Category Archives: Aging

Good News Monday: 11 Medical Breakthroughs

Look for these promising new initiatives to become more widely used in the next couple of years.

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1. Tecnic Symfony, a newly approved, first-in-class lens replacement for cataracts, can now provide an extended depth of focus.  We’ll no longer have to choose between optimal close-up or distance vision, and a tiny stent is now available to treat people with glaucoma.

 2. Drones are distributing medicine to isolated areas. In 2016, a start-up company used drones to deliver medicine to Rwanda. This practice has since become routine and it’s estimated that even more areas will benefit.

3. Gene editing is helping prevent disease. A new technique to “edit” embryos (CRISPR Technology) may help future generations avoid retinal degenerative disease and inherited  diseases such as cystic fibrosis and hemophilia.

4. ALS patients will soon be able to communicate with their thoughts. New technology may help decode the thoughts of people with functional brain activity who have a completely paralyzed body resulting from a stroke, traumatic injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

5. Diabetics can be helped by an artificial pancreas. Diabetes is caused when the pancreas produces insufficient insulin. In May 2017, it was reported that the first artificial pancreas systems (the Hybrid Close-Loop Insulin Delivery System) were beginning to be distributed, helping diabetics regulate their insulin levels.

6. Reduction of LDL cholesterol. When powerful cholesterol drugs — known as PCSK9 inhibitors — were approved by the FDA in 2015, experts hailed it as a huge breakthrough, but more studies were needed to see whether this would result in medications with fewer side effects than statins.

Since then, new studies have reported good news – earlier in 2017, a 20% reduction in LDL was reported in a study group of 25,982 patients. These new cholesterol meds should become increasingly available.

7. Enhanced post-surgery recovery. Traditional surgery protocol involves no eating or drinking beforehand, feeling nauseous or groggy afterwards, and being prescribed pain medication to help with recovery, which can lead to opioid dependence.

New research has been evaluating the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocol, which recommends various methods including post-operative nutrition plans and alternatives to pain medication, to speed up the recovery process.

8. More targeted and precise breast cancer therapies. Treatments such as chemotherapy fight cancer cells but don’t always have the desired outcome. In the near future, according to Breastcancer.org, expect to see treatments for breast cancer that are designed to target specific cancer cell characteristics, such as the protein that allows cells to grow in a malignant way, .

9. Improved treatments for sleep apnea. Treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea is often invasive and uncomfortable, involving the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine (CPAP). This machine blows air into your nose via a nose mask, keeping the airway open and unobstructed.

But a less invasive method was approved by the FDA in October, 2017. The Remede sleep system is an implanted device that treats central sleep apnea by activating a nerve that sends signals to the diaphragm to stimulate breathing.

Following successful trial studies, this may become the treatment of choice.

10. Next-generation vaccines. New techniques include freeze-drying, which allows vaccinations to be transported to remote areas. Companies are also investigating faster ways to manufacture vaccinations to make them more readily available.

11. The first human head transplant! Italian scientist Sergio Canavero and Chinese surgeon Xiaoping Ren are developing a plan to transplant a human head — and yes, it involves neck bolts and electricity! The goal is to help patients with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

The surgeons have already performed the procedure on mice, rats and a dog, all of which survived surgery and even regained some motor function. Is that cool or what?!

Have a GOOD week! xx

Scenes From a Derm Convention

Much as I dislike having my yearly skin check, I always enjoy chatting with my dermatologist, especially about the crazy things women (it’s mostly women) will do in our mostly futile attempts to defeat the march of time.

She had me laughing during my otherwise unpleasant squamous surgery with the following report.

Dr. D had recently attended a dermatology conference.  She said you could tell at a glance what everyone’s specialties were.  The cosmetic derms all had the age-indeterminate, inflated look you get when you have unlimited access to fillers, Botox and multiple procedures. Designer clothes, Jimmy Choos and Birkins were de rigueur. She observed a lot of air kisses with this group; a vigorous hug could potentially squash an implant or two.

Dr. D says about cosmetic work, “Never make the critical mistake of only looking at the mirror straight on.” We need to know how we look from all angles, lest we resemble a blowfish in heat.

