Category Archives: Aging

Good News Monday: DGAS, a Benefit of Aging

There may not be a scientific study (yet) but I’m convinced there’s a provable curve between increased age and the condition DGAS (Don’t Give a S***).

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When we’re younger, we obsess over how we’re perceived at work and in our social lives. Do people like us, respect us, take us seriously, etc.? Is that compliment sincere, or does he/she just want to get into our pants? (And are said pants a size or two larger than they ought to be?)

The beauty of getting older is that, frankly, there are very few people whose opinions actually matter to us.  Yeah, we go through the motions and attempt to interact with people we basically can’t stand, but our universe of those we care about is subject to more important criteria than “What can you do for me?” or “Are you hot?”

For those of us who are shy about making new acquaintances, this might translate as: You seem nice and it might be fun to have lunch or share an activity and see if there’s more of a connection, so I’ll proffer an invite.

If you respond, great. If you don’t, well, life will go on and a year from now I won’t remember your name because, frankly, I can barely remember where I left my car keys.

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By this age, I have no patience for anyone who is faking it, on the make, or desperately lonely.  But I’m really excited to make friends with people with whom I share common interests, philosophies, or enthusiasm for 1) good food, 2) good wine, or 3) nice handbags.

Do we become more intolerant as we get older? Or do we become more discerning? I’d like to think it’s the latter. Or maybe it’s the same thing.

What do YOU think, dear readers?

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Hump Day Hacks: Looking Younger

I know, I know.  These days, it’s politically correct to look “rested”, “relaxed” or “fresher”. But if someone said you looked much younger than your chronological age, would you really be insulted?

Herewith, some easy hacks from a recent beauty round-up:

  1. Keep skin care products in the fridge. They’ll work faster and keep fresh longer.
  2. Boost your brows.  Thicker eyebrows signal youthfulness. Fill in with pencil while they’re growing in.
  3. Wear a double-duty sunscreen. An antioxidant formula will reduce the effects of skin-damaging free radicals. I love the La Roche-Posay Anthelios line.
  4. Check your eyesight.  Squinting deepens frown lines, so you might need a stronger prescription, not Botox.
  5. Pick lighter lipstick.  Our lips get thinner with age, and dark colors make your lips look smaller, as well as emphasizing any vertical lines. Stick with rosier shades and avoid orange or peach tones, which make teeth look yellower.
  6. Blush higher.  Swirl your blush at the highest point of your cheekbones, and choose a warm pink, apricot or bronze shade that’s close to your skin tone.
  7. Choose camouflage vs. concealer. Regular concealer is oilier, so it tends to “pool” in fine lines. Concealers labeled “camouflage” cover dark spots better, too.
  8. Speaking of dark spots: Sunblock, retinoid, and gloves will keep your hands looking younger.  Applying a dot of diluted lemon juice before bedtime may help too. Note that acids can irritate skin so gradually build up to twice a day.
  9. Best foot forward. Dry, scaly feet wreck the effect of even the most gorgeous shoes. Before bedtime or working out, apply a layer of over-the-counter salicylic acid to rough areas, cover with a small amount of Vaseline or thick moisturizer, and put on socks. The combo will soften your feet and help protect against blisters and calluses.
  10. Accessorize wisely. A small investment in a broad-brimmed hat, larger sunglasses and a scarf can protect against wrinkles, sun spots and pricey treatments.

And if someone asks to see ID the next time you buy alcohol, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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The Ballad of a Thousand Boxes

IMG-1053Do you remember moving into your first apartment? Mine was a dark, tiny, one-bedroom in Springfield, Missouri – notable for its cheap rent and even cheaper-looking olive green shag carpeting on the walls as well as the floor. (Even for the 70’s this was mind-bendingly ugly.)

But it was my first post-college job and I was thrilled to be on my own.

Moving in those days was much easier.

  • We had friends to haul stuff and we paid them in beer or cheap wine — not the price of a European vacation.
  • I had more energy than possessions.
  • An old orange crate made a perfectly acceptable coffee table.
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Having just moved again for the umpteenth – and hopefully, last – time, I’ve noticed:

  • It costs more to move across town than it used to cost moving across the country.
  • I have way too much crap, even after endless trips to Goodwill.
  • I have way less ability to carry said crap, especially up a flight of stairs.
  • Young people don’t seem to accumulate china and crystal.
  • The more stuff we have, the more storage we need.
  • One TV used to be sufficient. Now we all have multiple TVs, each with complicated hookups and several remotes that have to be housed somewhere. Not to mention computers.
  • Sunnier rooms reveal flaws and dings in furniture that used to look pretty decent.
  • Change is good, even when it’s painful. And it’s better to share that pain.
  • Rugs and wood floors look a lot better than shag carpet.

 

Thanks to Laura S. for suggesting this topic!

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.