by Melissa Malamut | May 27, 2014 4:30 am
Edited by Melissa Malamut
When it comes to living the good life, we’re lucky—Boston has everything we need to thrive at every age. Our colleges and universities offer abundant opportunities to keep our minds active, while our extensive public transportation system keeps us out of cars and engaged with the city. For these reasons, Boston was recently ranked number four on the Milken Institute’s “Best Cities for Successful Aging” list. As we live longer, science continues to reveal how to do it better, and much of that groundbreaking research is happening locally. We tapped the many experts in our region to create a definitive health and beauty guide, with news you can use at every age.
A few key moves at every age can set you on the course for a lifetime of health. By Jamie Ducharme
— 20s —
Lose the stilettos.
Because high heels can alter your gait, forcing the foot, ankle, and knee to bear the weight, James Ioli, chief of podiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, recommends forgoing fashion to avoid the risk of arthritis.
Get the HPV vaccine.
Dana-Farber doctors recommend that both women and men protect themselves. The virus can cause rare but serious head and neck cancers in men.
Get gel manicures.
An American Academy of Dermatology study says the chemicals in gel manicures may cause thinning of the nail bed, and the UV lamps used to set the polish could up the risk of skin cancer.
New research from Mass General suggests that even occasional marijuana use may cause permanent brain alterations in young adults.
High blood pressure.
It can silently wreak havoc on your body for years before you even develop symptoms. The hypertension program at Boston Children’s Hospital treats children and young adults with the condition.
One in 391 women will get skin cancer before age 40, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, so being proactive about screenings is vital.
Follow doctors’ orders.
Scar tissue from an old injury can create problems later, says Chris Geary, head of sports medicine at Tufts, who recommends adhering carefully to your doctor’s stretching and strengthening program post-trauma.
Check your genes.
Work through your family history with a specialist to identify genetic disorders, then discuss testing, prognosis, and medical management.
— 40s —
Check screen habits.
Mass Eye and Ear now has a name for it: Computer Vision Syndrome, and it’s on the rise. Symptoms include headaches, dry eyes, and neck pain, all caused by suboptimal viewing conditions.
In addition to reducing stress, yoga and meditation may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, say experts from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Overreact to pain.
Back problems have long been overtreated with narcotics and surgery, say researchers at BIDMC, who recommend trying at-home methods like over-the-counter pain relievers, icing, and heat first.
Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that men who eat one to three servings of processed meats per day have poorer sperm quality.
To reduce your exposure to radiation, MGH now offers cutting-edge breast-imaging methods like 3-D mammography, ultrasound, and MRI technology.
Low estrogen levels.
Low testosterone may lead to health problems in males, but MGH researchers have found that insufficient estrogen may also cause weight gain and a decrease in sexual voracity.
Drink more milk.
A Brigham and Women’s study found that women’s consumption of skim or low-fat milk (not cheese or yogurt) delayed the progression of arthritis.
Take up salsa dancing.
Staying social and active can reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s, says Robert Stern, director of the clinical core of BU’s Alzheimer Disease Center, by enhancing blood flow in the brain.
— 60s —
A little-known side effect of getting older, according to the National Institute on Aging, is losing the sensation of thirst, so make a conscious effort to stay hydrated.
Get a dog.
The American Heart Association reports that the rigors of caring for a pooch have countless benefits, including a healthier heart (regular exercise) and a happier mind.
Skip the gym.
A study out of MGH found that the cardiovascular benefits of a fitness regimen are almost immediate for 60- to 80-year-olds.
Expect to be a teenager again.
Your fitness capabilities change as you age, according to sports medicine doctors from Tufts. The older body needs more time to recover, meaning workouts should be gentler to avoid the risk of permanent injury.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all baby boomers get tested for the liver-damaging virus, which, if left untreated, can cause a wide range of health problems.
Six and a half million Americans age 65 and older have depression—a condition that can have far-reaching physical consequences, including eating disorders, insomnia, and memory loss.
Baby aspirin can help preserve heart health, according to Brigham and Women’s experts, but it can also cause internal bleeding for some individuals, so check with your doctor.
Orthokeratology, a process that uses high-tech lenses to flatten the eye and reshape your cornea while you sleep, could render glasses unnecessary while reducing age-related myopia.
THE (ENDLESS) PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Americans’ use of antidepressants is off the charts: One in 10 has a prescription, and for women in their forties and fifties, that rate increases to one in four. To get your smile on med-free, try these three clinically tested alternatives. By Melissa Malamut and Raquel Kaplan
Meredith St. John, vice president and academic dean of the New England School of Acupuncture, in Newton, says that stress management is one of the major reasons why people seek out this alternative treatment. A recent study found that people who had acupuncture treatments regularly for three months experienced fewer depressive symptoms than those who did not.
