As the year 2020 arrives, with it will come the endless New Year’s Resolutions, the vast majority of which will be long forgotten by February. Many resolutions fail because we often set goals that are essentially unattainable because they lack a strategy to achieve the intended benefits.
On the other hand, maybe you are the type of person who doesn’t bother with the mental exercise of making a resolution, knowing in advance that the effort will be wasted!
In either case, here are some recommendations that if applied, may provide ideas for your New Year’s Resolutions. They include specific strategy for successfully achieving goals, not to mention significant physical and possibly emotional and spiritual benefits.
- Inspect your feet. This may sound basic, and it is. The simple act of checking your feet at least once a day can help prevent problems. Consider inspecting your feet while showering. Washing your feet each day with a foot soap that contains tea tree oil may help prevent fungal infections of the skin, but in the process of washing, you may notice any potentially problematic changes. If you are diabetic, inspecting your feet may help prevent formation of potentially dangerous wounds, or enable you to detect impaired circulation.
- Protect your skin. We’ve already mentioned the importance of washing of your feet daily. To enhance the benefits of daily foot inspection, let’s go beyond the skin found on the feet, and include the entire body. Inspecting the skin for any unusual changes that might be early stages of skin cancer is always recommended, especially areas that are “out of sight”, such as the back, bottoms of feet and tips/behind ears.
Our skin is the largest organ, is dynamic, provides insulation and cooling, and protects us from an often harsh and potentially deadly environment. As we age, our skin not only loses elasticity, but the ability to repair itself is also diminished. Dehydration and conditions such as diabetes can further inhibit the ability of the skin to perform optimally. Protecting the organ that protects us should include daily moisturizing ( but not with a fragrance containing lotion). (Fragrances typically contain alcohol, which in turn causes further drying of the skin) Omeza®skin protectant contains omega oils which helps replenish the naturally occurring oils of the skin that may be lost form evaporation or the use of soaps and skin cleansers. Twice daily application of Omeza skin protectant will not only leave your skin soft, but it will enhance the integrity of the skin that may be compromised by the environment each day.
- Don’t ignore the signs. If you see, feel or sense something that creates any concern, do not ignore it. Early detection of any abnormal findings is only helpful if professional advice is sought afterwards.
The ABCDE rule refers to skin changes that may be indicative of skin cancer, particularly regarding existing lesions such as moles or freckles.
- A stands for “Asymmetry” or an irregular shape.
- B stands for “Border” and a blurry edge or border that is not well defined as cause for concern. C stands for “Color” especially where a lesion has multiple colors or changes such as darkening or lightening in certain parts of the lesion.
- D stands for “Diameter” and any lesion greater than ¼ inch (6mm) should be evaluated regardless of other specifics.
- E stands for “Elevation” or a raised lesion, which should also be evaluated.
Besides these potential signs of skin cancer, any other swelling below the skin should also be evaluated. Not all areas of swelling are accompanied by pain, and many such areas of focal swelling may be benign cysts.
If you are diabetic, the presence of a blister, excessive moisture between the toes or open sore on the feet that does not heal in a timely fashion (within a week) should be managed by a wound care specialist. Such conditions may ultimately be potentially limb- and life- threatening.
The bottom line is that anything that causes concern should be evaluated by a qualified health care provider, preferably a specialist.
- Eat your protein. Protein is essential to our bodies and must be obtained through our diet. Despite the abundance of food options, many people are deficient in adequate levels of protein. Diabetics, elderly and even those dieting may not ingest enough protein each day to satisfy essential metabolic function, despite ingesting adequate number of calories. Simple lab studies can assess protein, albumin and pre-albumin levels. In the case of persons with non-healing wounds, a lack of adequate protein can contribute to impaired healing, as protein is essential to new collagen synthesis, where collagen is the key component of skin. Building muscle requires protein, and the process assists in burning of fat while enhancing overall metabolic activity.
Lean sources of protein are readily available, whether through meat or plant-based sources. Protein supplements can also be found in supermarkets, pharmacies or nutrition stores. Much information is available through print or electronic media but can be overwhelming. Seeking the services of a health nutritionist is recommended and finding one is as easy as searching “Nutritionists near me” in your preferred search engine.
- Stay mobile! Stretch, move, walk, run. You do not have to resolve to begin training for 5k races, going to the gym 3 times a week, or losing some arbitrary number of pounds once the holidays have passed. Set realistic goals and act. Excuses are just a loud way of not doing something.
If it’s been some time since you’ve exercised, make sure you have a physical exam by your primary care physician or a cardiologist. Supervised exercise has been shown to be more effective than going solo, but success is up to the individual. Benefits of exercise can begin right at home with simple stretching and exercise routines that do not require equipment.
Walking remains a great exercise and can provide a time for solitude and reflection beyond the physical benefits.
Regardless of whether you make New Year’s Resolutions or not, the self-care journey begins with the simple step of self-accountability. You have the resources. Eliminate excuses. Make 2020 your best year yet!
-Dr. Desmond Bell