Friday, December 30, 2011

How to Avoid a Hangover

If you find yourself drinking more than you planned at a holiday party, one expert has some tips to avoid a nasty hangover.
We spoke to Jonathan Pogash, hospitality holdings director of cocktail development at the World Bar in New York City, who gave us the 411 on how have a good time without paying for it the next day.
Pogash said there are certain drinks you should avoid if you want to decrease your chances of a bad hangover.
“One would be a Long Island Iced Tea,” Pogash said. “It has too many different liquors, a lot of sugar and cheap liquor. You definitely want to avoid all that.”
So what should you drink – besides a lot of water?
Stick to fresh ingredients that don’t contain too much sugar, Pogash recommended, and always skip the cheap stuff. If you are going to drink, opt for high-end products.
Also, try to drink cocktails that are high in antioxidants, like cranberries or pomegranates.
Pogash said sometimes adding an egg white to a drink, like in a pomegranate fizz, can be a good idea because the egg adds protein to the drink while making it frothy.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Surviving the Holidays, Healthfully and Happily

You’ve already hit five holiday parties and it’s not even New Years. You’re ditching the gym after work to keep up with all the friends and family coming in from out of town.  You’re now eating at your desk when a month before, eating over a keyboard seemed criminal.
How to stay on track this season? The occasional, “No!” Yes, that’s right—and it feels good! It’s time to start taking care of you! Or else, you’ll be lost in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  My tips and tricks will help you stay on target. They’re my top three sure-fire tools to make your holidays happy and healthy. Use them—they work!
Schedule your workouts
Yes. Pencil your sweat sessions in! Mark them in your Blackberry, iPhone, desk calendar or whatever you use—the point is to make a commitment. This way you’re more likely to follow through. And just think, you never regret going to the gym, but you do regret not going. There’s nothing like that sweet sweaty endorphin rush.
Batch cook
You’re on the go, so make your food fit your lifestyle! Pick two or three times per week where you’ll cook a bunch of chicken, turkey or tofu; quinoa or brown rice; and chop up some veggies. This way you can quickly throw together a healthy home-cooked meal and be out the door in no time. Or, just have something healthful and easy to assemble when you get home.
Preparation is key! Without preparing you may be left stranded with no healthy eats! Imagine, you’re at work—starving—and you’ve got nothing to nosh except your co-workers bowl of candy a few cubicles over. Don’t let this happen to you! Toss some fruit and nuts in your bag, or a healthy bar. Or, even better, bring a mini-cooler or lunch bag  to work and load it up with healthy snacks—fruits and veggies are a must; nuts; and your lunch. This way your environment will be set for success, and you’ll be ready for another healthy day!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

High-Tech Weight Loss Tools

Text Messages
How they work: A service sends texts to remind you about healthy diet and exercise habits.
How they help: Think of the service as a virtual trainer/life coach who checks in on you and keeps you focused on your goals. In a 2009 study at the University of California, San Diego, people who received texts about healthy behaviors (for instance, “Control portions by dividing a large bag of snacks into smaller containers”) lost four pounds more than those who didn’t. Look for text services created by qualified experts, like medical doctors and registered dietitians.
Check out:, created by experts at the Medical University of South Carolina, delivers a daily diet tip. gives diet and fitness advice from nutritionists and exercise physiologists.
How they work: Apps allow you to track calorie intake and log workouts on your smartphone.
How they help: Many studies have shown that keeping a food or workout journal can increase weight loss. But it can be a pain to whip out a notebook several times a day, then add up calories or miles logged on the track. Apps are portable and make the accounting feel like a game.
Check out: Lose It! tracks diet (there’s nutritional information for more than 50,000 foods), exercise, and weight loss. MapMyFitness tracks workouts and can even help you find running, walking, and biking routes in your area.
Wireless Body Monitors
How they work: Think of them as upgraded pedometers: They track steps, calories, and weight.
How they help: The numbers don’t lie. “People often under- or overestimate their caloric intake and expenditure,” says Steven N. Blair, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina, in Columbia. In a study that Blair and his colleagues conducted, published in 2011, people who used a wireless device lost twice as much weight as people who didn’t, possibly because they saw how their choices affected their weight daily.
Check out: The BodyMedia Fit Core Armband ($180, with three months of free website access, reports calorie burn with nearly 100 percent accuracy. The Fitbit Ultra clip-on tracker ($100, syncs its data with your computer wirelessly.
Fitness Video Games
How they work: Pop an activity-oriented game (anything from dancing to ski jumping) into your Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, or Xbox 360 and log in a workout without leaving your living room.
How they help: The variety of options makes this an ideal solution if you’re tired of just loping along on a treadmill. Although you typically won’t burn as many calories as you would doing the real thing, studies indicate that workout games help people stick with an exercise routine, and consistency is the name of the game when it comes to fitness-related health benefits. Games are also a good way to get the whole family involved in exercise.
Check out: Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012 ($50,, for the Xbox 360 with Kinect, lets you engage in various activities, including cardio boxing and yoga. The Zumba Fitness 2 ($40, for stores), for the Nintendo Wii, is an upbeat cardio-dance workout.
Interactive Websites and Social Networks
How they work: Log on to get fitness and nutrition plans, track your diet and exercise, and interact with others who share your goals via message boards and tweets.
How they help: Research shows that the accountability that comes with group participation can be instrumental in successful weight loss; teaming up with others keeps you engaged when motivation lags. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the more often people used an interactive site after losing weight (on average, it was at least once a month for more than two years), the more successful they were at maintaining the weight loss. “There is growing evidence that surrounding yourself with healthy people, even virtually, helps you carry out your own healthy behaviors,” says Mark Carroll Pachucki, Ph.D., a social scientist and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at the University of California, San Francisco.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

