Category Archives: Women’s Health

Good News Monday: The Upside of Bad Cholesterol

Not that this is license to eat vast quantities of Brie, but it’s reassuring to know that if you take medicine for cholesterol management one surprising benefit is that it also seems to reduce COVID severity.

In a new study, researchers found that patients taking statin medications had a 41% lower risk of in-hospital death from COVID-19. Confirming their earlier hypothesis, statins have anti-inflammatory effects and binding capabilities, which could explain how they stop progression of the virus.

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Good News Monday: A New Way to Heal a Broken Heart

Another fascinating story from StudyFinds.com

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(Credit: RODNAE Productions from Pexels)

Researchers discover drug that can mend the physical damage of a broken heart

by Chris Melore

MELBOURNE, Australia — From someone experiencing chest pain after a breakup, to a married couple dying within minutes of each other, there are many real examples of what doctors call broken heart syndrome. While the emotional scars are a separate issue, there may finally be a way to prevent lasting physical injury. Researchers in Australia say, for the first time, scientists have uncovered a drug that can literally mend a broken heart.

A team from Monash University find Suberanilohydroxamic acid (SAHA) can significantly improve cardiac health due to this condition. In their study, researchers used SAHA to target genes affected by a “broken heart” — or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

Although many may think broken heart syndrome is just a saying, doctors know it to be a very real ailment. Patients suffer a weakening of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber. Stressful emotional triggers, usually following a traumatic event like the death of a loved one, often cause this problem. Researchers add broken heart syndrome can mimic a heart attack, causing chest pain, shortness of breath, and an irregular heartbeat.

How does SAHA heal the heart?

Suberanilohydroxamic acid is currently serving as a cancer treatment, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving its use. The drug works on the heart by protecting certain genes and the acetylation/deacetylation (Ac/Dc) index in particular. This is a vitally important process which regulates gene expression in humans.

“We show for the first time a drug that shows preventative and therapeutic benefit is important to a healthy heart. The drug not only slows cardiac injury, but also reverses, the damage caused to the stressed heart,” says study leader Professor Sam El-Osta from Monash Central Clinical School in a university release.

Mostly women suffer from this mysterious condition

The study finds, in western nations, broken heart syndrome almost exclusively affects women, especially after menopause. In fact, researchers say up to eight percent of women believed to be having a heart attack may actually be dealing with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

While the symptoms are similar, the exact cause of the physical pain of a broken heart is still a mystery. Doctors believe a surge of stress hormones flood the heart during a traumatic event. This may cause changes in the heart muscles and blood vessels which prevent the left ventricle from working properly. The result is the heavy, achy feeling people get in the chest that can be mistaken for a heart attack.

The good news is most people recover from broken heart syndrome within two months. The bad news, unfortunately, is that some patients may suffer from heart failure due to their extreme trauma. Although death from a broken heart is rare, researchers say 20 percent of patients experience some degree of heart failure. Until now, there has been no standard treatment to alleviate this condition.

“This pre-clinical study describes a new standard in preventative and therapeutic potential using a cardioprotective drug that targets genes in the heart,” Professor El-Osta concludes.

“The team is committed to the research of women’s health recognizing the uneven sex prevalence of almost 9:1 (female to male). Based on these promising results we are focused on the continued development of compounds like SAHA to improve cardiac benefit and healthier life.”

The study appears in the journal Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy.

The Sun and I: A Cautionary Tale of Unrequited Love

Ah, dear sun… you were so hot. In my misspent youth, how I burned for your touch. And oh, how I am paying for this as an adult!

Those of you who are blessed with darker complexions will never know the true agony of raw, red, sunburned skin. Or the “cute” freckles that eventually become age spots. Or the ever-present threat of skin cancer lurking below the surface, waiting to pounce years later.

But who thought about this while spending long, sunsoaked days at the beach with my friends during the endless summers of my teens and early twenties?

For decades since, I have been diligent about sunblock, avoiding the sun, and wearing a hat. But I have displeased the sun by my inattention, and now I am being punished. A biopsy here, a patch of squamous carcinoma there (on my wrist a few years ago), and lately a nasty little basal cell uprising on the tip of my nose. On my damn face, for heavens sake — you couldn’t wreak your revenge somewhere else?!?!

Last Monday I trekked to a specialist an hour away for Mohs surgery. The technique was developed in the 1940s by Dr. Frederick Mohs at the University of Wisconsin, and has subsequently been refined.

Unlike other forms of treatment, Mohs is generally reserved for cosmetic areas or types of skin cancer that are at risk of recurring. It permits immediate and complete microscopic examination of affected tissue to make sure all “roots” are removed. And it is said to leave the least noticable scar.

Well.

We arrived at a very nice office and the very nice doctor (both physician and surgeon) immediately told me I looked much younger than my age, so we were off to a good start.

A little numbing, a little scraping, a little cauterizing, and then a long wait to see if he’d gotten everything. Which he hadn’t, so then it was time for Round Two, which did.

