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More than any other, this skin condition can show your age

More than any other, this skin condition can show your age

You’re used to seeing changes in your skin. You fought acne in your teens, started looking for wrinkles in your 30s. Now, you notice another change.

Freckle-like spots have appeared on your face, neck and hands. At first, you thought it was cancer. But, these flat, dark areas don’t seem to match the ABCDEs of skin cancer.

So what are they?

These benign lesions are known as age spots, sun spots or liver spots. No matter what you choose to call them, these dark patches can be an unwelcome rite of passage as you age.

What causes age spots? The sun’s rays, tanning beds and exposure to other types of ultraviolet (UV) rays stimulate an overproduction of melanin, the hormone that causes your skin to tan. In your 40s and 50s, your melanin levels decrease. The combination of UV ray stimulation and the decrease in your overall pigmentation can have you seeing spots, especially if you have fair skin.

But even if you avoid UV rays, it may not be enough. Recently, the Journal of Investigative Dermatology associated traffic-related air pollution with facial lentigines or liver spots.

Are age spots cancerous? No, typically, they’re not cancerous. But, if you notice any spot or mole that begins to grow, change color, develops uneven edges or becomes asymmetrical, you should call your healthcare clinician for a skin cancer screening.

How do you get rid of age spots? A quick Internet search will reveal many home remedies. Some of these may cause unwanted side effects. It’s best to work with an experienced and respected dermatologist or plastic surgeon for the safe, medical removal of age spots. Your healthcare provider may use:

  • Chemical peels, which use a chemical solution to remove the top layer of skin.
  • Cryosurgery to freeze the age spot with a nitrogen solution.
  • Dermabrasion, which is a dermatologically-sound method of sanding off the skin where age spot appears.
  • Laser resurfacing to remove the spot. This technique speeds healing and reduces scarring since the skin produces collagen in response to laser’s heat.
  • Medicated creams to fade age spots.

Prevention is better than treatment. Always use a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunblock when you go outside— even if you are just driving. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, driving without sunscreen exposes your hands to UV-A rays through the car’s windows.

Simply washing your face, neck and arms in the evening also may help you reduce the appearance of age spots caused by air-borne pollutants.

Conclusion

Age spots are flat, dark, non-cancerous areas where melanin builds up in the skin due to the exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, tanning beds or UV lights. They are not dangerous, but as with any spot on your skin, visit your healthcare clinician if you notice changes. If you would like to have the spots removed, find a physician or an advanced care provider in your area who specializes in the treatment of age spots. You can search for a clinician at ministryhealth.org/finadoctor or affinityhealth.org/findadoctor.

Please share this article with someone who has questions about age spots.

Recipe: fruit salad with citrus-mint dresssing

Recipe: fruit salad with citrus-mint dresssing

Calling myself a person with a bit of a sweet tooth would be an understatement, so I am always looking for a way to satisfy my cravings for sweets without throwing away all of my healthy eating habits. Adding a citrus-mint dressing dresses up the traditional fruit salad and makes for a great dessert.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 kiwifruit, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 cups (1 1/2-inch) cubes honeydew
  • 2 cups (1 1/2-inch) cubes cantaloupe
  • 1 medium papaya, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

DIRECTIONS

  • Combine kiwifruit, honeydew, cantaloupe, and papaya in a medium bowl.
  • Place sugar and remaining ingredients in a mini chopper food processor; pulse until mint is finely chopped.
  • Pour sugar mixture over fruit, and stir gently to coat.

NUTRITION FACTS (1 serving ~1 1/3 cup; yields 6 servings)

  • Calories: 120
  • Fat: .8g
  • Carbohydrates: 29.4g
  • Protein: 2.2g
  • Fiber: 3.5g
  • Sodium: 21mg

Original Recipe from Cooking Light, April 2005.

Submitted by Julia Salomon, nutrition educator and corporate dietitian.

What every woman needs to know about menopause, but often doesn’t

What every woman needs to know about menopause, but often doesn’t

It’s been called the “change of life.” You’d think we would be more prepared for a condition with such a significant title.

But, the truth is many women are caught off guard when menopausal symptoms hit.

Yet, it’s a fact of life. If you’re a woman and you’re blessed with a long life, your estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels will decrease. You will go through menopause. Here are some facts that you need to know.

