Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

What to Do With Dry Skin?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

We have all experienced dry skin at some point or another, especially with cold weather. Now with the pandemic, continuous use of hand sanitizers and frequent hand washing have added to the problem. Dry skin can be one of the most annoying things but being proactive can help.

What is dry skin?

The top layer of skin is make of natural oils and fats which help trap the moisture to keep skin hydrated and soft. When the skin barrier is compromised by insults such as cold weather, frequent scrubbing, etc, hydration is lost leading to dry skin. The skin can crack, look rough, scaly, itchy, red, and literally feel dry. The medical term is known as xerosis or xeroderma.

Some of the causes:

  • Weather-cold, windy weather with low humidity
  • Too much bathing-hot showers, scrubbing your skin too much.
  • Frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers
  • Aging-as we age, our skin thins and produces less oil needed to retain moisture
  • Medical conditions-diabetes, hypothyroidism, dialysis patients


The crux of treatment of dry skin is prevention. Here are some things you can do

  • Wear protective clothing-hats, scarves, gloves. Avoid skin contact with wool which can be itchy.

  • Limit water exposure-who doesn’t love their hot long shows and baths….well, limiting shower/bath time to 5-10 minutes or less, bathing once a day, using warm water instead of hot water, and patting dry instead of rubbing dry, can prevent excess removal of natural body oils from your skin.

  • Be picky when choosing your soaps and cleansers-pick a moisturizing soap with no alcohol which is hypoallergenic and preferably fragrance free.

  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

    • Throughout the day, all the time, this will hydrate the top most layer of your skin and seal in the moisture. Don’t forget the lips-use those chapsticks!
    • Apply moisturizing cream while your skin is still damp, about one minute after getting out of the shower to seal in the moisturizer
    • Look at the ingredients of your moisturizer, you want to chose something that attracts moisture and also seals in moisture
      • Attracts moisture-Humectants such as ceramides, glycerine, hyalurinc acid, and lecithin
      • Seals in moisture-petroleum jelly, petrolatum, silicone, lanolin, mineral oil ( Slugging is most commonly done with vaseline or aquaphor) Slugging refers to a term of applying a thick layer on the skin.
      • Smooths skin-emmollients such as linoleic, linolenic, and lauric acids
  • Drink lots of fluids-this has always been the key to nice, hydrated skin

  • Shave with lubricating agent in the direction of hair growth, moisturize afterwards generously

  • Be mindful of medications you are using-acne medications and retinol cause increased skin cell turnover causing dryness and flakiness

  • Use a humidifier during winter-it can help restore the moisture in the air in your house

  • Finally, don’t scratch, it will only makes things worse…

Of course dry skin won’t just go away, it will take time, but with some effort on your part, you may feel more comfortable in your skin….

Be Mindful of Your Food Choices

The study talked about is from Nature Food published in August 2021 by environmental health scientists from the University of Michigan. It looked at different food and the minutes of life that are potentially gained or lost when we eat them.

Again, the message remains to be mindful of what we eat and make smart choices! And don’t forget to laugh!!!

Foods That Can Increase Your Lifespan

This study published in PLOS Medicine February 8, 2022 looked at the affect of replacing a diet of processed food and meat with a diet consistent with fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. The Norway research team used existing data from more than 200 countries and territories from the Global Burden of Disase Study.

Some take home points:

  • Eat more nuts, lentils, whole grains, and vegetables
  • Eat less processed food and red meat
  • The earlier the diet is started, the more the benefit and will increase your life span the most(sometimes up to 13 years), but even starting at an older age will increase your life span
  • It may be hard to start this diet overnight, but you can start with baby steps. Start by incorporating a handful of nuts a day, picking a blackbean burger over a cheeseburger, or incorporating something like lentil soup to your meal plan for the week…..after all Rome was not built in a day, but it did eventualy get built.

25% of U.S. Adults Not Active Enough

“More than 1 in 5 adults is inactive in all but four states, according to new state maps of adult physical inactivity prevalence released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For these maps, physical inactivity for adults is defined as not participating in any physical activities outside of work over the last month – activities such as running, walking for exercise, or gardening.”

