Tag Archives: vitamin D

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

Follow Your Heart

Valentine’s Day may be over, but it’s important to show your heart some love all year long! Heart disease is deadlier than all forms of cancer combined; luckily, even small changes can make a huge difference to your health.

Rise and shine. Start the day by stretching and taking a few moments to breathe deeply and clear your mind. Studies show that yoga can lower cholesterol, while meditation helps lower blood pressure.

Get a move on. Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and gets your blood pumping, which strengthens the heart and lungs and improves your body’s ability to use oxygen. Aim for a minimum of 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week. For less wear and tear on older joints, try low-impact activities such as biking, walking, swimming, water aerobics, or working out on an elliptical or rowing machine.

Don’t smoke. It’s not just about lungs. Chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your blood cells and can damage the structure and function of blood vessels. Smokers are 2-4x more likely to develop heart disease and the risk is higher for women. Enough said!

Boost your “D”. You already know that vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, an essential component of strong bones. But did you know that low D may be risky for your heart? Checking vitamin D levels isn’t always a routine part of an annual physical, so ask your doctor if you should be tested. I discovered that mine was alarmingly low since I am super cautious about avoiding the sun, and my doctor recommended a daily supplement. Most people can get sufficient vitamin D from 15 min/day of unprotected sun exposure but don’t forget the sunblock after that.

Know your cholesterol numbers, especially the balance between HDL (“Healthy” high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (“Lousy” low-density lipoprotein). Exercise helps boost HDL, while adding more fiber to your diet can lower your LDL.

Veg out. The USDA recommends eating 5 servings a day of fruits and veggies and most of us don’t even come close. Brightly-colored fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients including antioxidants, which prevent and repair damage caused by free radicals, molecules that attack healthy cells.

Don’t fear fat! Fats are essential for a healthy diet, as long as we eat the right kinds, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help maintain cell membranes and can lower triglycerides—reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, and slowing the buildup of artery-hardening plaque. Natural sources include walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and certain types of trout.

Practice gratitude. Constant stress is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. To help put things in perspective, focus on the blessings in your life instead of dwelling on what could be “better”. Making a list of everything you’re grateful for will remind you what really counts, as will helping others who are less fortunate.

Grin, giggle and guffaw. I read recently that a good belly laugh can send 20% more blood flowing through your entire body. As you laugh your blood vessel walls relax and expand, which helps keep them pliable and flexible. So share a joke, watch a comedy, or enjoy the absurdity in potentially frustrating situations.

For more information about heart health and women, check out the GoRed website. And go spread the love!