Julie Bain

The Color Of Skin Cancer

May 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm , by

Look out, pink: Here comes orange. We saw a lot of this hot color on Melanoma Monday this week. It’s part of the American Academy of Dermatology’s SPOT orange campaign to raise awareness and promote early detection of skin cancer. “Unlike other types of cancer, skin cancer provides visual warning signs that can be detected on the surface of the skin in the form of a spot that changes, itches or bleeds,” says AAD president Dirk M. Elston, M.D. “When caught early, skin cancer has a 98 percent cure rate, which is why it is so important for people to know the warning signs and see a dermatologist for proper diagnosis.”

The AAD even sent out packages of orange m&ms imprinted with their logo and the #SPOT orange hashtag. That led some melanoma advocates to cry foul, saying the disease that kills one person every hour is not sweet or fun and should be taken more seriously. Some also say that black is the color of melanoma awareness and feel offended by orange, the color of “fake tans.” We understand how serious and deadly melanoma can be but we also say, whatever works!

Something needs to be done—and now. Melanoma is on the rise among young people, especially young women who have done indoor tanning. In fact, the FDA is considering really cracking down on this dangerous habit. Meanwhile, it’s proven to be carcinogenic, so steer clear.

There are lots of helpful tools and links on the AAD site to motivate you. My favorite is this downloadable Body Mole Map, which can help you keep track of spots that may be changing—and includes photos of what to look for. I’m using mine! You still have to see a dermatologist regularly, though, for a professional skin check. (See my video on what to expect here.)

The Skin Cancer Foundation has great resources, too. A must-read: “Even One Pre-Prom Tan Can Be Dangerous,” in which a young melanoma survivor (she was diagnosed at only 23) shares her regrets.

Another must-read (okay, I wrote it) is our story in the June issue of the Journal: “Freckle, Mole or Skin Cancer?” In it, a woman who was seven months pregnant saw a small black spot on her leg and thought it was a tick. It wasn’t.

Our story also has great advice on what you need to know about getting a biopsy, and how to trust your instincts about any suspicious spot on your body. Plus the latest on sunscreens, which are getting better all the time. Remember: You have the power to prevent skin cancer.

But if you are diagnosed, here’s a great blog by Lisa Collier Cool, a member of our new blogger team, on the latest medical breakthroughs to treat it.

Addendum: Read the AAD’s response to the color controversy on its Facebook page.


Sleep Better, Lose Weight

March 20, 2013 at 11:04 am , by

Millions of women in America are chronically sleep deprived. Ladies, you know who you are! To make matters worse, a bunch of studies have linked not getting enough sleep with weight gain. One big Harvard study showed that women who slept just five hours a night were 32 percent more likely to gain at least 30 pounds than women who slept seven hours or longer. Over the 16 years of the study, the women who slept longer gained less weight—even when they ate more than the sleep-deprived women. Not fair, is it?

An interesting new study, summarized well in this New York Times column yesterday, showed that sleep-deprived folks eat more calories overall and especially overeat those comforting carbs that pack on the pounds.

I thought about all this as I was lying awake at 2 a.m. this morning. (Was anyone else there with me?) Yes, I toss and turn sometimes, too—even though I have a lot of good-sleep tricks up my sleeve. A few years ago I co-authored a sleep book for women. It’s called Sleep To Be Sexy Smart and Slim. (I don’t make any money on the book; it was just part of my job to work on it.) Anyway, here are a few tips from it that have really stuck with me:


1. Wind down for an hour. So many women just keep going, and going, and going. Then you’re too wound up to drift off. Give yourself the gift of an hour with no more chores, no exercise (unless it’s sex, which does help you sleep better), no stimulating TV news or drama, no catching up on work, no major “we’ve got a problem” conversations and most of all, no electronics. Yes, you can turn off your laptop and phone. Play soft music, read something light, let it all go.

2. Have some milk and cookies. When I was doing publicity for the book, this tip was always a favorite of the bleary-eyed morning-show hosts who interviewed me. There’s real science behind it: The chemical tryptophan in milk will help you feel sleepy, but you need some carbs to get it where it needs to go in the brain. A small (low-fat) cookie or two does the job well—plus, you feel nurtured like a child, too.