15 Lazy Moves That Ramp Up Health

Staying healthy can feel like so much, well, work (think: logging hours at the gym and whipping up nutritious meals from scratch). However, there are plenty of small moves that you can make in your everyday life that will have big health benefits. We've rounded up 15 practically zero-effort ways to fight disease, whittle your waist, lower stress, and more. Bonus: Many of these good-for-you moves feel good, too. So say sayonara to the old adage, "no pain, no gain" and try these tips today.

Lazy Move #1:  Protect Your Ticker By Snoozing
Need a good excuse to grab your comfiest set of pajamas and hit the sack? Skimping on shut-eye may do more than make you cranky or unproductive—it also boosts your risk of a heart attack. According to one Norwegian study, people who reported that they did not wake up feeling refreshed in the morning had a 27% higher risk of a heart attack, those who had trouble staying asleep almost every night in the last month had a 30% higher risk, and those who had trouble falling asleep almost every night in the last month had odds that jumped to 45%.
Some researchers speculate that insomnia might trigger your body to release more of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol have been linked with high blood pressure and diabetes, which are both risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Plus, when you're exhausted you may be more likely to make unhealthy choices that up your heart disease risk, such as skipping your workout or reaching for fatty or sugary snacks for a quick energy fix.

Lazy Move #2:  Ward Off Weight Gain with Protein
You may not have to stress so much about cutting calories: Whether you're packing on the pounds or simply want to maintain your current weight, adding more protein to your dish could be your slim-down secret weapon. Past research has found that protein keeps you feeling full longer than either carbs or fat, so you can eat less and still be satiated. A new study supports this idea: Researchers from the University of Sydney estimated that the extra calories eaten by participants in their study eating the lowest protein diets could add up to an extra 2.2 pounds of weight gain a month.
Protein is the building block of muscle, and more calories are required to maintain muscle than to preserve fat, which means muscle helps boost your metabolism. Bonus: Foods rich in protein are also filled with zinc and B vitamins, both of which strengthen your immune system to ward off colds and flu. If you're eating about 1,800 calories a day and want to get 15% of your calories from protein, you should aim for about 68 grams of protein.
Here are 3 easy protein switches that up your protein intake for the same number of calories or less. Remember, you want to eat more protein—not calories!—to keep your waistline slim.
Instead of...1/2 cup granola with 1 cup berries (7 grams protein, 250 calories)

Try...1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1 cup berries (15 grams protein, 131 calories)
Instead of...1 1/4 cup mashed potatoes (5 grams protein, 296 calories)

Try...1 1/4 cup vegetarian baked beans (15 grams protein, 295 calories)
Instead of...6-inch pancake sans butter or syrup (5 grams protein, 175 calories)

Try...1 cup low-fat plain yogurt with ½ cup apricots (13 grams protein, 186 calories)

Lazy Move #3:  Pop Vitamin D to Live Longer
Have you had your dose of vitamin D today? A growing body of research shows that not getting enough of this nutrient can trigger a slew of health problems—and experts believe that most of us have a vitamin D deficiency. Though current guidelines call for 600 to 800 IU daily, many researchers now believe we may need up to 4,000 IU.
The very latest research supports the case that the "sunshine vitamin" is a powerful health booster. In fact, people who get enough vitamin D have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in Diabetes Care.  Experts speculate that the nutrient's anti-inflammatory powers might be one way that it offers protection against the disease.
Getting enough D may also improve asthma. Earlier research found that having low levels may make asthma symptoms worse, and a new study finds that lacking in D could make breathing harder by increasing airway smooth muscle mass in children with treatment-resistant asthma, according to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
The "sunshine vitamin" may also help ward off cancer. A whopping 77% of cancer patients have low levels of vitamin D, and the lowest levels are linked to more advanced cancers, suggests a study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology. More research is being done on how vitamin D might help prevent or even treat cancer.

