Move for Life: Staying Active with Healthy Muscles and Joints

700x700-FB-Move-for-lifeLooking for the fountain of youth? Exercising daily is one of the most effective ways to help your body stay healthy and agile.

The benefits of physical activity are abundant and include everything from improved mood to more restful sleep. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, regular exercise helps strengthen the heart so it can pump blood more efficiently to your entire body. As a result, every system can work more efficiently, decreasing the risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis

“Low-impact fitness programs can decrease pain and improve overall health,” says Jeremy Gardner, MD, orthopedic surgeon with Altru Advanced Orthopedics. “Exercise has been shown to have a protective effect on our joints, including the ankles, knees and shoulders. I advise patients to focus on improving core strength and managing weight with activities such as Pilates, swimming and yoga.”

What’s Right for You?
To find the most healthful exercise routines for your body, choose activities that are accessible, enjoyable and realistically fit into your daily life, such as walking after dinner every evening or riding a bike for 20 minutes every morning before work.

“If you are unsure where to begin, find someone to help you,” says Amanda Leavy, PT, physical therapist at the Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics. “Talk with your doctor about a plan that complements your body’s abilities, and don’t be afraid to try something new.”

The Right Stuff
Before you begin any workout routine, make sure you are well-equipped for safety. Consult with a certified instructor if you are trying new exercises or equipment to ensure you maintain proper form and avoid injury.

Also, make sure you are wearing the appropriate shoes for activities such as hiking and running. Look for well-fitting shoes with proper arch support and extra cushioning for your feet that will help protect your knees and hips.

The Power of Prevention
When engaging in any regular exercise routine, remember to follow these steps to help prevent injuries to your muscles and joints:

  • Fuel up with foods such as berries and salmon, which contain anti-inflammatory properties to benefit joints.
  • Stretch before and after your workout to balance and lengthen muscles.
  • When in pain, stop! Sharp, shooting sensations signal that something is not right. If the pain persists, speak with your doctor.

Repair or Replace?
Healthy cartilage, which can sometimes be damaged by injury or wear and tear over time, is critical to the proper function of joints. Cartilage can be restored through a surgical procedure available at Altru Advanced Orthopedics.

“Cartilage restoration is our first line of defense to avoid joint replacement, which we want to delay as long as possible,” says Darin Leetun, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Altru. “It’s like fixing potholes to delay paving a whole road.”

According to Dr. Leetun, ideal candidates for cartilage restoration are people between the ages of 20 and 50 who will likely need joint replacement later in life.
“Joint replacement isn’t something you want to do more than once,” Dr. Leetun says. “Because the typical lifespan of a joint replacement is between 15 and 20 years, we want to buy younger patients some time. Cartilage restoration helps keep patients moving without pain.”

Time to Replace?
Constant pain in the hips, knees or shoulders may warrant joint replacement surgery, which should only be considered after conservative treatments have failed.

“In the field of orthopedics, there are only a few cases where surgery is the only option,” Dr. Gardner says. “I work with my patients to first maximize nonoperative options such as physical therapy. If your quality of life is compromised, then joint replacement can be very beneficial.”

Thanks to the latest surgical technologies, joint replacement procedures can be performed using minimally invasive techniques such as the Direct Anterior Approach (DAA) for hip replacement. Available at Altru, DAA disrupts less muscle and tissue than conventional procedures, resulting in faster recovery times and reduced scarring.

“The goal is to have a well-positioned hip that will last for the rest of the patient’s life,” Dr. Gardner says. “I use DAA because it allows for better evaluation of leg length and implant position.”

For information about Altru Advanced Orthopedics, visit or call 701.780.2300.

6 Grilling Tips for a Safe and Savory Sizzle

6 Grilling TipsThere’s nothing quite like the smell of meat and veggies as they brown and sizzle on the grill. Besides being delicious, these savory foods make us feel satisfied because of their protein and fiber content. Make sure your family stays safe and healthy while enjoying freshly grilled grub.

  1. Wash, wipe and spray

Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after touching any meat that isn’t fully cooked. Pack moist towelettes or hand sanitizer if running water and soap aren’t available. This will reduce your family’s risk of food poisoning from bacteria on meat. Bacterial contamination isn’t as rare as it used to be; a recent sampling by Consumer Reports found that 97 percent of chicken breasts were contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria.

  1. Marinate

Not only does marinating make your meat and veggies juicy and much more flavorful, it also reduces nasty carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) created when food is cooked. Try a marinade of Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, salt, pepper and your favorite herb or spice.