One of the country’s most widely used stress-reduction programs, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) began at UMass Medical Center 19 years ago. The eight-week session (10 two-and-a-half-hour visits, plus a weekend workshop) offers a mix of guided meditation, gentle stretching and yoga, group dialogue, and personal instruction in order to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 2010 Harvard Medical School study revealed that participants had increased activity in the regions of the brain associated with learning, memory, emotion, and perspective.
Yoga may be a promising treatment for depression, says Maren Nyer, director of yoga research for Mass General’s Depression Clinical and Research Program. Nyer is the principal investigator in a study examining how Bikram yoga (practiced in a 105-degree room) may improve quality of life and reduce depression.
I Tried That
By Raquel Kaplan
Created in India in 1995, laughter yoga is said to burn calories and lower blood pressure. But the real benefits may be psychological: Believers claim that whether fake or real, giggling releases endorphins that enhance your mood and give you a better outlook throughout the day. There are now about 8,000 laughter clubs in 80 countries, including Let’s Laugh Today, taught by husband-and-wife team Bill and Linda Hamaker in Franklin, Sharon, Walpole, and Westwood.
When I arrived at the Walpole Public Library for a one-hour session with the couple, I found a diverse group: My fellow chucklers ranged from college students to seniors to parents with toddlers in tow. To reap the benefits, you have to be open to getting goofy in front of strangers, and the Hamakers skillfully led us down the road to hilarity through a mix of improv, play-acting, and deep breathing. In one exercise, for example, I had to pretend to give myself a flu shot, use a tissue as a prop to model a miniskirt, search for treasure as a pirate, and fly like a caped superhero.
There were some awkward moments (chanting “ho, ho, ha, ha, ha” isn’t exactly my thing) and bizarre setups (talking to a partner in gibberish), but when I was cut off by an angry driver on my way back to the city, I found myself laughing out loud. In fact, laughter came easier the rest of the day. As an added bonus, I was delighted to discover that my abs were sore the next day.
Wear casual clothing and bring a water bottle—all of that laughing is very dehydrating. letslaughtoday.com.
SNOOZE OR LOSE
We all know that there’s nothing healthier than a solid snooze, yet we never seem to be able to make it happen on a regular basis. It’s time to make sleep a priority. Ahead, five reasons why shut-eye plays such a crucial role in our health, plus bedtime tips to help you achieve your best night of rest ever. By Stephanie Cohn
It keeps the doctor away.
Sleep disorders may be a risk factor for serious illnesses. In a recent diabetes study, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that female participants with low secretion levels of nocturnal melatonin—the hormone responsible for establishing our circadian rhythm—had twice the risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with high levels.
It helps us stay cool under pressure.
Sleep improves memory and reduces anxiety, according to researchers at BIDMC. In one experiment, 12 college-age adults were taught a series of finger movements (not unlike playing piano scales). After a night’s rest, the students remembered the movements more accurately, and MRIs showed more activity in brain areas that control speed and accuracy.
It sharpens our motor skills.
There’s no question that drowsiness can have lethal consequences. A Brigham and Women’s survey of 2,737 medical interns asked young doctors to report their work hours as well as any motor-vehicle incidents they’d had each month. No surprise: After working shifts of 24 hours or longer, the interns increased their risk of crashes, near misses, and falling asleep at the wheel.
It makes us more Zen.
How we react to bad news may depend on how well rested we are. In a study coauthored by Harvard Medical School, adults in two groups—rested and sleep-deprived—were shown 100 images ranging from “neutral to very negative.” MRIs revealed that the emotion centers of sleep-deprived brains were over 60 percent more reactive than their refreshed counterparts.
It keeps us out of the cookie jar.
According to one Brigham and Women’s study, people tend to replace lost sleep with sugar and fat. In an experiment involving 240 teenagers, researchers discovered that those who got seven hours of snooze time consumed about 2.2 percent more fat than those who got eight; with each additional hour of sleep lost, their consumption of junk food rose by 0.8 percent.
EFFECTIVE WAYS TO GET YOUR 40 WINKS
By Stephanie Cohn
To maintain your circadian clock, Charles Czeisler, professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, recommends setting regular sleep and wake times, and creating a “wind-down” routine one to two hours before bed to reduce levels of the stimulating hormone cortisol.
You can’t force yourself to fall asleep at 10 p.m. after a week of turning in at 1 a.m. Instead, gradually shift your bedtime by 20 minutes every five days, recommends Kenneth Sassower, a sleep disorder specialist at MGH.
