My Tips and Tricks for Surviving Winter with Raynaud’s Syndrome

I have this quirky little thing called Raynaud’s Syndrome. Sometimes it’s called Raynaud’s Disease. Sometimes it’s called Raynaud’s Phenomenon. It all depends on the doctor you consult or the website you read. Either way, they all refer to this strange condition that causes fingers (and sometimes toes, ears or even the nose) to turn white and/or blue and feel numb or even painful.

Some people start getting symptoms from childhood, but most don’t start until adulthood. Most of the time, Raynaud’s Syndrome is not linked to any other health conditions. It’s just a nuisance. On occasion, it’s linked to something else, so if you think you have it, it is a good idea to know whether it’s an issue on its own or whether there is an underlying cause.

Since issues like stress and cold are the top triggers for an “attack of the symptoms,” winter, especially the holiday season, tends to be one of the worst times of the year for trying to keep the symptoms under control. This means that for the 5 to 10 percent of Americans affected by Raynaud’s Syndrome, the winter can be a real pain.

I’ve come up with a few great strategies for keeping the color in my fingertips throughout the winter, even during the most stressful times in the holiday season. Since I’ve got quite a list, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share it with you, too:

Keep your whole body toasty – Dress in layers, wear a good warm hat and try not to stay still for long periods of time. Raynaud’s can be triggered when any part of your body gets cold, not just your extremities. Stay warm.

Buy very good gloves or mittens and socks – Even if it’s your whole body that can set off an attack, your extremities need to stay especially warm. Invest in some very warm and comfortable gloves or mittens and some thermal socks and boots. If you’re going to splurge on any part of your outerwear this winter, make it the covers for your extremities.

Wear fingerless gloves indoors – If you can knit, you’re all set. Otherwise, pick up a pair of arthritis gloves to make it easier to sit and read or type without triggering an attack.

Cover your face in cold weather – Wear a face mask or use a wide scarf in combination with your hat, to cover as much of your face as you can. As a bonus, this is great for your skin health, too, so you’ll take care of your Raynaud’s and your great looks simultaneously!

Minimize caffeine and alcohol consumption – These can cause changes to your blood vessels, which can make Raynaud’s symptoms worse

Quit smoking – Smoking can cause your blood vessels to constrict, placing you at a much higher risk of attacks.

Control stress – Whether you like yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices or just taking a bubble bath at night, do what you can to keep your stress levels down.

Take great care of yourself overall. Eat healthfully and exercise regularly to promote cardiovascular health and lower your risk of Raynaud’s Syndrome symptoms.

Is Your Doctor Hounding You About Your Cholesterol?

Every year when I head to my family doctor for my annual physical, I know I’ll get the lecture about my cholesterol. Peter has had slightly high cholesterol for several years now and I’ve been riding the line between normal and high. If I’m not very careful, I will need to start using a medication to control my cholesterol levels and I’d really rather not have to do that if at all possible.

So this year when I went for my follow-up appointment to talk about my blood test results, I had a good chat with my doctor about what I can do to make sure I improve my cholesterol levels – or at least stop them from getting worse – between now and next year when I do all this over again. The answer surprised me.

To start, there are certain factors about high cholesterol that are out of our hands. Some people, regardless of how well they eat and how much they exercise, will still see higher numbers than others in the same age group and fitness level. Still, even among those of us who are doomed to have higher cholesterol than others with a similar body type and lifestyle, weight, exercise and diet still make a difference.

As I currently am, I am active daily or nearly daily and I feel that I eat a heart healthy diet. I’m also within my healthy weight range. So for me, it’s a matter of keeping these good lifestyle efforts going and not letting myself slip. Because I’m riding the high cholesterol line so closely, it is a matter of trying not to let things get any worse. The odds are that if I suddenly live less actively or I eat fast food more regularly I’ll end up crossing that line and needing a prescription.

I recently read that among American adults over 40 years old, 28 percent are using cholesterol medication, Peter included. I’d really rather keep myself out of that group if I can. I know that those medications are very effective and can make a significant difference. If I have to take them one day, I will. However, the fewer prescription drugs I have to take – and the longer I can wait before starting to take them – the happier I will be.

My own strategy isn’t to follow a specific diet, but I have tried to learn from some of the lessons taught in both the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet. They have very similar principles and many of them fit well into my current lifestyle. This is particularly true of using high quality fats in my diet, like olive oil. A study from the University of California, San Diego School of medicine found that when your regular diet includes the right amount healthy fats, it can help to keep cholesterol down. That said, the American Heart association found that it lowers both good and bad cholesterol, so I try to support that with healthful eating overall, regular brisk walks, other forms of activity and yoga for overall wellness. Here’s to hoping it keeps working!

Skin Care Tips For When The Weather Changes

I have to say that when it comes to skin care, I’m rather spoiled. Here in Miami, we don’t experience the same cold, snowy winters that our friends and family farther north experience every year. As a result, I don’t need to make drastic changes to my skin care routine every season.

That said, this year, Peter and I are headed to visit some of those friends and family members during the holiday season, and I know my current skin care strategies just won’t hold up against weather that will have me getting my heavy coat out of storage. Skin care needs are different in colder weather than they are when it’s hot and humid, so unless I want a dry, sagging face at all the parties and gatherings (and in all the pictures people take while we’re there), I need to have a strategy in place.

There are a number of things that need to change with the weather to keep skin happy. In my experience, they include the following:

• Cleanser

This is the component of my skin care that is most likely to stay the same. If I were going to spend an entire winter in the cold and snow, I’d likely switch to an oil cleanser from the cream cleanser I use in warmer weather. Still, as long as the moisturizing and hydration I use to follow is enough, I don’t need to make many changes to my cleansing. The key is to always use a cleanser that cleans without stripping away the skin’s protective mantle.

• Moisturizing

In my opinion, this is the most important step to change from warm weather to cold weather. The light lotions from summertime aren’t enough in the winter. I’m planning on using a hydration serum followed by a well balanced skin oil in the daytime as well as a moisturizing antioxidant-rich restoring cream at night.

• SPF

UV protection is important all year round. Still, I tend to use a lower SPF in the winter time to make sure I still get some vitamin D. I use an SPF 30 in the summer, but I usually choose an SPF 15 during the winter. This helps to keep my skin safe from sun damage and reduce the risk of skin cancer while I still stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder. I find the winter blues much harder to handle in cold weather than I do when it’s warm, so I take these extra steps to protect myself.