  1. Cook lean meats

White meat chicken and fish are naturally lean, so they give you plenty of protein without cholesterol-raising fat. Fat from steaks, chops and burgers drips off during grilling, which might seem like a good thing. Unfortunately, when that fat hits the flames, it releases carcinogens which then coat your meat. Choosing leaner meats or cooking burgers and other high-fat meats in foil will keep the carcinogens down.

  1. Keep your grill clean

A good scrub with soapy water and hose-down before cooking will keep the nasty black stuff from last week’s cookout from getting on this week’s filet. Not only is it old, charred and bitter, that black stuff is another source of—you guessed it—carcinogens. There might also be some nasty week-old bacteria on the grill just itching to make your bathroom visits much more frequent.

  1. Cook only as long as necessary

Perfectly browned but not overcooked is the goal. Use a metal meat thermometer (plastic will melt and glass will crack) to check your meat for doneness. Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, burgers to 160 and steak to 145. It’s tough to tell whether meat is safe by looking at it, so using a thermometer is the best approach.

  1. Keep it cool

Grilled foods will keep for three to four days after cooking, if they are quickly refrigerated. Any cooked foods that aren’t eaten should be refrigerated within two hours of serving. If you’re going to be out for a while, keep a cooler with plenty of ice on hand as a portable refrigerator. Cold foods should be kept cold, either by keeping them on ice or bringing them out of cold storage in shifts of two hours. When everyone is done eating, pack leftovers in the icebox or take them inside to your fridge. When it’s time to re-serve hot foods, heat to 165 degrees to kill bacteria that may have grown during storage.

Happy, healthy grilling!

Crist, JohnJohn Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.

Give Yourself a Break: Tips for Preventing Blood Clots while Traveling

Blood-clotsAre you traveling on a long trip or sitting for an extended period of time? Remember to take five, and give yourself a break at least once per hour. Your body will thank you for getting the blood flowing again. Here are some basics on deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and information about what you can do to prevent blood clots.

Risk Factors
Everybody is susceptible to DVT; however, factors such as surgery or injury increase risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Dehydration
  • History of blood clots
  • Smoking
  • Taking estrogen (oral contraceptive tablets or hormone replacement therapy)
  • Having a chronic condition (congestive heart failure, COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], IBD [inflammatory bowel disease], nephrotic syndrome)
  • Lack of movement
    • Risk is three times higher when on a “long haul” – eight or more hours on a plane, car or train.
  • Age
    • After age 60, risk of blood clots increases considerably.
    • There is an 80-fold increase in risk of blood clots for an 80-year-old versus a 20-year-old.

Ways to Prevent Blood Clots
Getting blood flow back from the leg to the heart demands muscle movement. Preventing blood clots can be as simple as walking down the aisle while flying or wiggling your toes while cruising through the countryside.

When traveling, wear loose, comfortable clothing. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated (and lay off the alcohol). Do not smoke right before flying. If you have had a pulmonary embolism in the last three months, you should not travel. Airlines are especially risky since they’re pressurized to lower oxygen levels.

Sitting at a desk all day? Every hour, take a quick walk down the hall for water or a bathroom break. All it takes is a few calf raises or foot taps to encourage blood flow. For those in a wheelchair, foot movements are still beneficial, as is active assistive range of motion.

If you are at higher risk of DVT, preventative measures may include wearing graduated compression garments (knee highs) or taking a mini dose of blood thinner before the trip.


(Click to view larger.)

Since 90 percent of all blood clots occur in the legs, the most common symptom is pain in one leg. The area might be swollen, reddened and warm to the touch.700x700_FB_PAD

If you are experiencing sudden shortness of breath and pain in your chest when you breathe deeply, it is possible that the clot isn’t allowing blood flow into your lungs’ arteries. If this happens, seek immediate medical attention.

To find out more about DVT and available treatment options, visit Altru’s Heart and Vascular Services or schedule an appointment by calling 701.780.6400.

Swanson, Keith 4C

Keith Swanson, MD, is a vascular medicine physician at Altru specializing in peripheral arterial disease management, chronic venous disease, limb swelling, venous and arterial thrombotic disorders, and chronic non-healing limb ulceration. In his free time, he enjoys physical fitness, watching his kids participate in sports and sitting around the campfire.



See also:

Sleep Well, Be Well

SleepNow that summer is here, we’re all busier it seems. We’re staying up later enjoying outdoor activities, going on vacations and heading to the lake on the weekends. It can be hard to get the proper amount of sleep needed to stay healthy and feel good.