Lazy Move #4:  Up Your Antioxidants with a New Super Fruit
The largest edible fruit native to North America, the pawpaw will grow pretty much anywhere, although it does best in the Northeast and the Midwest, says Ken Asmus, owner of Oikos Tree Crops, a Kalamazoo, Michigan–based nursery that sells pawpaw tree seedlings. Their fruit ripens around the end of August and lasts until mid-October, but Asmus says the fruit on his trees in Michigan are just starting to ripen, owing to a cool spring.
Some nutritionists and foodies think pawpaws could be the next superfood. They have 20 to 70 times as much iron, 10 times as much calcium, and 4 to 20 times as much magnesium as bananas, apples, and oranges, Asmus has found. And research from Ohio State has found that they have antioxidant levels that rival cranberries and cherries. An added health bonus: Being a native tree, pawpaws are resistant to most pests and diseases, making them very easy to grow organically, without the insecticides or fungicides used in most fruit orchards.
Just don't look for them at the grocery store; you're more likely to find a pawpaw at your local farmer's market—if you aren't already growing them in your backyard.

Lazy Move #5:  Rock Out to Exercise Longer
Music fuels your workout—whether you're lifting weights, practicing yoga, or going for a power walk. And it's not just in your head. Researchers at Brunel University in London found that runners who listened to upbeat, energizing rock or pop music (like Queen, Madonna, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers) exercised up to 15% longer--and felt great while doing it.

Lazy Move #6:  Boost Brain Power with Chocolate
Are you a chocoholic? Turns out your little addiction may save your life. A recent study found that those consuming the highest levels of chocolate had a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared to those with lower chocolate intakes.
Though experts are quick to clarify that we should stick to moderate consumption of high-calorie chocolates, it's hard to deny the cold, hard facts that chocolate can be a healthy addition to our diets. Another study finds that chocolate may also boost brainpower.
Flavonols, compounds in chocolate with antioxidant-like properties, are thought to improve circulation, including blood flow to the brain. Study participants were asked to count backward in groups of three from a number between 800 and 999. After drinking hot cocoa filled with flavonols, the participants were able to do calculations more quickly and accurately and were less likely to feel tired or mentally drained.

Lazy Move #7:  Soothe Arthritis Pain Naturally
Pain, tenderness, and stiffness in your joints can keep you from doing the things you love. That may be the reality for people who suffer from osteoarthritis (OA). OA is the most common type of arthritis, occurs in women more often than men, and happens when the cartilage in your joints wears down as you age.
Some natural remedies have been shown to be effective anti-inflammatories. Taking 500 mg twice daily of the combined herbal supplements curcumin and boswellia was better for relieving pain and lowering joint line tenderness scores than taking 100 mg twice daily of the prescription drug celecoxib, finds a clinical study presented at the Osteoarthritis Research Symposium Internationale (OARSI) in San Diego. According to the study, 93% of the herbal group reported improvement in or elimination of pain compared with just 79% of the prescription drug group. You can get the herbal combination in a supplement called Healthy Knees and Joints from the Terry Naturally product line, or at your local health food store.

Lazy Move #8: Fight a Cold with Red Wine
Need something to toast to? The resveratrol and polyphenols in red wine work the same way that beneficial bacteria in yogurt do: When cold and flu viruses enter you system, they start to multiply, and these compounds prevent that from happening. To get the most bang for your buck, grab a bottle of California pinot noir. Tests have found it to have some of the highest levels of resveratrol. Don't drink? Eat some grape leaves or peanuts, the red inner husks of which are also high in resveratrol.

