Stretch Into Summer

Don’t you just love springtime, full of colour, and especially my favourite yellow? My garden is full of forsythia, daffodils, bright coloured polyanthus, cheery pansies and all shades of green bursting forth in the hedges, trees and fields around me.

As I write the sun is shining and with the lighter evenings I am encouraged to get out into the fresh air to finally shake off the lethargy of winter by being more active.

It’s just common sense that we all take charge of our health.  After all it’s our body and our life so we need to look after it, and not leave it to others to patch it up through our neglect.  Many people look after their cars better than they do themselves, cleaning and repairing the bodywork and filling up with the correct fuel to ensure efficient performance.  And what’s so amusing is that the more vintage the model the more love and attention gets heaped on it!

So now vintage myself I’m likening my body to my car and giving it an MOT to ensure it’s running smoothly. However I’ve a word of caution. More vintage models might experience leaky radiators and backfiring exhausts when they cough and laugh too much!

Age is mind over matter, and if you don’t mind it doesn’t matter. At any age a healthy lifestyle can make us feel good about ourselves and if we do, the chances are we look better too!   It’s not difficult to take the opportunity to exercise, anytime, anywhere by moving about more, just simply walking, cycling, swimming, gardening – or letting the dog take us for a walk!  Eating a well-balanced and colourful diet makes meal times a pleasure, plus 6-8 cups of fluid (tea, coffee, milk drinks, and soups) and of course plenty of water to help ensure we get the right fuel to make our body a more efficient machine.

Question

Dear Diana

My nails are very flaky and appear to break at even the lightest bump. I do wear gloves for washing up and try and avoid using too many chemicals when doing housework but I can never seem to grown them all to the same length.

Joanna Williams, Cornwall

Answer

Long-term exposure to water or chemicals such as detergents and nail polish are most often the cause, so you are right Joanna to wear rubber gloves doing the chores, especially wet work.  Keep fingernails dry and clean to prevent bacteria from growing under your fingernails. It could just be a sign of ageing! Nails can be strengthened by taking biotin (vitamin B7) supplements, and by frequently applying moisturising cream rub the lotion into your fingernails and cuticles. Applying a nail hardener might also help protect and strengthen your nails.

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Always keep fingernails dry and clean, this prevents bacteria from growing under your fingernails. Brittle nails can sometimes be caused by a fungal nail infection and this can be easily cleared up by taking a course of antifungal tablets.  However, nail abnormalities can tell a lot about your health. So if this simple care doesn’t improve your nails, and you haven’t injured or been biting them talk to your GP – especially if your nails have changed in colour, texture, shape or thickness. Flaky nails are most likely to be a sign of a fungal nail infection or injury, but can sometimes indicate a more serious underlying disease. Nail psoriasis and  lichen planus are skin conditions which can affect the nails, and either an underactive thyroid or overactive thyroid, which control hormone production, just might be the cause of your brittle, crumbly nails.

Question

Dear Diana

I have become increasingly concerned about the appearance of my arms so much so that I never reveal them even on hot summer days. The skin appears mottled, marbled even, and I most certainly have ‘bingo wings’. Is there anything that can be done ?

Valerie Gould, Bucks

Answer

Valerie you’re not alone, it happens after the first flush of youth!

Especially if there’s been a dramatic weight loss through dieting. By 35 upper arms are prone to flabbiness, the trick is to fight the flab by toning muscle and skin on the underside. My simple, but effective exercise targets the triceps muscle, at the back of the arm. Make the exercise harder by using hand weights or small plastic drinks bottles filled with water or sand.

Sit or stand, pull in your tummy, maintain a good posture.  Arms bent, make a fist (or the use weights) and hold up against your shoulders. Pull shoulder blades back together, and take your upper arms only back up behind you. Hold this position throughout exercise.  Straighten out lower arms; push them down and behind, turning fists out at the same time.  (Don’t “lock” elbows.)  Keep upper arms in position, bend elbows and bring fists or weights, back up to shoulders. Start with five repetitions; build up to ten or more. Feel back of upper arm working!

To improve mottled, marbled looking skin use an exfoliator on whole of the arm, including backs of hands and don’t forget rough, wrinkly elbows. This scrubbing is best done in the bath or shower when the skin is damp.  Rinse, then moisturise well both morning and night for maximum effect. Blotches caused by bad circulation respond to anti-cellulite creams (as on legs) to help speed up sluggish circulation.

A slight glow on the arms improves the look of the skin. Apply a small amount of subtle fake tan/moisturising cream (Dove) several times a week, to the length of your arm and across shoulder and chest (avoid elbows).  This subtle glow helps disguise sun spots the result of over exposure to the sun.