University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Choose Your Sunscreen

It’s no secret that sunscreen offers the best protection against skin cancer next to staying out of the sun altogether or covering up with sun protective clothing. However, most people don’t realize that the kind of sunscreen we use is also important. Did you know there are two main kinds of sunscreen? Chemical sunscreen and physical sunscreen.

Chemical Sunscreen vs. Physical Sunscreen – What’s the Difference?

A sunscreen is a compound (or lotion) that uses agents to block, deflect or reflect the sun’s rays.

To be effective, we recommend that all sunscreens be liberally applied (at least one ounce for the entire body) to all exposed areas of the body, at least 15 minutes before going outside.

Chemical sunscreens use up to a dozen ingredients that, when applied, are absorbed in the top layer of skin. They react with the skin to absorb UV rays and convert them into energy before they can harm the skin.

Chemical sunscreens aren’t as thick as physical ones, so they are often used in sunscreens specifically made for the face as well as those found in spray bottles. Since chemical sunscreens need to be absorbed into the skin, they must be applied at least 20 to 30 minutes before heading outdoors.

Physical sunscreens, sometimes called “natural or mineral” sunscreens, include two ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Together, these ingredients sit on top of the skin and deflect or reflect the sun’s rays.

Think of physical sunscreens like a shield, while chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin. Both ingredients work well to protect from UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) rays. Since physical sunscreens are thicker, they can leave a white cast on the skin.

Which Sunscreen Is Right for You?

Those with sensitive skin, especially young children, should opt for a physical/mineral sunscreen since those ingredients are milder. Those with darker skin may opt for a chemical sunscreen, since they don’t leave a white cast.

According to plastic surgeon, Ivona Percec, MD, PhD, “A chemical sunscreen really just protects against UB – the burning rays. In two hours that’s degraded by the sun. The mineral block [physical sunscreen] is the much better block because it protects against both UVA and UVP.”

Both types of sunscreen provide adequate protection. Your personal preference may help you decide what type of sunscreen is right for you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Are Women Athletes More Susceptible to Injury?

Erik Thorell, DO, discusses if gender plays a role in individuals being more susceptible to injury. Dr. Thorell practices at Penn Medicine Woodbury Heights.

In a perfect world, every run would be completely pain-free. No soreness, no aches and no lingering effects from the previous workout. Unfortunately, many runners constantly deal with a slight disturbance. There are things that can be done by, both men and women, to reduce the risk of injury.

Injuries to athletes
Regardless of how careful you are, injuries do occur. And, for women, the rate of injury is slightly higher. Runner’s knee, stress fractures, shin splints and plantar fasciitis are all injuries that are more common with female runners.

“One anatomical difference between men and women leading to greater predisposition to lower extremity injuries is the wider female pelvis, which results in a larger Q-angle,” says Erik Thorell, DO. “This results in increased stress across the knee in particular.”

Simply put, men and women are built differently. Women tend to have smaller, weaker muscles supporting their knees, as well as more lax ligaments. They typically have a larger hip width to femoral length ratio, which leads to greater hip adduction (muscles located towards the lateral portion of the thigh contract and pull the thigh away from the midline of the body). Females are also more at risk of certain injuries because there is added motion in their hips and pelvis.

When it comes to bone injuries, females are, again, more susceptible than their male counterparts. Women have smaller bone dimensions and are predisposed to lower bone density. Also, estrogen, a hormone in women that protects bones, decreases sharply as women age. All of these factors increase the risk of broken bones.

“Though gender differences do predispose women more to certain musculoskeletal injuries, attention to bone health, nutrition, core strengthening and a well-structured exercise routine can mitigate some of these problems,” explains Dr. Thorell.

Tips to Reduce the Risk of Injury

Because women suffer sports injuries more often than men, it is important they take extra care prior to playing sports or exercising. Below we offer certain exercises and other helpful tips:
  • Leg lifts, back bridges and standing hip flexors help to improve motion and flexibility in the hip and glutes area.
  • Weight-bearing exercises help to build and maintain bone density.  Attend dance classes, go for hikes, pick up aerobics or simply get into fast walking.
  • Balance exercises, such as Tai-Chi, can help strengthen legs.
  • Wear proper footwear and work out on appropriate (not very hard) surfaces.
  • Don’t suddenly intensify or lengthen your workouts.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fitness Trackers – What’s All the Hype About?

Becoming more physically active and shedding a few pounds are two goals most adults strive to achieve. In today's busy world, though, it can sometimes be quite challenging to do so.

Fitness Trackers
Perhaps in the past you've tried various diets and exercise programs, seeing little to no results? And you ask yourself 'what’s left to try?' You want to be more active and healthier in general, but you just don't have the time to devote to it.

Enter the newest fitness craze - wireless fitness trackers.

These small devices are typically worn around the wrist and can track information about your overall health. Fitness trackers can sync wirelessly with computers or smartphones to display data including the number of steps taken throughout the day, calories burned, and the quality of your sleep. Also, most trackers allow you to enter the foods you've eaten throughout the day to keep track of calories and nutrition.

This latest advancement in personal fitness has many ecstatic, claiming it’s the answer to long-lasting weight loss. Could it be true? Do fitness trackers really help you effectively lose weight and live a sustainable, healthy lifestyle?

"While fitness trackers certainly can be a helpful tool to track health and weight loss progress, the individual still has to stay motivated to make dietary changes or keep up with that new exercise routine," says Lori M. Noble, MD, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine, located at the new Penn Medicine Washington Square. "Fitness technology can certainly add positive reinforcement, but it can’t pick an individual up off their couch or take the donut out of their hand."

Still, the health and fitness technology market is growing by 20% each year, making fitness trackers more popular by the minute. There are dozens of trackers currently on the market -- FitBit, Jawbone UP, and the Nike Fuelband being the most common.