I emerged three hours later feeling ok only because the numbing hadn’t worn off yet and my nose was covered with a pressure bandage.

Naturally, I did not know what I looked like, which was a good thing. Although the cancer was fairly superficial and about the size of a pencil eraser, I have a row of stitches all the way up the side of my nose. And OMG do they itch!

The bandage came off two days later and I could assess the full effect. Luckily, I’ve had to keep the area covered with petroleum jelly and regular bandages so nobody has to see it, including me. To add to the loveliness are several areas of bruising, which are now in the process of fading from bright red to purple to yellow.

I’ll see the derm again on Tuesday to get the outer stitches removed, but I have been “assured” that the dissolving stitches will render my nose a little lumpy for months until they dissolve. Not to mention the scar. Woo hoo.

So, dear readers, be warned: If you have fair skin that is prone to burning or freckling, and especially if you are young enough, it is time to end your love affair with the sun for once and for all.

Oh, and meanwhile, ask your dermatologist about nicotinamide and HelioCare, just to improve the odds.

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

Save Your Skin

Today, I’m sharing a heads-up from The Enlightened Mind’s excellent blog.

[Reprinted from The Guardian]

Screen burn: why the glare from your computer could be ageing your skin

Researchers have suggested a week in front of a screen is the same as 25 minutes in the sun. So should you be slapping on the sunblock every morning before sitting down to work?

‘Blue light’ may cause premature ageing, although it is unclear what dose may be required.

‘Blue light’ may cause premature ageing, although it is unclear what dose may be required. Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

Name: Screen burn.

Age: Me? I’m 17.

No, you never are, you liar! Seventy-one, more like. Look at your skin, all old and leathery like a turtle’s. Seriously, I’m 17.

Then you’ve been spending way too much time out in the midday sun without any factor 50 on. Nope. Spent the whole summer indoors looking into a phone or a laptop, like any normal well-behaved teenager in lockdown. It’s screen burn.

Screen burn! Seriously, is that a thing? Well, that’s what researchers at the consumer-goods multinational Unilever are saying: that a week in front of a digital screen can have the same effect on the skin as 25 minutes in the sun.

A week against 25 minutes … that’s quite a difference. It all adds up as we spend more and more time staring into screens. By “a week” they mean five working days in front of a digital device for more than six hours. It’s the artificial “blue light” these devices emit, apparently – it’s the highest-energy light on the visible spectrum. It does occur naturally, but people often get more from a screen.

And what does this “blue light” do? Penetrates deep into the skin, through the epidermis and dermis, to the subcutis layer, destroying collagen. It can cause premature ageing, although it’s still unclear what dose is required to do this or what the effects of long-term exposure are. There are also effects on melatonin levels and sleeping patterns.

Sounds as if more research is needed. Are you sure this is good science? Well, Samantha Tucker-Samaras said: “Long-term exposure to blue light has the potential to have significant negative impact on people’s wellbeing.”

And she is? Global vice-president, science and technology, beauty and personal care at Unilever. That’s science and technology.

What does ST-S suggest we do about it? “People should be looking for skincare products loaded with antioxidants, as well as niacinamide and zinc oxide.”

Such as those made by Unilever brands? Others are available.

Hang on, is this why Donald Trump has an orange face? Because he spends the majority of his waking hours staring at – shouting at – his phone? That could be it, yes.

But you don’t really look like that, do you, from spending a few hours at a laptop? No, I did it on a face-ageing app. Just hope I can figure out how to undo it.

Do say: “Time for a screen break. And to engage with three-dimensional living people for a while.”

Don’t say: “And I get a tan as well! My own little portable sunbed! Yay!”

Good News Monday: Writers, Think Pink!

Many of us remain isolated from friends and family during this pandemic. So imagine how difficult it would be to find yourself newly diagnosed with breast cancer — and with no support system to help you through the crisis.

An organization called Girls Love Mail has a novel way of boosting women’s spirits. Since 2011, it’s enlisted thousands of empathetic people to send words of encouragement to strangers; about 167,000 letters have been mailed to date.

Want to share a little hand-written optimism? Visit girlslovemail.com in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month in October.

Photo by Abstrakt Xxcellence Studios on Pexels.com

Good News Monday: Mammo Mia!

There’s a fascinating article in October Vogue magazine about a new device that could change the way health care workers perform breast exams.

Imagine — something faster and more pleasant than squashing your boobs in a giant panini press!

iBreastExam is a handheld cancer screening tool about the size of a travel-sized clothing steamer.  Using Cloud technology rather than radiation, the padded electronic sensor can detect abnormal lumps as small as five millimeters. And it only takes a few minutes to assess multiple quadrants in each breast and then store the info.

Already in use across developing countries where access to radiology and conventional mammograms is limited at best, iBreast Exam is now becoming available to primary care physicians and gynecologists in the U.S.

Despite some limitations — e.g., it’s unable to detect tiny amounts of calcium that may indicate precancerous cells — the tool’s sensitivity is equivalent to a mammogram. For women showing early warning signs, the standard (and proven) mammo would likely be the next step.  But for women with healthy indicators, this might be all that’s needed.