3. Chill out. Lowering the temperature in your bedroom helps signal your body that it’s time to sleep. Taking a hot bath sounds like a cliché but it helps, too, by lowering your core body temp afterward. A cooler room may help keep hot flashes at bay, too, if you’re in that joyful stage of life.

4. Make it dark. Sometimes your eyes open a bit as you move from one stage of sleep to another, and any kind of light can wake you up, whether it’s streetlights or the display on your digital clock. It’s worth investing in blackout curtain liners. Turn your clock face away so you can’t see it (or obsess over it if you do wake up). And put some dark electrical tape over all those LED displays on your computer, TV, cable box, etc. Darkness can make all the difference.

5. Let go of your worries. This one’s my favorite. It sounds a little corny but it works. Keep a small notebook and pen on your nightstand and consider it your “worry book.” When you can’t settle your buzzing brain down, or wake up anxious about work or money in the middle of the night, grab it. Write down what’s bugging you and any strategies and priorities for dealing with it. Then close the book and give yourself permission to let it go until daytime. Put it aside and go to sleep.

Pleasant dreams!

Photo copyright Africa Studio, shutterstock.com

Surprising Facts About Women And Heart Disease

February 6, 2013 at 9:29 am , by

Way too many women are still dying of heart disease. We need to talk about women’s heart health all year long, of course, but February is the month when marketing and media really flex their muscles to raise awareness. So we asked Lisa Collier Cool, a member of the Journal’s new Health and Wellness Blogger Team, to surprise us with some facts from her upcoming book. Check it out!

By Lisa Collier Cool

Life insurance companies know a secret that most doctors never tell patients: When it comes to rating your risk for a fatal heart attack, the least important cholesterol number is your level of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Instead, actuaries use a math formula to tell if you might be headed for a heart attack. They divide your total cholesterol by your HDL (good) cholesterol level. If the ratio is below three, you’re likely to qualify for the best insurance rates because your heart-attack risk is relatively low. (However, any abnormal cholesterol result, including high LDL, can pose a threat to your heart, especially when combined with other risk factors.)

That’s just one of the surprising facts I learned while working on my upcoming book, Beat the Heart Attack Gene, with coauthors Bradley Bale, MD, and Amy Doneen, ARNP, co-founders of the Bale/Doneen Method of heart and stroke prevention. Here are seven more things you may not know about women’s heart health.

1. Since 1984, heart disease has killed more women than men each year, claiming more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined.
2. Getting a flu shot cuts your risk for a heart attack or stroke by up to 50 percent.
3. For a healthy heart, take a few days off from work. Women who only go on vacations once every six years, or less often, are eight times more likely to suffer heart attacks or die from cardiac causes than those who vacation at least twice a year, according to a 20-year study.
4. Delicious news: People who eat the most dark chocolate are 37 percent less likely to get heart disease, and 29 percent less likely to have a stroke, than those who eat the least chocolate, an analysis of studies involving 114,009 people found. However, a square or two a day is all you need.
5. Yo-yo dieting can harm women’s hearts, a new study reports.
6. Seventy percent of heart attacks have the same root cause as type 2 diabetes: insulin resistance. Find out if you’re at risk by asking your healthcare provider to order a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test to check for abnormal blood sugar.
7. Fifty percent of women who have a heart attack don’t call 911, often because they don’t recognize the symptoms. Click here to find out the warning signs and more shocking facts about women and heart disease.

Photo copyright antoniomas, shutterstock.com

Why You Need To Go Red Right Now

January 30, 2013 at 8:51 am , by

Can a color make a difference? When I say the word “pink,” I know what pops into your mind: breast cancer. The pink-washing of October has been phenomenally successful at making everyone aware of breast cancer—and comfortable talking about this once-verboten subject. Millions of donation dollars have led to advances in detection and treatment. The next step, we hope, is prevention and a cure.