In contrast, the doctors involved with serious medicine such as reconstruction for burn victims had the slightly distracted look of people who wished they were somewhere else.  They greeted each other with firm handshakes; no frivolous air kisses for these folks.

One of the lectures dealt with a client whose complaint was that her labia were uneven. (One wonders how she knew that.)  In any event, she’d had cosmetic surgery to repair the issue — I forgot to ask whether one side was inflated or the other side deflated. Next visit! But as Dr. D says, “If you’re with a man who loses interest at the point he can tell that your labia are uneven, you have much bigger problems!”

Finally, here is one of my favorite anecdotes:

One of Dr. D’s clients tried Botox and complained that it “didn’t work” and that she didn’t look any different. Her husband told Dr. D in confidence, “You’ve saved our marriage.”

Apparently, every time the poor man offered a suggestion about where to have dinner or something equally benign, his wife would scowl at him. To avoid an argument, he’d usually change the subject.

Now that she doesn’t scowl, he continues talking and is amazed how often she will be receptive or even agree with him!

Beauty Report: Cellulite — New Help For An Old Problem

About 90% of women develop lumpy, bumpy “orange peel” tissue on our hips, thighs and butts at some point in our lives, often due to hormones, poor lymphatic circulation and other factors like plain bad luck. (Men get it too, but may not care as much!)

It all happens within the fat just below the skin’s surface, a.k.a subcutaneous fat.  Bands of fibrous tissue connect the top later of skin to deeper tissues. When fat deposits push through the connective tissue, you get those characteristic little pockets or dimples. Ugh.

Help’s on the way, though I can’t personally attest to their effectiveness.

See Your Derm

A treatment called Cellfina was FDA approved in 2015 and is said to be minimally invasive. A numbing cream is applied before a needle-thin blade cuts the fibrous bands under the skin with little or no bleeding.  Most effective for the butt and thighs, patient satisfaction is quite high: In one clinical study, 94% of patients were still happy with the results after two  years and 93% were still happy three years later.

Visit the Spa

Handheld radio-frequency tools liquify enlarged fat cells and promote collagen production.  For best results, expect to need multiple treatments over a few months.  An acupuncture specialist may recommend cupping, an ancient Chinese method that improves lymph drainage while breaking up fibrous tissue.  And regular deep tissue massage can help too.

DYI at Home

A microneedling tool such as GloPro comes with two rollers: one for the face and a larger one for the body.  By creating tiny pinpricks in the skin, microneedling stimulates collagen growth, which can minimize the appearance of cellulite.  Follow up with a hydrating lotion to smooth things out even more.

I’ve had my GloPro for a year and never thought to try it on my bod.  Watch this space!

 

Beauty Adventures: Vanity and Necessity

This getting older thing seems to require ever-greater vigilance. The wear and tear of sun exposure and general activity caught up with me recently, resulting in a few rounds of sclerotherapy and in-office surgery for a squamous cell (non-melanoma) carcinoma.

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Prominent veins are much prettier on leaves

First, the vanity part: sclerotherapy.

I’ve made peace with my legs’ freckles, moles, scars and other mementoes of time but one thing was really bothering me: clusters of ugly spider veins around my ankles that had appeared over the past few years. (Thanks, gravity!)

Since boots are not a year-round option and the distracting power of red nail polish only goes so far, I finally decided to do something.

Sclerotherapy is commonly used to treat varicose veins or spider veins. Depending on the types of veins affected, lasers and other methods may be indicated. In my case, sclerotherapy was the recommendation and – spoiler alert – it has made a difference.

The procedure is non-surgical, doesn’t require anesthesia, and, in most cases, doesn’t require any special preparation. Your doctor injects a solution (called a sclerosant) into the blood vessels or lymph vessels, which causes them to swell and cut off the flow of blood or lymphatic fluid to the veins, which in turn makes them shrink. The practitioner can actually see them disappear – how cool is that?

During the treatment, you lie on your back with your legs up. After cleaning the area, the doctor injects the vein with the irritant. You may feel burning, tingling, or nothing at all. In my case there was some stinging but it wasn’t too bad. When the injection is complete, the doctor massages the area to prevent blood from re-entering the vein. Depending on the area being treated compression socks may be helpful afterwards.