Good news indeed for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

 

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.

 

A True Story

I always enjoy my monthly massage, not least because my therapist is smart, funny and usually has an interesting story to share.

Today we were talking about the hassles of resuming our maiden names after divorce. This reminded her of someone who lived in the small Texas town where she grew up.

This fellow, the town drunk, decided one day that he wanted to legally change his name to his high school nickname, Squirrel.

He went to court and told the judge what he wanted to do.  The judge thought he was kidding, or drunk, or both.

“Squirrel?” “Really?” “Yes.” 

“Are you sure?” “YES!” 

The back-and-forth went on for awhile and both parties were getting exasperated. Finally, the judge asked again, “You REALLY want to change your name to this?” “YES!!! Squirrel!! Period!!”

And the judge legally changed his name to Squirrel Period, as he has been known ever since.

Only in Texas.

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Random Hacks

The Internet was full of interesting tips this week!

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7 ways to prevent (and fix!) smelly shoes

1. Start with clean feet: Soak them in salt water, then dry off and dust with talcum powder (baby powder or Gold Bond).

2. Put antiperspirant on the soles of your feet.

3. Sprinkle the inside of your shoes with baking soda and leave overnight. Vacuum or shake out in the morning.

4. Place dry tea bags inside your shoes and leave them overnight.

5. Put crumpled newspaper inside your shoes and leave overnight. It absorbs odor-retaining moisture.

6. Place your shoes in individual plastic zip bags and leave them in your freezer overnight to kill bacteria. During the winter, leaving them overnight in a cold car will work too. Let your shoes slowly return to room temperature before wearing.

7. Spritz sneakers or fabric-lined shoes with mixture of water and white vinegar. Let dry thoroughly.

 

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5 steps to relaxation

1. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your front teeth and exhale sharply.

2. Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.

3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.

4. Exhale strongly to a count of eight.

5. Repeat 3 times. Ahhhhh.

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17 ways to save money

  1. Clear your browsing history. When shopping online – especially for airline tickets – make sure to empty your cache. Online companies follow your history and raise prices based on this information.
  2. Shop as a guest. When buying online, use the Guest option instead of creating an account. New customers usually get lower prices.
  3. Leave items in your online cart. Get everything filled in, with your name, e-mail address etc., but don’t purchase immediately. You’ll often get a follow-up e-mail a day or two later offering a discount code to incentivize you to complete the sale.
  4. Lower the brightness on your TV and computer screen. Reducing the brightness of your TV and/or computer monitors from their default settings can reduce power consumption by up to 40%. 
  5. Carry large bills. Research shows that you’re likely to pay less if you use cash instead of a credit card. That’s because purchases feel more “real” when you see the amount you’re spending. If you carry only $50 bills you’ll be less inclined to break them, which helps avoid impulse buys.
  6. Make lists. You’re also less likely to succumb to impulse buys at the mall or grocery store if you’ve decided ahead of time what you need and plan to buy.
  7. Build your credit. Your credit score determines your rate on loans; nowadays utility and insurance companies use these scores to calculate monthly premiums.
  8. Make large purchases at the end of the month. Buying a couch, car or electronics? All sales reps have to meet monthly quotas. If they’ve had a slow month they may be willing to give you a deep discount in order to make a sale—and reach their quota. 
  9. Paint your roof white. If you live in a warm climate, this quirky idea could save you a bundle on air conditioning bills. Traditional roofs are dark, and dark colors absorb more heat.  Go even further and install solar panels – the upfront cost will be worth it if you plan to live in your house for a long time.
  10. Brew your own coffee. Home brewing cuts your cost to about $0.25 per cup vs. $3 at a pricey coffee shop, saving you hundreds per year (and over $1000 if you have a 2/day habit!) 
  11. Eat less meat. Eating vegetable-centric meals 2-3 times per week will save you some major cash.
  12. Buy generic. Store brands often have the same ingredients as name brands and may even be made by the same companies. Same with prescriptions – ask your doctor if the generic version is an effective option. 
  13. Buy a water filter. Bottled water isn’t just expensive; it’s not necessarily healthier than tap water. The filtration process may result in water that’s actually better for you than spring water!
  14. Exercise daily. Research confirms that working out regularly limits the number of trips you’ll take to the doctor’s office.
  15. Eat out at culinary schools. If you love dining out, investigate culinary schools in your area. You can enjoy delicious meals from up-and-coming chefs at significant savings vs. restaurants.  
  16. Stay hydrated. Many people overeat because they mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking water before a meal will help you to only consume what you need. Result: lower grocery bills!
  17. Ask for discounts. Most companies offer money-saving promotions but may not advertise them. When contacting your cable, gas, phone, or credit card companies, ask if there’s a way to reduce your bills. Sometimes, mentioning that you’re ready to cancel a service or switch providers is all it takes for them to “magically” come up with a better deal.