  • Many women start to experience peri-menopausal symptoms in their 40s. As your ovaries stop producing estrogen, the female hormone, your periods may become irregular. You may also experience your first hot flashes and night sweats.
  • The average age of menopause is between 51 and 52 years of age. As with all averages, some women may enter menopause earlier; others will continue to have periods into their late 50s. Your menopause experience will be unique.
  • Menopause usually brings hot flashes. Eighty percent of women experience hot flashes. Fifty percent of those women have severe hot flashes that interfere with daily activities. Chances are good, that you will experience them.
  • Joint pain or arthralgia may be another symptom of menopause. Estrogen may affect pain pathways, immune cells and cartilage structure. Women with decreased estrogen often report joint pain.
  • Menopause makes you more susceptible to osteoporosis. There’s a link between menopause and the loss of calcium from a woman’s bones. Bone loss is greatest during the first few years after menopause.
  • Menopause increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Hormone replacement therapy may help manage menopausal symptoms. Sometimes menopause symptoms are so severe that a woman cannot function. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may provide symptom relief and prevent bone loss. Talk to your gynecologist about the benefits and risks of HRT.
  • Menopause increases the risk of urinary incontinence. Estrogen helps keeps the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy. Decreased levels may cause urinary incontinence. It’s just one more reason to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong with kegel exercises.
  • Menopause can lower your libido. As estrogen levels decrease and menstrual periods stop, the levels of progesterone and testosterone also decrease.
  • Menopause may feel more like mental-pause. You can’t find your glasses because they are on your head. You’re frantically looking for your cell phone as you use it to talk to your friend. It sounds crazy, but you’re not. mWhen a woman stops ovulating, progesterone, which normally balances estrogen, also drops. The unbalanced estrogen is converted into a stress hormone that affects the brain.
  • Menopause may change your hair. As your hormones change, so will your hair. It may become finer, weaker and drier. Some studies suggest caffeinated shampoos may help.
  • Menopause can disrupt sleep. Lower hormone levels may mean lower melatonin (the sleep hormone) levels. You may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Even if you follow good sleep hygiene, the dreaded night sweats can wake you up shivering. If your schedule allows, sneak a 10-, 20- or 30-minute nap during the day. A power nap may help you feel refreshed. A longer nap may interfere with your sleep cycle.
  • Menopause may make ADHD medications less effective. But don’t just increase your dose of ADHD medication. It might not help. According to Patricia Quinn, MD, a development pediatrician and director the National Center for Girls and Women with ADHD, estrogen affects the release of dopamine in the brain, which may make ADHD symptoms worse. If you have been diagnosed with ADHD and are going through menopause, you should talk to your primary care clinician or a behavioral health specialist.
  • Menopause can cause pimples. You probably suffered from acne when you went through puberty, every month your hormones cycled, and when you were pregnant. It shouldn’t be a surprise that acne arrives again when a woman goes through menopause. But, it just doesn’t seem fair to have pimples and wrinkles.
  • Menopause changes your body odor. The fragrances and deodorants that you have used for years suddenly may stop working for you or create a totally different fragrance.
  • Menopause may cause mood swings of Jekyll and Hyde proportions. If you have dealt with teenagers recently or remember what it was like to be a teen, you remember the mood swings. Be prepared. Crying jags and irrational anger may be on the way.
  • Menopause meddles with your middle. Nutrition becomes a wake-up call during menopause. You may need to change your diet and focus on making every calorie count.
  • Menopause is a time to take care of yourself. Some women seem to breeze through menopause; others seem to get stuck. The best way to deal with menopause is to stay busy. Volunteer. Focus on your career. Find someone to share your experiences. People who are content and happy with life, have been shown to have milder menopausal symptoms than others.
  • Menopause may cause vaginal atrophy. Chronic vaginal dryness and frequent urinary tract infections occur in one out of two women as estrogen levels drop. Sometimes, women will try to hide the fact that intimacy is a painful and unpleasant experience. Talk to your spouse and your gynecologist about your condition. You may be a candidate for low-dose, localized estrogen therapy, which is different from hormone replacement therapy.

While this lengthy list of symptoms may seem overwhelming, realize that few women will experience every one. The good news is that most often menopause is a temporary phase of life. When you enter the postmenopausal phase, you may experience an occasional hot flash or night sweat, but they will be fewer in number.