All of these devices have corresponding apps that allow you to view and interact with all of the information it’s capturing. Most also have social features that allow you to connect with friends and other users online.

In addition to these apps, there are several health and fitness programs that have similar lifestyle tools to help you track your activity. MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, Fitness Builder, and MapMyFitness are all apps that help you track your fitness without having to buy a somewhat costly fitness tracker.

Many people have made tracking their fitness a part of their daily lives. Because this technology is still somewhat new, there are questions that people have about the effectiveness of the devices.

 Fitness tracker or not, the most important thing to do is to get out there and stay active.

"Perhaps one of the most basic keys to sticking with an exercise routine is to make it fun – pick an activity that you enjoy so you actually look forward to scheduling it into your day," says Dr. Noble. "And if you start to get bored, change it up.  Rotating activities keeps your mind and your body engaged."

For those of you looking for extra motivation, sign up for the Penn Medicine Radnor Run on October 26, 2014! This fun, 5-mile run will give you something to work towards as you stay active this summer.

37th Annual Penn Medicine Radnor Run

Penn Medicine Radnor Run
It’s time to lace up your sneakers for a great event. The 37th annual Penn Medicine Radnor Run will be held on Sunday, October 26, 2014.

This family-friendly event benefits the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania and their effort to help improve the lives of those currently living with chronic lung disease. The money raised will help fund important programs, including asthma camp, clean air in schools and smoking prevention/cessation for teens and adults.

The Radnor Run includes a five mile road race that is sanctioned and certified by the USA Track and Field Association and a one mile fun run. The first place female runner will receive the Jody’s Cup, an award in the memory of Radnor Township resident Jody Lynn Sack and the first place male runner will receive the Penn Medicine Award.

You don’t have to be a runner to take part in the day’s fun festivities which will include games, activities, and many giveaways. Bring the whole family out to enjoy a fun, harvest-themed day in Radnor!

Sign up today for the Penn Medicine Radnor Run!

Date:  Sunday, October 26
Time: 5-Mile Race Start: 8:30 a.m.
          1-Mile Fun Run Start: 8:40 a.m.
Location: 301 Iven Ave. Wayne, PA

Join the fight for clean air

It is estimated that close to 342,000 Americans die of lung disease each year, responsible for one in seven deaths. The American Lung Association and partner organizations are fighting to protect the Clean Air Act, a law that protects public health by reducing harmful pollution and gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the ability to clean up the air.

Air pollution has very serious health effects including shortness of breath, asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, lung disease and even premature death. The Clean Air Act helps to reduce the pollutants that lead to these types of health issues.

The American Lung Association has and will continue to play a critical role in the advocacy for clean air.  For more information, please visit

Track your success

Need some extra motivation to get out there and hit the pavement? Look into the benefits of a digital fitness tracker.

If the shoe fits…run!

A well-fitted pair of running shoes can make all the difference. Check out Dr. Farber’s take on the importance of picking the right running shoe.

The benefits of staying active

Aspiring to improve your health? By simply staying active, you can unlock many hidden health benefits.

Penn Medicine in the Community: Upcoming Events

This fall, Penn Medicine will host or take part in numerous events throughout the tri-state area. These events provide our physicians and staff an opportunity to be closer to the people we serve and support the communities we’re proud to be a part of.

Kennett Mushroom Festival

Come celebrate a 29-year tradition at Kennett Square's Mushroom Festival. It is an event that not only honors the community's number one cash crop, but also raises scholarship money for local school students. While supporting a good cause, participants get to experience culinary events, growing exhibits, farm tours, children’s entertainment, and nearly 200 vendors with attendance of up to 100,000.

Don’t forget to stop by Penn Family Medicine Kennett's practice table to say hi and play our health trivia game! This practice has been recognized as a Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). A Patient-Centered Medical Home is a model of care that strengthens the physician-patient relationship through accessibility, excellent communication and utilizing the latest information technology.

Date: Saturday, September 6 - Sunday, September 7
Time: Saturday,  3:00-10:00 pm
          Sunday, 1:00-6:00 pm
Location: 101 South Union Street, Kennett Square PA 19348

Mt. Airy Street Festival

Want to enjoy delicious food and beverage served by the City's best gourmet food vendors and local restaurants? Would you like to do this all while strolling down the historic Germantown Avenue? Then the Mt. Airy Street Festival is the event for you.

This event is sponsored by Penn Medicine Chestnut Hill. Don't forget to stop by our table and play our health trivia game presented by Penn Radiation/Oncology Chestnut Hill, Penn Cardiology Chestnut Hill and Penn Family Medicine Chestnut Hill.

Date: Thursday, September 18 (Rain Date: Friday, September 26)
Time: 6:00-10:30 pm
Location: Mt. Airy, Germantown Avenue (between Sedgwick and W. Mt. Airy Avenue)

Midtown Village Festival

Hours of good food, drinks, live entertainment, shopping and more await you at the Midtown Village Festival. This year's 10th annual festival will feature sample food from all your favorite Midtown Village restaurants - Barbuzzo, Jamonera, El Vez, Sampan and many more. You can also grab an adult beverage in the beer garden or enjoy family-friendly fun with dunk tanks, DJs, Sumo wrestling, sidewalk sales and more.

Remember to visit  Penn Medicine Washington Square's table for a a game of health trivia and prizes! Penn Medicine Washington Square is home to more than 100 health care providers for a wide range of services, including cardiology, otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), endocrinology, primary care, surgery, urology and women’s health. Together, in one convenient location, these practices enhance our ability to provide you with the most comprehensive, patient-centered care available in the region.

Date: Saturday, October 4
Time: 12:00-8:00 pm
Location: 13th & Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19107
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