Monitor your progress.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” says Russell Sanna, executive director of the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School. He says that wearing a sleep monitor is the equivalent of using a scale to track your diet.
Rule out any physical issues.
Sassower says that if someone wakes up every two hours each night, they could have sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes shallow breathing and loud snoring.
Meet a shrink.
Cognitive behavioral therapy—making lifestyle changes, improving your sleep environment, and relaxation training—may be more effective than meds when it comes to treating insomnia, Czeisler says.
I Tried That
Tired all day? Can’t stop snoring? It may be time for a workup. Falling asleep in a lab may not sound very comfortable, but it could make a world of difference in your day-to-day life. Pablo Gazmuri, a retired surgeon, decided to give it a whirl. —As told to Stephanie Cohn
My wife, who’s a nurse, said I was snoring a lot and wasn’t sleeping soundly. I was also having trouble driving. So I called my physician and said maybe we should do a sleep study.
At the sleep lab, it’s very straightforward. You meet a technician who explains everything that’s going to happen, and then they put a lot of monitoring equipment on your body. I fell asleep very quickly during the test. When the technician woke me up a few hours later, she said that my oxygen was extremely low while I was sleeping, and that she was going to put a sleep-apnea machine on me to see how I responded to that. I then slept the rest of the night.
The report from my doctor said that I have significant sleep apnea and need to sleep with the machine from now on. Now I don’t go anywhere without it, and I’m sleeping soundly.
Whether you’re looking for a promotion or just a fresh way to decorate your living room, it’s possible to put your subconscious to work for you. By Cheryl Alkon
Dream incubation—also known as the art of controlling your dreams—can help people solve all kinds of problems that they can’t seem to untangle during the day, says Deirdre Barrett, a clinical assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the author of The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use Their Dreams for Creative Problem Solving—And How You Can Too.
Barrett, who has studied dreams for more than 30 years, has clinical research to back up her claim. In one study published in Dreaming: Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams, she found that out of 50 students, more than a quarter dreamed up potential solutions to homework problems and spatial dilemmas they’d encountered while awake. “One subject had moved into a smaller apartment and was having trouble arranging furniture,” Barrett says. “They dreamed that a storage chest, which had been in the bedroom, fit well under another object that was serving as a coffee table.”
To start incubating dreams of your own, Barrett recommends writing down what you want to accomplish and keeping this list by your bed. Review your wish list before falling asleep, and focus on it as you drift off. When you wake up, lie in bed quietly, taking the time to recall everything you can about your dream, then write down as much as possible. “Lying still when you first wake up is important,” Barrett says. “Doing the tiniest little task, like stretching or moving, can knock out the dream aspect.”
Five toys to help you sleep better. By Andrea Timpano
A mattress sensor and bedside light monitor sleep patterns while maximizing the production of melatonin, the sleep-wake-cycle hormone.
This programmable sleep mask, designed by an MIT student, helps snoozers ditch post-nap grogginess with soft light, stirring them gently out of slumber.
Sharper Image Digital Sound Soother
Forget the crashing ocean waves and plain white-noise machines—with this device, you can program up to 200 different sounds.
Snore-Activated Nudging Pillow
When its built-in microphone detects the sound of snoring, this pillow inflates with air to prod sleepers into changing positions.
Billed as the “smart interactive bed,” this mattress features a vibrating massage system and adjustable firmness settings.
LOOKING GOOD, FEELING GOOD
We New Englanders may eschew vanity in public, but the truth is that when we hit 40, many of us seek cosmetic boosts. Meanwhile, countless studies show that when we feel good about our appearance, we tend to feel better about ourselves. Here are the top noninvasive cosmetic procedures being used locally, and how much they’ll cost you.* By Melissa Malamut
$6,000–$8,000, one time only.
Whether you covet Cara Delevingne’s omnipresent brows or prefer Brooke Shields’s ’80s-throwback look, full brows give you a more-youthful appearance. To achieve that thick, natural look, Robert Leonard, of Newton Centre’s Hair Transplant Associates, relocates individual hairs from places like the back of the scalp to the eyebrow.
$500, every three to five months.
Botox has been the go-to wrinkle reducer for the area between the eyes for more than a decade, and the drug, prepared from the bacterial toxin botulinum, is now FDA-approved to banish crow’s feet as well. The compound is also being studied as a treatment for everything from migraines and excessive sweating to overactive bladder.
$2,400, one time only.
Most people need reading glasses as soon as they hit 40, says Samir Melki, a refractive surgeon at Mass Eye and Ear. But whether you’re farsighted (hyperopia), nearsighted (myopia), or have an astigmatism, refractive surgery, also known as laser vision correction, can get you seeing clearer by either reshaping the cornea via laser, or by implanting lenses.