Friday, December 2, 2011

11 Holiday Health Tips

Follow this advice to enjoy a little holiday indulgence without sacrificing your health goals
Indulging Without Overindulging
1. Relax. You won’t gain 10 pounds. It’s a misconception that you’ll need to go up a pant size in January. The average person gains only about a pound during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That’s no excuse to eat with abandon, though. (After all, gaining one pound every year can add up in the long run.) But a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology notes that people who had an attitude of forgiveness and self-compassion after one high-calorie setback were less likely to give up and keep bingeing. So if you lose control with a dish of chocolate truffles, don’t think, I’ve blown it. Might as well move on to the eggnog. Just forgive yourself for the truffles.
2. Don’t skip meals. It seems logical: Forgo lunch; leave more room for pigs in blankets at the office party later. But arriving starved may result in overeating, and drinking on an empty stomach will give you a quicker buzz, which is more likely to lead to mindless munching. Eat normally during the day, and be strategic at the buffet. Don’t bother with things you don’t absolutely love. Splurge on something special (hint: It’s not those cubes of Cheddar), then stop.
3. Turn down Aunt Jan’s pie. “It’s better to sit with a little guilt than to overeat just to please loved ones,” says Diaz. If you can’t say no to Jan’s face, try “Maybe later,” then hope she forgets.
Give yourself a break from the gym. According to a Gallup poll, the percentage of people who exercise regularly is lower in December than at any other time of the year. So don’t beat yourself up—you’re not the only one who’s too busy for Spinning class. But try to stay active in other ways. Speed-walking with shopping bags counts. So does cleaning, says Mark Macdonald, the author of Body Confidence. Add some toning by tightening your core muscles as you vacuum or reach for scattered toys (imagine trying to get your belly button to touch your spine). And most important: Get back into your regular exercise routine once the holidays end.
Drinking Responsibly
4. Practice moderation (really). Drinking too much may not just mean a terrible hangover. Around this time of year, doctors report seeing a spike in erratic heartbeats—dubbed “holiday heart syndrome.” It is more common among people who usually aren’t heavy drinkers but drink in excess for a short time. “Alcohol may be toxic to enough cardiac cells that it disrupts the coordination required to maintain a normal heart rate,” says Kenneth Mukamal, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston. “Women should have no more than three drinks on any occasion and seven per week,” says Michael Weaver, an associate professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, in Richmond. “So a woman can have up to three drinks in a night and go out two nights, but that’s it for the week—or else the chances of problems go way up.”
5. Keep it on the rocks. Melting ice dilutes a cocktail and creates more liquid. So order your drink on the rocks to try to avoid a quick buzz—and to sip longer before a refill. Use soda water as a mixer for liquor (a cocktail with liquor and club soda is only about 100 calories), and don’t be ashamed to add ice cubes to bubbly. In France, it’s called a piscine. Très chic.
6. Put a cork in it early. Alcohol may help you to conk out quickly; the problem comes when it starts to wear off. The period in which your body is metabolizing the alcohol is when sleep is disrupted. You may wake up frequently in the middle of the night (even if you don’t remember doing so) and miss out on restorative rest. The best strategy is to allow time for the alcohol levels in your body to drop before going to sleep; at the very least, retire your flute several hours before bedtime.
A to ZZZs of Sleep Deprivation
7. Don’t let late nights make you fat. “People who sleep less over time tend to be heavier,” says Lawrence Epstein, the chief medical officer of the Sleep Health Centers, in Brighton, Mass. But it doesn’t take long for the cycle to start. “If you pull one all-nighter or miss a few hours each night over a week, your body releases hormones that prompt eating and weight gain,” says Epstein.
8. Watch out for hidden caffeine. Think hot cocoa is a soothing way to end a winter’s night? Hold on to your marshmallows. Chocolate, even the powdered kind, contains caffeine, as do many over-the-counter pain medicines that you might pop at night to get a head start on a hangover. Excedrin Extra-Strength Caplets, for example, contain 65 milligrams of caffeine; by comparison, the average cup of coffee contains 50 to 100.
Beating the Blues
9. Don’t assume that this is the most depressing time of the year.
 Contrary to popular belief, depression isn’t more common during the holidays. In fact, suicide rates in the United States are actually lowest in December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
“This may be a result of more social interaction, which has been found to enhance happiness,” says Caroline Adams Miller, the author of Creating Your Best Life. But that doesn’t mean that you’re immune to the holiday blues, especially when you’re missing a family member or stressed-out by the in-laws. Make plans with friends if your family is far away—or, on the flip side, opt out of events if your schedule is overwhelming. “You don’t have to be a type E personality—everything to everyone,” says Ronald Nathan, a psychologist in Albany.
10. Consider a supplement. Is there a magic pill that will cure the blues? Of course not. But some research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may relieve depression; other research has found that vitamin D may improve mood. Add a daily supplement of omega-3 or vitamin D to your diet. Or increase your intake of vitamin D–fortified milk or foods rich in omega-3s, such as fish, flaxseed, and walnuts.
Take Facebook with a grain of salt. You’ve seen the status updates: “Hope Santa can find us in ARUBA!” or “Mmm, homemade cider, kids making cookies, life is good.” And you know what? Those people have bad days, too. 

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankfulness Linked to Positive Changes in Brain and Body

