptoms of the eye problem include a persistent watery discharge and irritation if one is using contact lenses.

“If menopause occurs at an early age, then the chances of developing dry-eye syndrome during the winter gets increased even among middle-aged women,” Dhawan said, adding that at an initial stage, it may seem like a minor irritation but can become potentially serious.

According to Kinshuk Biswas, opthalmologist at Gurgaon’s Columbia Asia Hospital, the condition could also be a result of constant use of a computer.

“Dry-eye syndrome is caused by the low humidity factor during winter which leads to evaporation of the lubricant in the eyes. Another contributing factor for this condition is the use of a computer and continuously looking at the screen for long,” Biswas told IANS.

To prevent this condition, one should use eye drops (as prescribed by a doctor) three-four times a day.

One could also close the eyes for half-a-minute while sitting in front of the computer screen to bring moisture back to the eyes, Biswas said.

Listing out the preventive steps, Dhawan said patients should wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from the cold wind, while artificial tears – also known as tear substitutes – should be applied at least four times a day.

If the condition aggravates, use lubricating ointment at bedtime and run a humidifier to put moisture back into the air.

Also, lay a warm, damp washcloth across your eyelids for a couple of minutes, drink extra fluids and use a hot- or cold-air humidifier, Dhawan said.

According to the American Association of Ophthalmology, approximately 3.2 million women and 1.7 million men over the age of 50 suffer from chronic dry eyes.

Source: Khaleej times

Aloe vera for winters

As the temperature begins to drop, and the skin begins to dry up, it’s vital to drink lots of water and use water-based organic products like aloe vera.  Due to aloe’s high water content (over 99 per cent water) it is a great way to hydrate, moisturize and rejuvenate the skin.

Aloe vera increases the elasticity of the skin making it more flexible through collagen and elastin repair.  It helps supply oxygen to the skin cells, increasing the strength and synthesis of skin tissue and induces improved blood flow. Aloe vera-based moisturisers should be used to keep your skin soft this winter as they prevent it from drying and keeps them fresh, soft and smooth.

Also, do not forget to drink as much water possible. In addition to that herbal teas and clear soups are more creative ways to get your daily H2O intake and flush out toxins.

Source: Deccan Chronicle