Along with nutrition and exercise, sleep is one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle. Adults typically need 7-9 hours of sleep. Why is healthy sleep important? It promotes physical health and mental well-being. It also boosts performance and reduces safety risks.

Here are some sleep tips you can follow to establish healthy sleep habits:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on the weekends or during vacations.
  • Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least seven hours of sleep.
  • Establish relaxing bedtime rituals. Light readings, listening to calming music or taking a warm bath are just a few ways to relax yourself before bed.
  • Use your bed only for sleep or sex. Put the screens away.
  • Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature and limit your exposure to light close to bedtime.
  • Don’t eat a large meal close to bedtime. If you are hungry, eat a light, healthy snack.
  • Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.
  • Resist the urge to nap late in the day (especially after 3 p.m.). Generally, nap for only 30 minutes.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine or using nicotine in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol less than three hours before bed. It might help you fall asleep, but as the alcohol breaks down in your body later, it causes interruption in your sleep.
  • Reduce your fluid intake in the evening so you don’t have to wake up to use the bathroom.

It’s not just the quantity of sleep that is important, but also the quality. Millions of Americans have an untreated sleep disorder that prevents them from sleeping well. They may spend eight hours in bed but never get quality sleep. Chronic insomnia, loud snoring, obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome are just some of the problems that can disrupt your sleep.

Poor sleep can lead to many health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, stroke and depression. It also affects performance at school and is a factor in work safety and productivity.

Make sleep one of your top priorities – you must sleep well to be well.

Altru Sleep Center is home of an accredited six-bed center that offers sleep studies six nights per week featuring the latest technology, expertise from registered polysomnographers and respiratory therapists, and state-of-the-art equipment. Altru Sleep Center provides comprehensive clinical evaluations and treatment to patients with a variety of sleep-related disorders.

Each month, Altru Sleep Center offers the public free sleep screenings. For more information please call 701.780.5484.

20150614_114610~2Sheila Thompson has worked at Altru for over 20 years, with 18 being in Altru’s Sleep Center. In her spare time, she enjoys walking, reading and hanging out with her grandson and family.

Get out on the Greenway [Infographic]

Whether you adore being outside or you’re looking for ways to be more active as a family, the Greenway of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks has something for everyone. Map your next adventure together!

WEB - Greenway1_infographic(Click image to view larger.)

Break the Code
Orienteering is a great way to get outdoors and hone your compass and map-reading skills. Download the course map from to get started, and then enter the codes you find along the way for a prize.

Fun With Fido
The off-leash dog park at Lincoln Drive Park offers a place for you to run and play with your favorite furry friend.

Cruise the Red
The waters of the Red and Red Lake Rivers are perfect for launching your boat or trying your hand at canoeing and kayaking.

Try Camping
Enjoy a night under the stars in the Red River State Recreation Area, featuring 113 campsites. If you have a motor home, take advantage of one of the 85 electric sites offering sewer and water hookups.

Train Like a Pro
Have a race day in your future? Use the 8.5-mile loop trail to build endurance before the competition.

Hit the Links
The Greenway boasts two unique golf courses––Lincoln Golf Course and Valley Golf Course––so you can perfect your swing.

For a complete listing of activities and upcoming events, visit Getting active after a long winter? Talk to your Altru physician about your exercise regimen first.


No Gym Required: Enjoy the Benefits of Training Outdoors

No Gym RequiredRemember when you were growing up and you used to go outside to “play,” but now as an adult, you end up inside a gym to “workout?”

Gyms have brought us countless health benefits, but it seems our culture has developed a disconnect between gym exercise and physical activity. We drive to the gym to walk on a treadmill, and many of us are guilty of driving around the parking lot to find the closest parking spot. These examples may seem silly, but are commonplace in our society as we seem to have lost touch with the fact that being physically active is exercise!

If you are looking to shake up or start an exercise routine, step outside into a world that was designed for activity. There are countless options to choose from (after, of course, you’ve consulted your doctor to make sure you’re healthy for exercise).

Swimming is a near perfect total-body exercise. Not only is it a full-body low impact workout, it brings high results by strengthening your muscles without picking up a weight. It’s easy on your joints, expands lung capacity and causes fewer injuries than some forms of exercise.

Besides a bathing suit, you don’t need any fancy workout equipment. Swimming is a fun way to get your body moving and your heart rate up. 