If you have any concerns about your health while you are going through menopause, talk to a gynecologist. He or she specializes in women’s reproductive health. You can find one at Ministry Health Care or Affinity Health Care.

Captain of your healthcare

Captain of your healthcare

Here are nine things you should bring to your next doctor’s appointment.

As insurance premiums and deductibles rise, the focus of healthcare today is prevention – and for good reason. It costs less to prevent a disease than it does to cure it.

Fortunately, your clinician is part of a large healthcare team with a high level of expertise. This team is interested in keeping you healthy and active for many years. You can help them find the best possible preventative and treatment approaches for you.

Here are nine things that you should bring to each appointment to make sure you give your healthcare team the information necessary to make the best decisions for your health.

  1. A journal or symptom history. If you have a health concern, start journaling your symptoms. Document the time of day, place, situation and sensation of each symptom. Your journal can be a valuable tool when you talk with your clinician.
  1. Create a brief medical history and contact card. List the history of your conditions, surgeries, medications, allergies and emergency contacts. Make your own card on your computer, print it and laminate it. Don’t forget your family history. Knowing your family history will help your healthcare clinician make an accurate diagnosis. If you are seeing a healthcare clinician for the first time, verify the clinic has copies of your medical history or complete an authorization form to request your records from your previous provider.
  1. Describe your symptoms clearly. Does your pain feel like a dull ache or a sharp stab? Does your hand feel stiff, swollen or numb? Using the right words to describe your symptoms gives your healthcare professional clues to your diagnosis and the best treatment.
  1. Ask for prescription refills and complete paperwork requiring a doctor’s release early in the appointment. This timing allows the clinician to add pertinent information if it’s necessary.
  1. Bring a list of questions. Online research can help you develop a list of questions to discuss with your provider. Create and prioritize your list in order of importance so your critical questions are answered during the appointment. If you run out of time before you run out of questions, ask your clinician how you should follow up. Some clinicians prefer telephone conversations; others prefer to communicate through the secure email of the clinic’s patient portal.
  1. Bring a pen and notebook. Take notes during your appointment. Before you leave the appointment, review your notes and summarize what the doctor said. Then both of you will know you have a clear understanding of your condition, treatment and expectations for regaining your health.
  1. Bring your insurance card. If further tests are needed or you need to be referred to another healthcare clinician, you will want to confirm coverage with your insurance company. If you have your insurance card and a cell phone, you can make the call from the exam room.
  1. Bring a friend or family member. For many people, going to the doctor’s office is stressful. Hearing a serious diagnosis can leave a person in shock. Bringing another person can help you voice your questions about treatment and remember the next steps in the treatment process.
  1. Bring all the medications, supplements, herbs, minerals and essential oils you take or use. The doctor will be able to see the dosage of each formulation and accurately record the name and the dosage. Your clinician also may identify drug interaction that could cause serious health issues.

Tell your clinician if you are treating your condition with alternative therapy, essential oils, supplements or creams to avoid complications.

Being prepared for your appointment will help you get the best care possible to remain healthy and active.

If you do not have a primary care provider, you can find one in northern and central Wisconsin or in the Fox Valley.

Recipe: grilled salmon kebobs

Recipe: grilled salmon kebobs

These skewers are delicious and nutritious. Try them this holiday weekend! The original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients
1 pound salmon filet without skin
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
¼ cup honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1 clove of fresh garlic, minced
12 skewers
12 fresh lemon wedges
Pepper to taste

Directions

  • If using wood skewers, soak for 30 minutes prior to grilling.
  • Slice salmon lengthwise into 12 long strips and thread each strip onto a skewer, leaving a little room at the top of the skewer. Set aside in a shallow platter. Keep refrigerated if making ahead of time.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey or agave nectar, vinegar, ginger and peppers. Pour over skewers, turning to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, transfer marinade to a small saucepan and simmer for several minutes to concentrate flavors.
  • Preheat outdoor grill for medium high heat.
  • Lightly oil grill grate. Thread one lemon wedge onto the end (top) of the each skewer. Cook skewer on the preheated grill for four minutes per side brushing with simmered marinade or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Do not overcook.

Submitted by Julia Salomon, nutrition educator and corporate dietitian.

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

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