$3,500, every six months to one year.
Fraxel, a technology developed at Mass General in 2005, is still the only laser approved by the FDA to treat fine lines, wrinkles, blotchy pigmentation, and acne scarring. It uses light energy to create a deep heat that is said to yield smoother skin.
$1,500–$2,500, every six months.
At Boston Dermatology and Laser Center, dermatologists perform Ultherapy, which uses ultrasound technology to lift and tighten the skin. FDA-cleared for the eyebrows, neck, and under-chin areas, the devices rely on wavelength energy—rather than lasers that penetrate the skin—to stimulate collagen production.
Collagen Induction Therapy
$1,500, every six months to one year.
Those deep fissures around the mouth are called marionette lines, and for 20 years, Leonard Miller—director of the Boston Center for Facial Rejuvenation, in Brookline—has been treating them with collagen induction therapy, or “medical needling.” The procedure uses a roller with multiple fine needles to puncture the skin with holes, stimulating collagen production. It’s “like aerating your lawn,” he says.
$3,000–$6,000, twice a year.
That drawn look we get as we age comes from a natural reduction in facial volume. Miller offers a controversial procedure in which fat is harvested from the hips and other areas, then quickly prepared and injected into areas of the face that need plumping.
$1,000–$4,000, frequency of treatment varies.
There are a few options in this category. Juvederm smooths out the folds around the nose and mouth; Voluma pumps up the cheek area. Sculptra, meanwhile, induces collagen formation, acting “like a scaffold” in the cheeks and the hollow of the face, Miller says.
* Prices vary depending on procedure and physician.
YOU GOT THAT…WHERE?
Quick cosmetic fixes from unexpected places. By Caroline Hatano
You want: Botox
Check out: Your dentist?
Massachusetts dentists can now administer Botox to their patients. Newton Dental Associates is using the drug cosmetically, as well as to relieve jaw pain in patients with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders by paralyzing the muscles in the region.
You want: Permanent makeup
Check out: A tattoo parlor or a spa?
Who would you trust to apply permanent makeup with a needle—a tattoo artist or a spa technician? Trick question. In many cases, both are qualified to perform micropigmentation (permanent makeup); it just depends which experience you’d prefer. Stingray Body Art is your pierced-and-tatted alternative. Julie Michaud Prettyology, on Newbury Street, offers a cushier approach.
You want: A super dose of vitamins because you’re training for a marathon, coming down with a cold, or nursing one hell of a hangover.
Check out: A tattoo-removal salon?
Boston’s Delete Tattoo Removal & Laser Salon offers vitamin shots and nutrient infusions (60 ccs of water-soluble vitamins in a large syringe, descriptively called an “IV push”). Among them is the Hangover Helper, which blends magnesium, calcium, selenium, and zinc to ease your pangs after one too many.
BOSTON BEAUTY BY THE NUMBERS
By Panicha Imsomboon
Cost, per minute, for an “aroma lift” facial at Boston’s Mandarin Oriental spa.
Minimum cost of treating love handles with CoolSculpting, a fat-freezing procedure developed at Mass General.
Square footage of the four-story Medford office building occupied by Allergan, the creator of Botox.
Number of reviews on the website RealSelf about Bay State doctors who provide Botox injections.
Cost, per year, of a once-a-month facial called “Precious Ceremony” at Bella Santé Day Spa.
Value of Groupon Botox deals in Massachusetts, as of mid-April.
Increase in the price of Juvederm since 2012.
MIT TAKES YOUR FACE SERIOUSLY
By Melissa Malamut
Those dreaded under-eye bags, possibly a gift from your parents, develop when fat pads bulge under stretched skin and relaxed muscles. It’s a permanent condition that’s impossible to treat, says Betty Yu, who holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from MIT. “The under-eye area is so delicate. Putting a needle close to that area is actually quite dangerous,” she says.
That’s why Yu, along with MIT professor Robert Langer and dermatologists Rox Anderson, of Harvard University, and Barbara Gilchrest, of Boston University, set off on a 10-year quest to develop Strateris, a wearable, breathable polymer film that the scientists claim mimics the elasticity, strength, barrier protection, and contour of youthful skin.
Launched by Cambridge-based Living Proof in April, their invention, branded as Neotensil (and available only in doctors’ offices), “compresses and shapes as well as contracts, just like youthful skin,” Yu says. “The end result will flatten out the actual fat pad.”
Yu says that Neotensil is the first product based on the Strateris technology, which they hope will have additional uses in the future, like lifting the forehead non-surgically, smoothing cellulite, or ironing out the hands and décolletage.
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