Bike riding is great cardio training. This activity can be done alone, with your family or a group of friends. Make your next ride a little more fun and plan a route to a specific destination. Instead of setting out to simply bike five miles, pick a coffee house five miles away and get a group together to bike there once a week.

You can also take advantage of the summer weather and bike to and from work. Not only will it help you feel better; you’ll be saving the environment as well. Remember, safety first: wear a helmet. (Need a new one? Check out these options available through Safe Kids Grand Forks.) 

Stairs can be great exercise. Before you begin, walk up and down the flight to make sure they’re sturdy. Then, get creative and move up the stairs straight, in a zig-zag pattern or add footwork drills by hopping, bounding or shuffling. Stairs are also great for tricep dips, step-ups or incline push-ups.

Hill Climbing
Although a little hard to come by in these parts, hills provide just enough incline for a great workout. Try pumping your arms on the way to the top, and remember to stay light on your feet. Perform a circuit of push-ups, squats, crunches, jumping jacks and lunges before heading back up for another round.

Remember the simplest exercise of all – walking. It’s a great no-fuss way to get in some cardio. All you need are comfortable walking shoes. Investing in a pedometer or fitness tracker can serve as good motivation to track exactly how many steps you take each day. Aim for 10,000 steps per day and try to keep your pace up, walking as fast and as comfortably as you possibly can. Once you know how far you’ve gone, log your miles through Healthy Choices Greater Grand Forks’ Walking Challenge.

Grab a pair of Nordic walking poles and increase your calorie burn up to 30 percent while sculpting your upper body. You can also try a weighted vest to safely ramp up your intensity and blast more calories without straining your joints. Here are some ways to increase intensity:

  • Run 20 seconds, walk 20 seconds. Repeat five times.
  • Walk five minutes with two 10-second sprints spaced in the middle.
  • Repeat a pattern of walk 40 seconds, jog/sprint 10 seconds, walk 10 seconds.

There is always an opportunity for exercise. Sometimes it’s easier than you think to fit a walk into your day. Just leave your car at home, lace up those sneakers, get outside and get moving! There really is no better feeling.

Emily SpicerEmily Spicer is a health and wellness specialist at Altru Health System. With a positive approach to overall wellness, she inspires people to take control of their lives through a focused commitment toward better health and to make that choice a habitual and natural one. In her free time, Emily enjoys a good workout, playing tennis and spending time with her family and friends.

Run Right: Tips for Putting Your Best Foot Forward

700x700-FB-tempate_run-rightWithout the proper footwear and form, running could be doing your body more harm than good.

Improper running mechanics can cause musculoskeletal pain and injury. To diagnose a problem, first determine how your feet roll when they strike the ground. Most runners have too much inward roll, called overpronation.

“If you overpronate, start with more supportive running shoes and gradually transition to more minimalist-style shoes,” says Amanda Leavy, PT, physical therapist at the Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics. “A minimalist shoe promotes proper running form, but it may take time to learn the right technique before switching shoe styles.”

Best Foot Forward
To achieve proper running form, Amanda offers the following instructions:

  • Lean forward slightly, engaging your core, spinal and pelvic muscles.
  • Hit the ground mid-foot, more toward the ball than the heel. Footstrikes should be quick and light.
  • Strike underneath your center of gravity, letting your forward stance create momentum.
  • Use your hamstring to lift your foot.

“Listen to your body and make any needed adjustments,” Amanda says. “You’re less likely to experience pain hotspots after correcting your running form.”

Improve your running form with a gait analysis at the Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics. To schedule an appointment, call 701.732.7620.

Leavy, Amanda_2015_4CAmanda Leavy, PT, is a physical therapist at the Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics. She and her husband, Paul, have two young boys, Corban and Colten. Her favorite things to do besides being with family are CrossFit, running and watching Sioux Hockey.

Ps. For 30 Days, push yourself just a little harder toward your fitness goals. Even if you don’t run, walk a little farther, swim one more lap or keep cycling a few minutes more. Learn more about #30DaysofRunning.

Stroke Prevention: Real Questions, Real Answers from Dr. Novacek, Altru Neurologist

700x700-FB_Stroke-questionsSince I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I love science and people, and there’s no better career than medicine to combine the two. But it wasn’t until college that I discovered my passion for neurology. I find the nervous system to be fascinating and slightly mysterious, with research that’s always changing.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. It is the fourth leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability. A stroke strikes FAST, and you should too. Here are some real questions, real answers about stroke.

How are heart disease and stroke related?

