Nails can reveal a lot about your past, present and future 

Q: I have fine ridges on my fingernails? What nutrient am I lacking?

— Jan, Columbus, Ohio


A: While palm reading may be quackery, nail reading is almost always yields important clues. Your nails can tell you, and us, quite a bit about your past, present and future.

If your ridges run lengthwise from the half moon to the tip, our guess is you’re over 40. Fine vertical ridges, like laugh lines on your face, are one of those unavoidable signs of aging. Horizontal lines, on the other hand (we couldn’t resist), may signal a health issue and are reason to check in with your doc. Our questions for you:

Are the lines deep grooves? Called Beau’s lines, these indicate you’ve recently recovered from a severe illness or have a circulation problem, like Reynaud’s disease, or have smashed your finger in a car door — something you don’t need your nails to tell you. They also can be a sign of malnourishment. Have you been living on carrot sticks and water? You could simply need more lean protein and lots of fruits and veggies.



Are the ridges raised? Do your nails curve inward, like a spoon? This combo is a classic sign of anemia and points to an iron shortage. But definitely see your doc, since it also can be a red flag for bleeding somewhere in your body.

Are the lines like white bands? Agatha Christie’s clever sleuth, Hercule Poirot, would send you directly to the lab for a hair analysis for arsenic poisoning. Tell us, do you have any enemies?

Q: What do you think about those e-cigarettes that are supposed to help you quit smoking?

— Liza, Medford Lakes, N.J.

A: We normally cheer anything that can help you kick butts, but we’re urging a bit of caution about electronic cigarettes, or “nicotine delivery devices.”

E-cigs look like cigarettes and come in cute colors and wild flavors, such as chocolate, cherry and cigar. They use batteries to vaporize a nicotine-propylene glycol solution. You inhale — or, in the new parlance, “vape” — a shot of nicotine that’s supposed to be a tiny fraction of what’s in tobacco products.

We’re big boosters of nicotine patches, gum and lozenges to help get you off cigs. However, one study found that the amount of nicotine released by e-cigs varies from 6 mg to 24 mg. (The average cigarette contains 10 mg.) Just be aware that you may get more nicotine than you think.

Still, e-cigs don’t contain the thousands of other chemicals packed in your smokes. Some may have trace amounts of tobacco carcinogens. One thing that troubles us is that you apparently get some of the toxin propylene glycol. How much isn’t clear. And another concern is the dearth of research on e-cigs. They debuted in the United States a little more than three years ago. Though they appear to be safe, the Food and Drug Administration has already cited five distributors for poor manufacturing processes and claiming the products help people stop smoking without proving it.

Though the risks may be slight and the devices are promising, using them makes you a guinea pig in an unofficial market test of an unregulated product.

Q: I’m a very healthy 68-year-old woman. In fact, I feel 25. My doctor has suggested surgery for a macular pucker in my right eye and another that’s forming in my left eye. I see well with my glasses and notice only a little blurring without them. I’m choosing to wait. Will I be sorry?

— Sharon, via e-mail

A: If you see well enough to read and drive, waiting won’t hurt you; just see your eye doc regularly to be sure you still see her clearly.

A macular pucker is scar tissue that forms on the macula, the central spot in your retina that gives you sharp, eagle-eye vision. When the scar tissue contracts, it creates a wrinkle. Like other wrinkles, it’s usually age-related, though this wrinkle can’t be eased with a moisturizing cream. However, macular puckers can also be a symptom of diabetes. That’s good reason to check in with your internist or family doc.

Many people with a macular pucker have a slightly blurry worldview, as if there’s a thin smear of petroleum jelly on their glasses. Straight lines can look wavy or broken. A surgeon can remove the shrinking eye gel that’s causing the pucker, but the operation — called a vitrectomy — usually is done only when vision is seriously impaired (it increases your risk of cataracts).

Like any operation, this one can have untoward consequences. However, complications are about as rare in competent hands for this procedure as winning two double 00’s in a row at roulette in Las Vegas. It doesn’t sound like you’re there yet.

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, are authors of “YOU: On a Diet.” Want more? See “The Dr. Oz Show” on TV. To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com.

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