Now here’s why you need to go red. Because far more women die every year of cardiovascular disease than they do of breast cancer—in fact, 10 times more. CVD is still the number 1 killer of women. And way too many of us are still in denial. I get furious when I hear stories of women who downplay their symptoms and don’t call 911 when they could be having a heart attack. We need to change this!

Ten years ago, the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute created National Wear Red Day to raise awareness and help spread the word about how women can reduce their risks of heart disease. It’s working—but not enough. We’re asking you to get on board.

Make sure you know the symptoms of a heart attack and what you should do. Memorize these!

Wear red this Friday, February 1, to show you mean business. Get your friends, family, work colleagues and even your pets to do it, too. Then share your photos here.

Here’s what else you can do. Encourage your friends by using this image as your Facebook profile shot.

Make a donation by shopping for the cause here.

See you in red this Friday—let’s help make a difference!

Photo copyright Zoom Team, shutterstock.com


The FDA’s Top Consumer Health Concerns of the Year

January 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm , by

We just love top 10 end-of-year lists, especially when they dispense helpful health information. The FDA just released its list of the most popular health updates on its site for 2012. Here are four you should know about it, in case you missed them the first time around:

Number 9: Statins to prevent heart disease
Have you resisted your doctor’s efforts to prescribe Lipitor or another statin drug because of concerns about side effects? The FDA recently expanded and clarified its advice on the risks of these drugs. You may have heard that you need frequent testing of your liver enzymes while on these meds, but here’s some good news: it’s no longer considered helpful or necessary. But there are other potential risks of these drugs, including memory loss, type 2 diabetes and muscle damage. Read more details.

Number 7: Triclosan in antibacterial products
Should you be washing your hands with antibacterial soaps? As we reported in our Guide to Germs in the November issue, triclosan is an ingredient that can kill the really nasty bugs, but studies show that plain old soap and water do just as good a job of it. And while the FDA doesn’t come right out and say you should avoid it, they do say that several scientific studies that have been done recently merit further review. And many experts believe triclosan can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That’s reason enough for us to avoid the ingredient (easy, since it’s required to be on the label). Click here for more info.

Number 5: Arsenic in rice
This topic made headlines a few months ago. Does it mean your sushi is poisoning you? Probably not—unless you’re eating mountains of the stuff. The FDA has been testing samples of all kinds of rice products, and it’s shocking that they’re finding inorganic arsenic in everything from cereals to rice cakes. So far the folks at the FDA are not saying you should stop eating rice. They’re still studying this. But we say if rice is one of the main staples in your diet, you may want to go for a little more variety in the grains you eat till experts know more. Get the full scoop here.

Number 1: Getting rid of unused medicines
The new year is a good time to check your prescription and OTC drugs for expiration dates and clean out your overstuffed medicine cabinet. But how do you dispose of medicines safely while protecting kids, the environment and your own medical information? Follow these FDA guidelines.

Check out all the latest consumer updates from the FDAAnd have a safe and healthy 2013!

Photo: shutterstock.com


2012 Top 10 Health Lists

December 5, 2012 at 9:34 am , by

Don’t you just love those end-of-year top 10 lists? Time magazine’s “Top 10 Everything of 2012” is a must-read—even if just to disagree with the editors. (Their #4 pick on the movie list was my fave.) Don’t miss the health-related lists. The Top Medical Breakthroughs are fascinating, while the Top 10 Ridiculously Obvious Study Findings provide a fun “duh” moment.

Our friends at Yahoo! just released their Year in Review, too—covering everything from the serious (Libya, the election) to the sublime (Mars Rover, the U.S. women’s gymnastic team) to the ridiculous (Gangnam style, Honey Boo Boo). The trends based on the daily search habits of millions of people include health, too, of course. Among the top 10 searched health symptoms of 2012 on Yahoo!, four were stories we covered in a major way in the pages of Ladies’ Home Journal. Here’s something surprising we learned about each:

1. Diabetes
No surprise this was number 1, as the numbers are skyrocketing. Nearly 26 million people in the United States have diabetes now, according to the CDC, while another 80 million may have prediabetes. And women are more at risk of dying from it, we learned in the story that ran in our September issue. You’ve probably heard that the major warning signs are being really thirsty and having to pee all the time. But those symptoms usually show up only after damage has already been done. “Early on, especially in the prediabetes phase, most people have no symptoms at all,” says Gerald Bernstein, M.D., director of the diabetes management program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. That’s why it’s so important to get a glucose test, especially if you’re overweight.