Grateful? Write it down. Think about it. Talk about it. 'Tis the season of thanking, and not only will you spread those positive vibrations to those around you, your health will benefit, too.
For those who tend to be more Grinch-ish than grateful, there's some hard evidence that might make you want to turn that frown upside down. A positive outlook and feelings of thankfulness can have a direct and beneficial effect on the brain and body.
"If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world's best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system," said Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of the division of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center.
While the act of being thankful is not a substitute for a proper medical diagnosis and treatment, Doraiswamy said it's certainly a strategy that can be used to enhance wellness.
Studies have shown measurable effects on multiple body and brain systems, said Doraiswamy. Those include mood neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine), reproductive hormones (testosterone), social bonding hormones (oxytocin), cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine), inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines), stress hormones (cortisol), cardiac and EEG rhythms, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
"When my coaching clients ask me why gratitude exercises work, I let them know that humans have something called a negativity bias where "bad stuff" in our life outweighs the good by a measure of about 3:1," Renee Jain, a certified coach of positive psychology, wrote in an email.
"This bias developed over millions of years help us survive threats in our environment," said Jain. "Fortunately, we no longer have to worry about a saber-toothed tiger attacking us on the way to work. Unfortunately, we still have this bias, which makes us home in on negative events, emotions, and interactions in our lives."
The brain's fundamental organizing principle in life is to avoid threat and maximize rewards, said Mitch Wasden, CEO of Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge, who holds a doctorate in human and organizational learning. Because of this, the "chemical cocktail surging through the body allows humans to feel rewards and threats," he said.
"The brain's primary reward chemical is called dopamine," continued Wasden. "The interesting thing, however, is that we can't feel rewards and threats unless we focus attention on them. Many good and bad things happen in our life every day, but until they come to our own attention, we don't get the neurotransmitter release that allows us to feel good or bad."
But there's a twist. The brain doesn't know the difference when it's reacting to reality, fiction or even past events, which explains why people feel scared while watching horror movies even though they know it's not real or they cry when reading a sad novel. Feeling thankful for things that have happened acts as a "mental movie," Wasden explained. The brain releases dopamine, which, in turn, has a positive effect on mood and emotional well-being.
"I find positive psychology strategies can be particularly helpful for some people with mild depression and for those with poor psychosocial coping styles," said Doraiswamy. "Clearly if someone has severe depression or is suicidal they need urgent medical management for acute care but even there positive psychology strategies may reduce their risk for relapse or increase compliance with their treatments."
"Gratitude helps us counteract the negativity bias by focusing our attention on the "good stuff," Jain said. "A little focus can go a long way to improving one's psychological, social, and physical health."
If it's tough to get out of a negative-thinking rut, Wasden suggested keeping a journal of things, big or small, that you are grateful for. Write letters of gratitude and meditate on positive emotions.
"One of the most well-known practices uncovered from this research is known as the Three Blessings exercise," said Jain. "Each night before going to bed you write down three good things (ordinary or extraordinary) that happened to you during the day. Studies reveal those who continue this exercise for one week straight can increase their happiness and decrease depressive symptoms for up to a six-month period."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Trying to stay warm can make skin dryness worse

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. The old adage usually refers to lost love, but the same holds true for the skin’s protective lipid layer. 
You might not even know your skin has a protective lipid layer, but when the temperatures drop and your skin dries out, you can tell it’s gone. 

Winter weather and the things we do to stave off the cold make dry skin worse.

When it’s cold outside, we run the furnace, which removes humidity from the air. We take long, hot showers to warm up, and hot water saps moisture. We wear wool clothing, but it can cause friction and itching, which further irritate already-dry skin.

Dr. Elizabeth Small, a Springfield Clinic dermatologist with 31 years of experience, said treating dry skin is “quite common” in the winter months. Once the protective lipid layer is gone, water evaporates from the skin, which causes it to dry and crack.

Frequent hand washing and the use of antibacterial hand gels — both of which are promoted during cold and flu season to keep germs at bay — dry out skin. 

“Health care and child care workers are prone to dry skin because of frequent hand washing. I know from personal experience,” Small said. “I almost always have a finger crack by the end of the week, and it takes the weekend to heal.”

A simple solution is to find an antibacterial hand lotion and apply it after hand washing.

Michelle Schroeder, an early childhood teacher in Springfield, develops itchy, rough skin in the winter. Washing her hands countless times throughout the day only makes it worse. 

After trying a variety of products, most of which didn’t heal her dry skin, she discovered Herbacin, an over-the-counter lotion she applies frequently throughout the day. 

She also drinks ample water to stay hydrated. Small says a healthy person should try to consume 64 ounces a day. 

Signs of excessive dryness include itchy, flaky, red, scaly, cracked skin.

Amy Behrens, a registered nurse from Rochester, says winter is definitely the worst time of year for dry skin, and the first sign is usually the appearance of her hands.

The mother of two jokes that she knows she has dry skin when she looks down and sees her grandma’s hands at the end of her arms. Indeed, dry skin looked more aged than youthful, hydrated skin.

“My hands usually start looking scaly and feeling dry and scratchy,” Behrens said. “

"Working in health care means I am constantly washing my hands and applying sanitizer. It’s not easy on the skin, but it’s best for patients. At work, I use hospital-provided hand lotion that is compatible with latex gloves we wear.”

To repair the damage, Behrens uses Aquafor and Eucerin, both over-the-counter moisturizers, at home.

When desperate, Behrens uses an “overnight Aquaphor remedy” to hydrate hands or feet. Simply apply before bed, slip on old socks and sleep in them. 

“It is greasy,” Behrens said, “but it works.”

Heather Jordan, who works at the Springfield Developmental Center, says her hands “feel like sandpaper” when winter rolls around. 

She uses Gold Bond Ultimate skin lotion, the “only lotion that sustains the moisture for several hours.”

Personal preference seems to dictate which OTC moisturizer to use, but when the symptoms persist, it’s time to see a doctor.

“If you have cracked fingers that aren’t healing, inflamed, itchy skin that keeps you up at night or you have trouble walking because of cracked heels, you should see a doctor,” Small said. 