After treatment, you need to remain active to prevent blood clots from forming, and avoid sunlight, which can cause dark spots at the treated area. Other than some soreness, redness and bruising at the injection site, recovery is easy.

 Research suggests that sclerotherapy effectively removes spider veins in 75-90% of cases, but typically requires multiple treatments. It took me 3 sessions to remove all but the most visible cluster, which has not gone away completely but is much lighter. Unfortunately, the procedure isn’t covered by insurance and since standing and walking put pressure on the veins, they’ll probably come back eventually.  I’m hoping it takes a few decades.

Necessity: skin cancer prevention

Being fair-skinned and paranoid, I’m vigilant about sun block and see my dermatologist annually for a full-body skin check. This time, I called her attention to a small but tenacious spot on the back of my hand and she agreed that a biopsy should be done. Most red spots resolve within a month (a bit longer as we get older and our skin takes more time to heal). Anything that doesn’t go away should be evaluated.

Turns out I had a squamous cell non-melanoma carcinoma, the second most common form after basal cell carcinoma. Not life threatening, but not something you want to ignore, either. We scheduled surgery for a couple of weeks later.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers; each year in the U.S. nearly 5 1/2 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people. It’s also the easiest to cure when diagnosed and treated early. The head (particularly if you have thinning hair), face, tops of the ears and back of the hands are especially vulnerable. Hats and gloves, people! And wear sun block every day, including driving and swanning about in your corner office with the big windows!

Dermatologists used to focus on brown, unevenly shaped or mottled moles. But scientists have now learned that melanomas can also be pink or red. Be on the lookout for areas that are rough, red and raised. Often you’ll detect anomalies more by feel than by the way they look.

Pre-op: The biopsy has removed most of the problem already, since squamous cells are in the top layer of skin. The pre-op prep includes avoiding blood thinners such as ibuprofen, certain supplements and alcohol the week before, plus cleaning the area in advance with an over-the-counter antibacterial liquid.

Day Of: First, the surgical area is numbed with a lidocaine injection. Mine is on my wrist so the incision is lateral and should be hidden by all the other creases. Surgery isn’t painful and I only need acetaminophen a couple of times in subsequent days.

A Week (Plus) Later: A nurse at the derm’s office removes the stitches and applies three Steri-Strips. These fall off after another week. Three weeks post-op, the back of my hand is still sore and puffy but is slowly improving.

After-care: Dr. D recommends Gold Bond Strength and Resilience to moisturize skin, Anthelios 60 sunscreen, and Serica for scar improvement – it’s much easier to apply this gel than bulky scar strips. I’m also trying it on last year’s bunion scar to see if it helps.

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Dr. D has also suggested I try nicotinamide (B3) supplements. In the recent ONTRAC study, oral use significantly reduced the risk of melanoma in patients who’d had two or more precancerous basal or squamous lesions.

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I’m taking 500 mg twice a day and will start seeing my derm twice a year from now on. I’ll also be ordering Anthelios by the truckload.

 

“Anti”-Aging

Allure magazine has recently reported that they’ll no longer use the term “anti-aging”. It’s about time.

Since we’ve only got two options — getting older or checking out — there’s not much point in fighting the inevitable. Instead, let’s embrace some of the positives and enjoy being our best selves.

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Antiques are so much more interesting than newbies!

The List

1. YOUR DOUBLE CHIN DISAPPEARS. With the passing years, fat pads under our chins usually get smaller as our faces become less round. (Bonus: more visible cheekbones!) So if you’re considering a fat removal procedure in your 20’s or 30’s, you should probably wait.

2. YOU’RE HAPPIER. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, happiness steadily increases from your 20’s to your 90’s as anxiety, depression and stress levels tend to go down.

3. YOU CAN WAVE GOODBYE TO THE BAGS UNDER YOUR EYES. When we’re younger, these are often fatty deposits. In older women, they’re more likely caused by fluid retention, which decreases as we go about our day.

4. SEX IMPROVES. Caveat: The study they cite in the magazine contrasts higher levels of satisfaction for women in their 40’s and 50’s vs. women in their early 20’s. Older women know their bodies better, are more likely to ask for what they want, and may be more spontaneous. (Note: no mention of post-menopausal issues, though.)