CDC released updated maps of America’s high levels of inactivity on January 20, 2022 and found that 25 % of U.S. adults are not active enough to protect their health.

This CDC study called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System was conducted from 2017 to 2020 by telephone. Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Vermont were the most active states whereas the Southern states had the most inactivity noted.

What is really interesting about this is that this is prepandemic and we can only wonder how much worse the numbers got during the pandemic. It is also interesting to note that the southern states with the better weather in the winters fared worse than other states.

The take home message is that inactivity can lead to chronic illness such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, etc. This in turn can lead to more serious issues such as strokes and heart disease.

Make your health a priority. Make time for some sort of activity, be it a walk, jog, gardening, at home exercises,or something else. Something is better than nothing. Even 10 minutes a day can make a BIG difference.

Standing Desks Do Have Benefits

Photo by TheStandingDesk

It can be hard to get that well needed activity our bodies require with long working hours. More and more people are getting standing desks, whether it be an add on to the work place or an adjustable sitting to standing desk. Standing desks provide health benefits that not many know about.

How long should you stand at a standing desk?

It is best to alternate between sitting and standing about every 30-60 minutes. Research shows that for every one to two hours sitting, it is ideal to spend about one hour standing.

Some of the benefits of standing desks

  • Improves posture, helps in lower back and neck pain
  • Helps keep your muscles and joints moving
  • Burns calories-men burn about an extra 0.2 calories per minute by standing and women an extra 0.1 calories per minute while standing as compared to sitting
  • Improves mood and energy levels
  • Improves mental focus and therefore work productivity
  • Can improve longevity by preventing sitting disease and all the bad outcomes associated with being sedentary. Standing has been linked to lower rates of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes

What are the drawbacks of standing desks?

Standing desks can cause some leg and foot pain(because you are standing for longer periods of time), but some comfy shoes and/or a memory foam/antifatigue mat to stand on will help.

It may be nice to start pondering if that standing desk is something that would work for you, but the main take home point is to make it a point to take every opportunity you can to get up and stand or walk around to prevent sedentary behavior.

What Is Flurona?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Flurona describes infection with Covid and influenza at the same time. With more stricter masking guidelines last year, we were lucky not to see as many concurrent infections. Both the flu and covid infection spread via aerosol particles and can spread via cough, speaking, sneezing etc.

The symptoms are the same for both and overlap, including cough, runny/stuffy nose, weakness, muscle aches, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste and smell.

So, why is it important to be careful and prevent catching it?

As we know, both covid and influenza come with varying natures of infection and more serious infections with either can lead to hospitalization and death. Now, imagine, having them both, this could prove to be even more dangerous.

What can we do to prevent infections?

What we know works! Get vaccinated for both, wear well fitting masks, keep your distance from others, avoid crowds, stay in well ventilated places(open windows if need to) and keep up with hand hygiene.

Dry January

Photo by Ruud de Peijper

Dry January actually began as a public health initiative in the UK in 2012. Dry January challenge means no alcohol for the month of January and more people have taken it on over the years. More Americans report drinking more alcoholic drinks since the start of the pandemic for a variety of reasons.

Even abstaining from alcohol for a short duration will have health benefits.

  • Improve sleep
  • Lowers triglycerides
  • Improves metabolism
  • Contributes to weight loss
  • Improves immune function
  • Decreases cancer related growth factors
  • Improves insulin resistance
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Skin will look better
  • Improves mood

Some things you can do to make sure you complete the challenge:

  • Keep alcohol away from your sight
  • Try a substitute drink
  • Have a buddy who is also in for the challenge to keep you on track
  • Remember, if you lapse for a day, start it up again the next day.

For all of those that have tackled on “Dry January”, keep on with it, you are also getting in those health benefits. More than anything, this will give you a glimpse into your drinking pattern and how much self control you have.

