Health Skin

Getting motivated, best health tips and chronic fatigue

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Happy February. This week we’re writing about tips to keep your body healthy, chronic fatigue and dental-support dogs. Plus we’ve got our weekly “joy” snacks. But before that …

This week’s must-reads:

Simple advice for a healthier body

The first day of the month is a great time to take stock of our health and consider whether there is more we can do to keep our bodies strong. Here’s a roundup of some of our best tips.

Skin care: Our Ask a Doctor columnist Trisha Pasricha has some simple, useful advice for healthy skin. In the morning: Use a face cleanser, then apply a moisturizer and a broad-spectrum sunscreen. At night: Cleanse your face again, then apply a retinoid and your moisturizer. The brand doesn’t necessarily matter. Chose what works for your budget and skin type — such as sensitive, dry or oily. You can learn more about this simple routine here.

Hearing: Untreated hearing loss is associated with a shorter life span and a higher risk for disorders such as depression and dementia. Recent research showed that U.S. adults with hearing loss who regularly wear hearing aids have a significantly lower risk of dying earlier than those who never wear them. Hearing aids are now sold over the counter. Use our guide to pick one.

Vision: Did you know routine eye exams for glasses don’t count as a complete eye exam? The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a complete eye exam once in your 20s and twice in your 30s. In your 40s, your doctor may start screening for glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy. By 55, you should get checked every one to three years. By age 65, start getting the exam every year or two. A complete eye exam typically involves dilating the pupil to get a closer look at the retina and optic nerve. Regular eye exams are even more important after 60, as many age-related conditions such as diabetes or hypertension can affect eye health. Vision disorders associated with aging include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye, glaucoma and retinal detachment. For more on the checkups you need at every age, read this report.

Cholesterol: You may know your bad and good cholesterol, but do you know your apoB? It stands for apolipoprotein B. Testing for apoB, a protein on the outside of LDL-carrying particles, counts the number of these lipoprotein particles in the blood. In addition to LDL, it also captures other types of cholesterol such as IDL (intermediate-density lipoproteins) and VLDL (very low-density lipoproteins), which carry triglycerides.

Why is this important? As our understanding of heart disease improves, scientists are recognizing that apoB particles are more likely to become lodged in the arterial wall and cause it to thicken and eventually form atherosclerotic plaques. Thus, the total number of apoB particles matters more than the overall quantity of cholesterol that they carry. Read more about apoB here.

Blood pressure: Get your blood pressure checked every three to five years — or more often if your doctor advises. (Anything above 120/80 mm Hg is considered abnormal.) Those at higher risk, including all African Americans, should get tested every year. This week we reported on a surprisingly simple exercise that can lower your blood pressure. It’s the wall sit. Learn more about wall sits here.

Gut health: The microbes in your gut can influence mental health, heart risk, weight gain and even sleep, which is why you need to eat a wider variety of quality food. Your gut microbiome is a complex ecological community, and the food that you feed it, the new species you invite and the waste products they create can affect your physical and mental health. We’ve created a useful guide to the busy world of “biotics” that inhabit your gut, and how to care for them. Read more here.

Muscles: Contrary to popular wisdom among many gym-goers and even some scientists, healthy people in their 60s, 70s and beyond can safely start lifting weights and rapidly build substantial muscle mass, strength and mobility. A new study of resistance exercise and older people found that even those in their 80s and 90s — who hadn’t weight-trained before — showed significant gains after starting a supervised program of lifting weights three times a week. Learn more about why it’s never too late to lift weights.

Body fat: Have you exercised your body fat lately? Everyone has fat cells. But the more exercise you do, the more likely you are to have healthy and small fat cells. Being physically active alters fat at a molecular level in ways that improve the fat’s health. Many of us may not realize that body fat can be metabolically healthy — or the reverse — no matter someone’s weight or shape. You don’t have to lose weight or fat to make the body fat you already have metabolically healthier. Just start moving more. Movement benefits fat as well as the rest of your body, offering one more reason to ride, walk, jog, swim or, in whatever way you choose, be active today. Read more about exercising your fat cells.

Understanding chronic fatigue

One of our most popular articles this week was an essay by a writer who began developing strange symptoms in her 20s. What followed was a frustrating quest for answers. Here’s an excerpt:

At home, I remained glued to my bed. Walking to the bathroom felt like a herculean task. I showered sitting on a chair as I couldn’t stand for long; even breathing seemed to require more energy than I had. Bright lights and loud noises made my spine spasm; night sweats drenched my sheets. One day, my spine felt like jelly and couldn’t hold my torso upright; on another, my muscles felt so weak that a paper towel roll seemed to weigh a ton. My head throbbed, my throat was raw, my neck glands perpetually swollen.

Desperate for a diagnosis, my husband and I consulted a prominent physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. After reviewing my medical history and examining me, he ordered more tests. On a follow-up visit, he had a resident in tow. He physically examined me again, this time with step-by-step narration, as if I were a cadaver in anatomy class. Then he addressed the resident: “As confirmed by our diagnostic testing, there is nothing physically wrong with this patient.”

He scribbled on a sheet of paper and handed it to me. “Here’s the name of a psychiatrist at Georgetown,” he said. “He’ll be able to help you.”

I curled up on the exam table, too numb to cry. Rather than admitting any diagnostic failure, the doctor dismissed me as mentally ill.

At a time when scores more people are experiencing chronic and debilitating fatigue because of long covid, we all need to learn more about the condition. I think you’ll find the tenacity of the writer and her husband to be inspiring.

What to know about collagen supplements

Q: I keep seeing people recommend collagen supplements on social media. What is collagen? Can it really make my skin and hair healthier?

A: Collagen is a protein found in many parts of the body — in cartilage, bone, tendons and skin. It helps build a structural framework to preserve the skin’s integrity. But as we get old, we produce less collagen. This contributes to skin appearing less elastic — even saggy — and wrinkles forming more easily.

Supplementing with collagen has become increasingly popular in recent years, with brands claiming it can boost nail, skin and hair health. But there isn’t strong evidence behind these claims. Learn more by reading the full Ask a Doctor column.

Here are a few things that brought us joy this week.

Want to know more about “joy” snacks? Our Brain Matters columnist Richard Sima explains. You can also read this story as a comic.

Please let us know how we are doing. Email me at wellbeing@washpost.com. You can also find us on TikTok.




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