Doctors can prescribe cortisone creams that contain higher levels of cortisone and other steroids than OTC products. Low-potency steroid cream cuts down on the symptoms and allows skin to heal faster. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Skinny On Fat Versus Fillers

Patients coming in for surgery to make them look younger often will ask about fat injections.
There has been a lot of attention in the press about fat injections as a way to fill the grooves and troughs around the face. The areas most commonly affected by aging are around the mouth and lips. There are the nasolabial creases, the pair of which looks like parentheses, extending from the side of the nose down to the corners of the mouth. Then, there are the marionette lines, also somewhat parenthetic and parallel, running from the corners of the lower lip to the chin.
Another area that frequently tends to shrink and flatten out is the cheek bone area, particularly toward the nose under the eye. Finally, the area that shows hollowness with increasing age is below the cheek bone in the mid-cheek area.
What are the options? Today, we have more than ever. First, there is fat grafting. It begins with liposuction from the abdomen or the buttocks. It is filtered, prepared, and then injected into the areas that show shrinkage.  In excellent and in experienced and highly specialized hands, fat injections can be successful. The alternative is to fill with man-made fillers. This would include Restylane, Juvederm, Radiesse, Artefill and Sculptra.
Now, Radiesse and Juvederm are very similar – each is composed of hyaluronic acid – a natural occurring substance in human bone cartilage and skin. The product is bio-engineered in the laboratory and is considered pure and free of any possible rejection phenomenon. Complications from these injections are very, very rare. One unique property of Juvederm and Restylane, being hyaluronic acid, is that in case of overinjection, they can be dissolved using an enzyme called hyaluronidase.
While Restylane and Juvederm have a relatively short life within the tissues, typically 4-6 months or a bit longer, some of the other products are engineered to last longer. I have seen nice results from Sculptra injections done five years prior.
So, what about this competition between fat injections and what I will group together as the “non-fat injections”? The non-fat injections, which are laboratory made, allow a major advantage in that when the injections take place, one can see the result. Now, Sculptra is somewhat of an exception because it takes several months for the body to make new collagen and capitalize on the presence of Sculptra. The other products render an immediate, visible improvement. That is a huge advantage because the patient gets to make a decision when he/she is happy with the amount of filling. Further, one can fill a moderate amount and see how it looks in a few weeks, and go back and “top off.”  There is no need to puncture the body to obtain this as there is with fat injections.
I happen to like the concept of “testing the waters” with the non-permanent hyaluronic products, Restylane and Juvederm, almost as a ”demo”. Their immediate effect and shortened longevity also allows the patient to quickly decide if they are happy with the results. If they do not see the demonstrable improvement, and do not feel that it is a reasonable investment of their time and money, they can refrain from any further injections. There is economy of dollars there.
Now, let’s look at fat injections. I want to cite the recent discussion that took place on the pages of an excellent cosmetic surgery magazine for surgeons, Cosmetic Surgery Times. The publication interviewed two veteran cosmetic surgeons who faced off on fat injections. In the fat injection corner was J. William Little, MD, and in the “non-fat” injection corner was Val Lambros, MD.
I do not know Dr. Little personally, but he enjoys an excellent reputation nationally and internationally. I do know Dr. Lambros, and I have always admired the work that he has done, including his very unique tracking of individual facial aging using medically-consistent photographs. He has been a very good student of the subject of where the face ages, how it ages, and how, to the eye, the signs of aging can be reversed.
 Dr. Lambros made a very strong case for the unpredictability of fat injections. Frankly, I sit in that camp, also. I have always seen the unpredictability as the major disadvantage of fat injections. It does not mean that you cannot have a spectacular result, but it would take a very experienced practitioner, and somewhat of a “good day.”  Remember, not all practitioners are experienced enough to have a long track of patient observations, and Dr. Lambros referred to that.  I have selected certain quotes from his commentary because I think they are very on point.
“Injected fat can grow. This will be the longest long-term problem with fat.”  Dr. Lambros goes on to mention that, indeed, “the injected fat cannot be removed.  Then, you have the issue of symmetry. The surgeon may inject equal amounts into both cheeks, but maybe some of the fat will take on one side, and more will take on the other.  Another point made was that, in fact, due to a variety of anatomic factors, the fat takes better in younger people.  But, it is the older people that need the fat more because the hollowing of the face is a function of aging.”
Further, Dr. Lambros agreed with my observation that it takes quite a bit of experience and, what he calls, “finesse” and “esthetic sensibilities.”  While these are laudable and important characteristics in the cosmetic surgeon, we have to admit that not all will have this. If so, that is a negative.
Young surgeons are always taken with technology. In fact, it is a little more exciting to harvest the fat, treat it, and inject it.  It is more mechanical, more surgical than the mere injection of a syringe filled with a non-fat filler, such as Restylane, Juvederm, Radiesse, Sculptra or Artefill.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Beat back the years while you sleep

We’re always hearing that one of the best beauty tips around is a good night’s sleep - and with the clocks going back yesterday, sleep is something we’ll all want a lot more of as winter sets in.