5. YOUR SKIN IS GLOWIER. Again, they’re talking 30’s-50’s, when moisture levels are highest and problems such as acne tend to resolve themselves. Moisture levels drop as hormones and hydration decrease, so 60+ skin often needs extra help.

6. YOU’LL SAVE ON WAXING. As testosterone dips in your 40’s, body hair starts to be lighter and thinner. Post-menopause, skin becomes thinner and waxing may be more irritating than a gentler process such as sugaring. Or, fuhgeddaboudit.

7. YOU’RE MORE OPEN-MINDED. A University of Michigan study found that women in their 50’s were more empathetic than those who were younger. Mature people may have strong opinions but we’re also more likely to understand other points of view.

For more thoughts on aging, plus a delicious cocktail recipe, click here.

 

 

Random Household Hacks

A New Year’s Resolution: I will search for answers to life’s pesky little problems and share my finds with all of you.

#1:  How to open a stubborn jar lid

Let’s assume that brute strength has not done the trick.  Here are some options:

1) Improve your grip

  • Put plastic wrap over the lid and twist.
  • Place a rubber band around the lid and twist.
  • Put on a rubber glove and twist.  (Anyone else reminded of Chubby Checker??)

2) Tap around the edge of the cap with a wooden spoon.  This should release the air pockets of the vacuum seal. It’s also less likely to shatter the jar than banging it on your countertop.

3) Still stuck?  Turn your jar upside down and place in a bowl filled with hot water. After about 30 seconds, the lid should loosen.

4) For sticky stuff (honey, molasses, etc.), plan ahead. Cover the jar opening with plastic wrap before you put the lid back on. (This also helps with paint cans.)

#2 How to quickly chill wine or beer 

Uh oh — unexpected, thirsty guests have arrived! Wrap a damp paper towel around the bottle or cans and place them in the freezer.  They will chill much faster than without the towel. Do not forget they are in the freezer! (Yes, I have done this and then had to clean up the resulting mess.)

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Hair Today, and Other Resolutions

My new hair stylist says:

“As we get older, our hair should get softer and our clothes more structured.”

Words to live by! Layers of flow-y fabrics can make us look shapeless, while sharply angled, severe or stiff hair styles can be a harsh contrast to a softening jawline.

January brings with it not only the predictable resolutions (eat less, floss more) but also the sobering bills resulting from December splurges on gifts and entertaining.

If you love fashion, January can be a minefield of temptation. Below are 10 ways to trim your fashion budget this (or any) month, no matter your age:

  1. Break the browsing habit. Whether you’re scrolling or strolling, something’s sure to catch your eye. Unless you need a specific item to fill a gap in your wardrobe or replace an old/worn-out/ill-fitting favorite, resist!
  2. Likewise, note inspirational looks on Pinterest, Instagram or in magazines; then bookmark and set aside to see if you’re still obsessed next month.
  3. Don’t buy multiples or duplicates of stuff you already have. Chances are, one of your many black blazers is still your go-to.
  4. Save on tailoring. Yes, it makes everything look better but try to limit yourself to clothes that fit you right now.
  5. Skip the sales. You’ve undoubtedly heard the advice, “If you wouldn’t buy it at full price don’t buy it on sale.” You’ll avoid temptation and shopping regrets.
  6. Put your monthly fashion fix subscription box on hold. If it doesn’t arrive on your doorstep, you won’t crave that new belt, scarf, blouse etc.
  7. Avoid dry-clean-only purchases. They add significantly to the price of an item.
  8. Be careful when ordering from overseas e-tailers. Shipping costs can be significant, especially if you need to return your purchase.
  9. Similarly, don’t order from places without generous return policies and free shipping. That Chanel jacket on RealReal may seem like a bargain, but if it doesn’t fit you’ve just blown real money sending it back.
  10. Space out your beauty appointments. Extending the time between haircuts by 2 weeks (say, every 10 weeks instead of every 8) can save you the cost of two appointments per year.

Happy New Year, dear readers and fellow bloggers! And here’s hoping that 2018 is better than 2017 – a pretty sucky year worldwide.

Cheers, Alisa