2. Lung cancer
Lung cancer kills more women than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined, yet it gets the fewest research dollars of any cancer. That’s one of the things we learned in our touching story by Wesley Fay, “Just Breathe,” in our November issue. Each breast cancer death correlates with $19,419 in federal research funding. For lung cancer, that plummets to $1,888. This gap has real consequences: Since the early 1970s, breast cancer’s five-year survival rate climbed from 75 to 90 percent, while lung cancer’s barely budged from 12 percent to 16 percent. Blaming the victim won’t help: 20 percent of women with lung cancer never smoked, and experts say those numbers are climbing.

4. Colon cancer
Doctors are seeing colon cancer in younger people more than ever, we learned in our October story on colon health. “For women, getting a colonoscopy at 50 or sometimes even sooner is crucial, especially since I’ve been seeing women as young as their 30s being diagnosed—and with no family history,” says Robynne Chutkan, M.D., medical director of the Digestive Center for Women in Washington, D.C., and a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. Don’t ignore symptoms such as blood in the stool, unusual abdominal pain, a change in how often you go to the bathroom, anemia or unexplained weight loss. For more information, read our candid interview with Dr. Chutkan.

6. Heart attack
When Rosie O’Donnell had a heart attack in August at age 50, she scared the crap out of a lot of women. (I’m one of them!) She researched online and knew her symptoms could be a heart attack. She even took an aspirin. But she didn’t call 911. That happens way too often, says cardiologist Holly Andersen, M.D., a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. In our blog that week, we learned that “40 percent of women having a heart attack never feel chest pain,” says Dr. Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital. For lots more information on women and heart disease, see our February story, “Heart of the Matter.”

Photo copyright Ocskay Bence, Shutterstock.com

What Do You Love Most About Thanksgiving Day?

November 20, 2012 at 11:00 am , by

To kick off the holiday season, we asked Journal staffers to share what they love most about Thanksgiving, that wonderful holiday that’s all about good food, friends, family and feeling grateful (with a little football thrown in). We know you’ll relate to these!

• My girls love to bake (that’s Lily and Sophia in action, right). Since I learned all my baking skills from my mom, they always like to whip up a sweet treat with their “Mimi.” This year they’ll be making my mom’s famous “spice cake” (don’t call it fruitcake!), which I was honored to write about for our December issue. The recipe is on page 106 if you’d like to try it too.
Sue Erneta, fashion editor

• Now that my sister, my cousins and I are in our twenties and living across the country, Thanksgiving is one of the few days of the year that we’re all together again, and my life feels about as simple as it did back when I was a kid.
Lauren Piro, assistant editor

• I love that I don’t have to travel on Thanksgiving. Family and friends come to us. It’s a great excuse to stay at home, eat and drink, and sit on the couch. What could be better?
Jeffrey Saks, creative director

• One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories happened last year. My family and I were sitting at the dining table. My mother was in the kitchen, and I heard her in say in a calm voice, “Gab, can you come in here?” I walked in and there was the turkey on the kitchen floor with its juices and grease splattered everywhere. My mom gave me a look that conveyed, “Help but don’t say a word!” (I was called in instead of my sisters because one of them would have fallen to the floor the laughing and the other would’ve shrieked; I’m the least dramatic of the three.) We picked up the turkey, quietly holding in our laughter, and scrubbed the grease off the floor. My mom fixed it up, carved it and served it. It was delicious. We didn’t tell anyone until later. Please note: My mother keeps her floors so clean you can literally eat off them!
Gabrielle Porcaro, associate fashion editor Read more