But if, like me, you woke up this morning feeling sleep-deprived and bemoaning the bags under your eyes, you probably don’t need convincing that how much sleep - and how good that sleep is - does make a difference to how you look.

But, surprisingly, given that dark circles are one of women’s biggest beauty bug- bears, science is still struggling to explain why we look so bad after a sleepless night.

“There’s a lack of evidence-based research into the relationship between sleep and appearance in the short term,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe. “There’s an increasing body of work suggesting that in the long-term, sleep deprivation could prematurely age skin.

“Chronic lack of sleep (consistently getting less than the seven to nine hours most adults need) has been shown, within weeks, to compromise the immune system, making it harder for skin to repair damage inflicted during the day,” he says.

“Other research has discovered a link between lack of sleep and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. At high levels, this can inhibit the formation of collagen, essential for healthy, youthful skin.”

Vogue’s former beauty director Kathy Phillips is so convinced of the importance of sleep that when she founded her aroma-therapy-based beauty company, This Works, she came up with an entire range of products designed to aid sleep, including a lavender bath soak and soothing pillow spray.

“If you don’t sleep well, everything suffers,” she says. “You eat the wrong things because you feel tired, you skip regular exercise and you work less efficiently.

“Some people are genetically programmed to get dark circles; others just feel listless and lacking in energy, have pasty skin and generally feel more fractious.” Let’s say, for argument’s sake, a good night’s sleep is the best beauty secret (no one would ever say too much sleep makes you look bad, would they?), but if you can’t get enough you at least want to make sure you’re using the most effective skincare products available while you are asleep.

The past few years have seen a huge growth in so-called “nocturnal” skincare, but do we really need an entirely separate regime for after dark?

Skincare expert Paula Begoun says no. “Day and night, skin needs the same ingredients to fight wrinkles, ageing, cellular damage and collagen breakdown.

“With the exception of sun protection, which for obvious reasons doesn’t need to be in a night cream, there’s no research showing that skin needs different ingredients or heavier formulations at night.”

But Dr Sian Morris, principal scientist with Olay, which recently launched its Regenerist Night Renewal Elixir, disagrees.

“Day creams have to prep skin for make-up, so most women prefer a light cream that’s quickly absorbed, but our research has found they like their night cream to be slightly richer and creamier.

“Science suggests it makes sense to have a more emollient cream at night. Skin at night is physiologically different from during the day; it needs more moisture and can be more receptive to certain ingredients.”

Her argument is supported by the growth of a field of medicine known as chronopharmacology, which has shown the efficacy of a drug is affected by the time at which it is taken.

This is because all of the biological systems in our bodies - digestion, brain, muscles, metabolism, capacity to sleep - run to certain patterns, known as circadian rhythms.

“Studies show the permeability of the skin’s barrier is lower at night and skin blood flow is higher than during the day.

“Practically, that means greater amounts of the active ingredients within skincare products are likely to penetrate to the dermis (the deeper layer of the skin) to help tackle issues such as wrinkles. Use products that include vitamin A derivatives (the most effective anti-aging ingredients) only at night, because they are unstable when exposed to sunlight.”

These vitamin A derivatives also boost the skin’s natural exfoliation process, which studies have shown to be less efficient at night.

Other research suggests that skin is more prone to water loss while we sleep, so if you really want to wake up glowing and fresh-faced, it makes sense to look for products that are rich in ingredients that draw water to the skin (such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Soy Supplement May Improve Crow's Feet

An experimental supplement derived from soy may help postmenopausal women smooth their "crow's feet" a bit, a small pilot study suggests.

The supplement, known for now as SE5-OH, is under development by a Tokyo-based drug and supplement maker, Otsuka Pharmaceutical.

It contains a compound called S-equol, which is made from fermented soy germ.

The body can produce S-equol naturally, as a byproduct of digesting soy isoflavones, plant chemicals that are structurally similar to estrogen. S-equol itself is believed to attach to estrogen receptors on body cells, and may have weak estrogen-like effects.

Skin cells are among those that have estrogen receptors, and it's thought that women's waning estrogen levels after menopause may contribute to skin aging.

So for the new study, researchers at the Japanese company looked at whether giving postmenopausal women S-equol supplements might improve the appearance of crow's feet -- those lines that begin to surface at the outer corners of the eyes sometime in middle-age, or earlier.

The researchers, led by Ayuko Oyama, randomly assigned 101 postmenopausal Japanese women to one of three groups: one that took a higher dose of the S-equol supplement (30 milligrams) every day for 12 weeks, one that took a lower dose (10 mg) and one that took placebo tablets containing only starch.

"I think it's a very interesting study," said Dr. Carolyn Jacob, director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, and a fellow with the American Academy of Dermatology.

Jacob, who was not involved in the study, said it is plausible that S-equol could affect the appearance of crow's feet.