  • Heart disease deals with blood supply that goes to the heart.
  • Stroke deals with blood supply that goes to the brain.
  • So, both have to do with blood supply traveling to the main organs of the body.

What causes stroke?

  • Clots can come from different areas. They can form in the heart or can form from other blood vessels going to the brain. Tiny arteries in the brain can also be blocked causing strokes. Besides blood clots, blockage can be caused by inflammation of the blood vessels or atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty substances along the artery.
  • A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a ruptured blood vessel.

How can stroke be prevented?

  • The biggest thing is to decrease the rate at which atherosclerosis forms. This includes exercising regularly, not smoking, eating and sleeping well, and managing weight and stress.
  • If you’re not getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night on a consistent basis, it’s a good idea to get tested for sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. Learn more>>
  • Take the time now to make the appropriate lifestyle changes and reduce your risk of stroke, so you don’t have to act FAST down the road. Some studies indicate that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.

What are the signs of stroke?

  • The most known symptoms are numbness, weakness and difficulties speaking but, dizziness or spinning, vision loss, slurred speech and coordination problems can all be signs.
  • With stroke, patients experience sudden onset, with no prior history. Over age 50, suspicion becomes higher, though stroke can happen to anyone, anytime.
  • In younger people, illicit drugs could also affect blood vessels and cause stroke.
  • There is a higher risk of stroke during pregnancy and right after delivery.
Run FASTer

Run FASTER, a stroke awareness 5K walk/run, was held by UND School of Nursing and Professional Disciplines on May 3. They had about 75 participants and raised $1,550.

What’s most important to remember about stroke?

  • If you or a loved one experience stroke symptoms, get in for an evaluation immediately. Time is so important when it comes to blood flow to the brain. When lacking oxygen, neurons in the brain die with every second lost. The severity of a stroke can vary, but it’s important to be evaluated immediately.
  • Also: don’t take aspirin if you suspect stroke. Some strokes can be a result of bleeding in the brain. Aspirin could make it worse. Instead, call 911 immediately.

Learn more about stroke causes, risk factors and prevention.

See also:

Novacek, Rebecca 4CDr. Rebecca Novacek has been a neurologist at Altru Health System since 2013. Originally from Minot, North Dakota, she and her husband raise their three girls and farm outside of East Grand Forks. When time allows, Dr. Novacek enjoys riding her horses and being outside.

Summer Satisfiers: Healthy Snacks for Camping, Cook-Outs and Life On-the-Go

700x700_FB_Eating on the runWhether your summer plans include outdoor adventures or activities for your kids or grandchildren, it pays to have your backpack, cooler, car, boat or camper stocked with filling meals and snacks.

Here are some nutritious ideas that cover the spectrum from “some planning required” to “oh no, it’s time to eat!” Try one that fits your summer schedule.

On-the-go snacks

  • Use a bag of frozen grapes as an ice pack to keep cheese sticks cold. Don’t worry about letting the grapes thaw – they hold up and taste delicious no matter how frozen (or not) they are.
  • Instead of stocking up on chips in the snack aisle, opt for popcorn, either pre-popped or microwavable. Look for options with less than 50 calories per cup. Popcorn is a whole grain, and its fiber can help you feel full, even with 100 fewer calories than a cup of chips.
  • Grocery stores aren’t just for kitchen staples anymore. Many retailers are now in the grab-and-go business as well. For example, Hugo’s Family Marketplace has a wide offering of pre-chopped fruits and veggies in their produce department.
  • Don’t count convenience stores out for healthy snacks. Before strolling the shelves of salty, oily and low-protein snacks, check the refrigerated displays. You might be surprised to find fruits, veggies, Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and even sandwiches or salads. (Be aware of how much cheese or other fats can be added to these last two.)
  • Many container options exist for transporting your snacks. I especially like divided ones with built-in ice packs. Not only does your food stay cold, you can portion your snacks and keep dressings or dips separate. There are some great ones available for purchase at the Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics. 