New Year, New Goals

Photo by Tim Mossholder

The New Year is coming and with it the thoughts of what should be your New Year Resolution. Should it be one thing or a few things to work on? It has been shown that most New Year resolutions are short lived, we do better the first few weeks and then get tired and hit some stumbling blocks. It is good to pick something that you feel motivated to do and try to stick with it….even if you have some lapses.

Some healthy thoughts to consider:

Cut back on that sugar!

  • AHA recommends no more than 100 calories/day(6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar) for most women and no more than 150 calories/day (9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men
  • There is so much hidden sugar in foods we eat routinely such as juices, sodas, yogurts, etc
  • Cutting a small thing like soda out of your diet can make a big difference

Be vigilant of your salt intake

You should be eating less than 2300 mg/day, that is less than a teaspoon a day

Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits

Cut your portion size by half

  • Remember, most restaurants give a portion size than can feed 2 people, and a salt content that your body just doesn’t need

Try to make food at home if possible

  • This is the best way to know what is put in your food and you can be confident in what you eat

Exercise regularly

  • Choose something you enjoy and stick to it-take a walk, yoga, aerobics, treadmill
  • If you work at a desk all day, work on getting up frequently and moving around
  • Remember that sitting disease is not good

Schedule those health check-ups that are long overdue

Sleep better

  • Most people don’t get enough quantity or quality of sleep

Work on learning something new and enriching your knowledge

Work on getting that “Me time” in

  • Sometimes, taking some time for yourself to unwind is crucial, even if it is just an hour a week that you can spare, it will make you feel refreshed and more energic to take on your work and home obligations

Make “To Do” lists

  • It has been said that those that make “to do” lists get more accomplished and feel better about their day

Get organized!

  • Organize your desk, drawers, purse, closet, etc. It will make you find things easier and make your surroundings look visually appealing and provide an atmosphere of well-being

The options for making that one change this New Year are endless, but remember one tiny change can make a world of difference. So, what New Year’s resolution are you going to tackle?

Layering of Clothes Will Keep You Warm

Photo by Clark Street Mercantile

It’s winter…and it can get really cold out there. Layering of clothes is important to do in the cold. It is a term used to describe wearing garments on top of each other. When planning an outing in the snow or winter, you have to be prepared and pack accordingly.

So what are the basics of layering of clothes? Three layers is what is felt to be just right.

  • Inner layer-you need a base or inner layer which will keep the sweat off your skin
    • Synthetic material-something like polyester or polyamide, water resistant, dries quickly
    • Merino wool-natural material, good aborbent, prevents odors
  • Middle layer-this provides insulation to protect against the cold and retain body heat
    • Fleece, down, or synthetic jackets, fleece leggings
  • Outer layer-protects from outdoor elements such as rain or snow
    • Waterproof coats

Also, don’t forget the appropriate socks, gloves, hats, and scarves you may need depending on where you are off to. It is better to be prepared then not have the right amount and type of clothes. After all, you can always remove outer layers or decide not to wear them. The important thing is to enjoy those outings while staying warm and preventing yourself from getting sick during the winter.

All the Reasons Why You Should Do Push-ups

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde

You may often hear of people talking of taking part in numerous activities (swimming, jogging, tennis, aerobics, yoga, etc), but not many people rave about doing push-ups on a regular basis. Push-ups are often an overlooked exercise, but something definitely worth considering.

There was a study published in JAMA in 2019 that should make everybody want to incorporate this into their workout mojo. This decade long study of male firefighters aged 18 and above found that those that could do more than 40 push-ups had a significant decrease in cardiovascular disease compared to those who could do 10 or fewer push-ups.

Benefits of push-ups

  • Target multiple muscles-arms, shoulders, core, and back
  • Improves strength-particularly upper body, they help strengthen biceps, triceps, and also abdominals
  • Enhances stamina
  • Does not require specific equipment and you can do it any time of the day at your convenience
  • Helps build muscle and tone, also strengthens joints
  • Improves posture and strengthen lower back
  • Improves flexibility
  • Stabilizes and conditions shoulder muscles
  • Gets your heart rate up allowing pumping of oxygen throughout your body
  • Considered weight bearing exercise so helps build bone density