It would have been helpful, she said, if the researchers had taken skin biopsies to see if the supplement users actually showed changes in collagen -- a protein that helps keep the skin firm and elastic.

For now, Jacob said the findings are "encouraging," and longer-term studies should look at the effects of the supplement on skin aging.

In theory, S-equol supplements could have some of the negative effects of estrogen as well, including contributing to the risks of breast or uterine cancer. Oyama's team found no effects on women's breast or uterine tissue, which they gauged using mammograms and ultrasound, respectively.

However, the researchers say, longer-term studies of the supplement's safety are still needed.

For now, there are other ways to deal with crow's feet. One is to live with them. For women who want treatment, Jacob said that both Botox and Dysport "work very well."

The drugs, which work by relaxing the muscles underlying crow's feet, are given by injection, and their effects can last several months. The side effects can include soreness at the injection site and, in rare cases, muscle weakness that can lead to a temporarily droopy brow or eyelid.

It's also possible to delay the first appearance of crow's feet. Using sunblock to protect against damage from ultraviolet light can help, Jacob said. So can wearing sunglasses or hats to keep yourself from squinting -- a key contributor to crow's feet.People vary in their ability to produce S-equol from eating soy, with at least half of all individuals lacking the necessary intestinal flora and therefore being "non-producers," according to Oyama's team. All of the women in the current study were tested and deemed to be non-producers.

In the end, women who used the supplement showed, on average, a modest improvement in their crow's feet versus the placebo group -- as judged by a researcher who did not know which women had received supplements and which had taken the placebo.

The findings are reported in the medical journal Menopause.

"I think it's a very interesting study," said Dr. Carolyn Jacob, director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, and a fellow with the American Academy of Dermatology.

Jacob, who was not involved in the study, said it is plausible that S-equol could affect the appearance of crow's feet.

It would have been helpful, she said, if the researchers had taken skin biopsies to see if the supplement users actually showed changes in collagen -- a protein that helps keep the skin firm and elastic.

For now, Jacob said the findings are "encouraging," and longer-term studies should look at the effects of the supplement on skin aging.

In theory, S-equol supplements could have some of the negative effects of estrogen as well, including contributing to the risks of breast or uterine cancer. Oyama's team found no effects on women's breast or uterine tissue, which they gauged using mammograms and ultrasound, respectively.

However, the researchers say, longer-term studies of the supplement's safety are still needed.

For now, there are other ways to deal with crow's feet. One is to live with them. For women who want treatment, Jacob said that both Botox and Dysport "work very well."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Middle-Aged Women Happier With Moderate Exercise

Middle-aged women encouraged to exercise at moderate intensity were much happier and more likely to continue working out than peers who exercised more intensely, according to a study.
Researchers led by Steriani Elavsky of Penn State University in Pennsylvania recruited 255 women between 40 and 60 years old to do either moderate or vigorous exercise, then followed the volunteers to monitor their reactions.
Overall, women who did moderate exercise were about twice as likely to feel energized and confident they could do more exercise in the future, and more of them also showed decreased feelings of sadness and anxiety than the vigorous-exercise group.
"Exercise makes you feel better but it is going to be more pleasant when performed at moderate intensity as compared to vigorous, especially when you have been previously inactive or may be overweight," Elavsky told Reuters Health.
They were activities "that would allow you to talk in short sentences while you are doing them, but would not allow you to sing," she added.
Middle-aged women are among the least active and their level of physical activity declines with age. Understanding whether exercise of different intensities has different effects on mood and whether these predict overall physical activity in midlife women is an important question to address, Elavsky added.
Elavsky and colleagues at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey studied the 255 women, who were not on hormone therapy and who kept a daily diary of activities and feelings for two weeks. She presented their findings at the North American Menopause Society meeting in Washington D.C.
At the beginning of the study, the women completed two bouts of moderate or vigorous exercise. The vigorous workout involved exercising on a treadmill to the point where they could no longer tolerate the intensity, and moderate exercise involved a 30-minute session, also on a treadmill, at a pace the women selected for themselves but could be considered moderate.
All women also wore an accelerometer, a small device the size of a match box, to track their energy expenditure and their time spent in activities of different intensities.
The study found that moderate intensity exercise caused more women to report later that they were in a better mood and to have greater feelings of energy, psychological wellbeing and "self-efficacy."
Moderate physical activity was also much better in these terms for obese and out of shape women, Elavsky said.
Vigorous exercisers showed smaller benefits to mood, and those who were overweight or had symptoms of illness reported "significant decreases in calmness" after the exercise bouts.
Examples of moderate intensity exercise include brisk walking, ballroom and line dancing, biking on level ground or with few hills, canoeing, general gardening including raking, trimming shrubs, sports such as baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis (doubles) and water aerobics.
Elavsky added she hopes her study will reaffirm to women that exercise can be a powerful way to enhance their wellbeing, and that they don't have to go all out with their level of exertion.