Camping and cook-outs

  • Smoky salad: Try throwing grilled corn, zucchini or peppers on top of a green salad. You can even give lettuce leaves a quick turn in the heat to give them a crunchy/soft contrast. Like grill flavor, but not grill marks? Wrap your veggies in foil and toss the package on the grill.
  • Juicy Portobello burgers: With their meaty taste and texture, Portobello mushrooms make a great substitute for a beef patty. Sprinkle some cheese on top after grilling and enjoy your fresh, homemade veggie burger.
  • Tangy asparagus: Using two kabob skewers, pierce through the tips and bases of several pieces of asparagus (imagine making a raft with the skewers and asparagus). Grill for several minutes and dip in barbecue sauce. Barbecue potato chips have nothing over these.
  • Corn on the cob does NOT need butter to taste good. Think I’m kidding? Sprinkle paprika and salt on a wedge of lime, rub it on your corn on the cob and see for yourself.
  • Ever grill fruit? Heat intensifies the natural deliciousness of fruit, and we all know homemade desserts are better than packaged and processed treats. Slice and skewer apples, peaches, plums or pineapple. After grilling, drizzle with honey or chocolate syrup and sprinkle with nuts or shredded coconut. You might never go back to store-bought cookies or pie.
  • White hot dog buns = white sugar bombs. Instead, check the aisles for packages of parboiled brown rice or other whole grains. There are plain and pre-seasoned varieties, and they’re easy to cook over the fire. Simply pour into a skillet and splash with water (or cook in a microwave, if you have one handy).
  • Sparkling water, both plain and flavored, is a refreshing alternative to plain H2O. Check the nutrition and ingredient labels to make sure what you choose is calorie-free and, ideally, unsweetened. My personal favorite is LaCroix’s grapefruit flavor.

Whether you’re shuttling kids to and from t-ball practice, lounging at the lake or touring the countryside in a cozy camper, here’s to a happy, healthy and nutritious summer!

Crist, JohnJohn Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.

6 Tips for a Bright Future Free of Skin Cancer

This guest blog post was written by Dr. Minhal Alhashim, dermatologist at Truyu Aesthetic Center.

Since childhood, I have always been fascinated by how much our skin can act like a mirror and reflect a variety of internal body changes and imbalances. I’ve always loved to help people as well, especially if it means preventing death. Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer in the United States, and melanoma skin cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, with the rate rising over the last few decades.

Do you want to enjoy healthy skin for life? Here’s the skinny: six tips for a bright future.

  1. Establish a dermatologist. If you have moles, a history of tanning or a family history of skin cancer, it’s important to have a dermatologist you see regularly. Start with a basic skin cancer screening. Annual check-ups are often recommended, but someone with moles or family history should be seen more frequently. With history of skin cancer, regular skin checks are strongly recommended.
  1. Sunscreen is the ultimate anti-aging cream. Prevention is better than treatment. Use a broad-spectrum SPF of at least 30 and re-apply every couple of hours. Re-apply more often if you’re swimming outdoors. Check your sunscreen from last year. Has it expired? Most have a three-year expiration date. Make sure you’re applying enough. Learn more in this sunscreen infographic provided by the American Academy of Dermatology.
  1. UV rays can harm your skin. Natural sunlight is the main source of UV rays. Tanning beds are another source. UVAs age skin cells, cause wrinkles and skin cancer, and most tanning beds give off large amounts of UVA. UVBs can also cause skin cancer and are the main rays that cause sunburns. Even inside the house or car, UVA rays still go through the windows. (See how one trucker accumulates skin damage on one side of his face after 28 years on the road.)
  1. Sunshine is not the only cause of skin cancer. The sun plays a big role, but it’s not the only environmental cause of skin cancer. Chemical exposure, radiation or smoking can cause skin cancer. Genetics is also a factor. Like drinking green smoothies or running daily, practicing healthy lifestyle and smart sun habits is within our control.
  1. A little bit of sun is good for you. UVB is a natural way to get vitamin D. The best time for UVB exposure is early morning or late evening. This can happen very quickly; you don’t need to tan or burn your skin to get vitamin D. Avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  1. Skin cancer treatment continually evolves. Skin cancer can often be detected early when it is most likely to be cured. Pre-cancerous lesions may be treated topically with blue-light therapy, freezing methods or laser surgery. Early or (less deep) skin cancers can also be treated with topical creams as well as laser surgery.

Be proactive about your skin’s health. Schedule a skin cancer screen at Truyu Aesthetic Center. This quick and easy process involves a skilled dermatologist carefully examining your skin.

Here are eight sneaky places skin cancer can hide.

Sneaky Places Skin Cancers Hides(Click to view full infograpic.)

Alhashim, MinhalDr. Minhal Alhashim is a dermatologist at Truyu Aesthetic Center. She provides dermatology and dermatologic surgery services, with a special interest in psoriasis and surgical excision of skin cancers, cysts and lipomas. Outside of work, Dr. Alhashim spends time with her husband and two boys, teaches Arabic at the University of North Dakota, paints (Arabic calligraphy) and shops for antiques.