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Monthly Archives: September 2016

Health Fool you should Ignore

Urban legends and health myths are certainly nothing new — we’re pretty sure even our Neanderthal ancestors passed some version of them around their cave fires. But the Internet has certainly helped outdated advice die hard, so it’s no wonder these fake facts keep popping up in our inboxes. We picked our favorites from such myth-busting sites as Snopes, the authors of Don’t Swallow Your Gum!: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health, and more. Here’s why you should stop falling for these, once and for all:

Chewing gum takes seven years to pass through your digestive tract.

The truth: Gum addicts can relax. Although your body can’t digest chewing gum, it doesn’t just sit in your stomach. You eliminate it when you go to the bathroom just like other food you haven’t digested.

Plucking a gray hair causes two to grow back.

The truth: It’s fine to tweeze that errant hair. Genetics plays a key role in when you go gray, regardless of how often you pluck. It can take six months from the time a hair falls out until it grows back long enough for you to notice it; during that time, you’ll automatically see more gray hair as part of the aging process, explains Snopes.com.

Antiperspirant deodorants cause breast cancer.

The truth: Going au naturel won’t protect your breasts from cancer. This myth probably came about because some antiperspirants contain aluminum, which can show up as a false-positive finding on a mammogram. All this means is you should skip the white stuff before a breast cancer screening. Though concerns have been raised about parabens in deodorant raising estrogen levels — and thus possibly increasing cancer risk — there’s never been any conclusive evidence to prove a link, according to the National Cancer Institute and FDA.

Cats can steal the air from a baby’s mouth.

The truth: There’s no need to send Fluffy away when baby moves in. This myth dates back hundreds of years to an era when cats were associated with evil spirits and witchcraft, but KidsHealth.org notes that it’s anatomically impossible for a cat or other animal to suffocate a baby by sealing the infant’s mouth with its own. Still, it’s a good idea to supervise pets around babies and small children — for the kitty’s safety just as much as the child’s.

Mountain Dew can shrink a man’s testicles.

The truth: Mountain Dew-drinking guys everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. The gist of this ridiculous rumor, according to Snopes.com, is that drinking Mountain Dew can lower a man’s sperm count or cause his penis to shrink. The alleged culprit is food coloring Yellow No. 5, and the myth that it has a harmful effect on the male reproductive system is unfounded, the site says.

Related: 10 Soda Alternatives

You can catch a cold from being outside too long.

The truth: It’s actually a good idea to let your kids spend plenty of time outdoors. “Going outside — with or without a wet head — is one of the best things you can do to prevent catching a cold,” D.J. Verret, MD, a Dallas otolaryngologist. “Colds are caused by viruses or bacteria, which are more often spread in the winter because of close contact from everyone being indoors.” So spending time al fresco can actually make you less likely to catch a cold.

Related: Easy Strategies for Boosting Immunity

Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis.

Truth: The sound can be extremely grating, but this uncouth habit won’t harm your joints. Researchers found no difference in instances of arthritis when they compared a group of longtime knuckle crackers with those who left their hands alone. However, the study did find that people who cracked their knuckles had weaker grips and more hand swelling — good reasons to kick the habit.

Drinking cold water after meals can lead to cancer.

Truth: Water is one of the healthiest things you can drink with any meal — hot, cold, or tepid. This rumor first surfaced in early 2006, according to Snopes.com, and still makes its way into various email chains. It posits that cold water helps solidify oily fats from your meal into a “sludge” that lines the intestines and can lead to cancer. But there’s zero evidence from medical literature to support this theory.

It’s okay to follow the five-second rule for dropped food.

Truth: The five-second rule should actually be the “zero-second rule,” Roy M. Gulick, MD, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College, recently told The New York Times. “Eating dropped food poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease, and the time the food sits on the floor does not change the risk.” If bacteria are present, they will cling to the food immediately on contact. So while it may be tempting to dust off food you’ve dropped, it’s safer to just toss it in the trash.

You only use 10 percent of your brain.

Truth: Motivational speakers may love this idea, but the evidence against it is just common sense, say Aaron Carroll, MD, and Rachel Vreeman, MD, in their book Don’t Swallow Your Gum: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health. “Studies of patients with brain damage suggest that harm to almost any area of the brain has specific and lasting effects on a human being’s capabilities,” they wrote. “If this myth were true, it would not be a big deal to hurt various parts of your brain.” You’re using 100 percent of your brain — or at least we hope so.

Ways to Treat Allergies

1. Oral decongestants

If your nose is so stuffy from allergies that you have trouble breathing at night or you’re snoring, try an over-the-counter oral decongestant like Sudafed (or generic pseudoephedrine tablets). Note: These drugs may keep you awake at night, so take them during the day.

2. Nasal spray decongestants

If you need something at night, try a nasal spray decongestant like Afrin. Nasal sprays won’t keep you awake like oral decongestants, and you only need one or two squirts in each nostril to relieve congestion for up to 12 hours. Don’t use them for more than three days, however-they can have a “rebound” effect that results in increased swelling when you stop using them.

3. Eye drops

Plain “natural tears” drops rinse allergens from the eye, while astringent or decongestant drops like Visine shrink blood vessels to take the red out. Antihistamine eye drops also reduce the itching and swelling caused by the release of histamine (your eyes have a lot of mast cells).

4. Nasal steroid sprays

Nasal steroid sprays, such as Flonase (available by prescription), work by reducing inflammation. They can take a few days to begin working, and you’ll have to use them every day during allergy season for them to be effective.

5. Mast cell stabilizers

Mast cell stabilizers, such as Intal, are prescription drugs that work by preventing the release of inflammatory chemicals like histamines and leukotrienes from mast cells. Because they stop allergies earlier in the process, they are a step better than antihistamines, which prevent the action of histamine after it’s released.

6. Long-acting antihistamines

Long-acting prescription antihistamines, such as Clarinex, contain the same active ingredients as their over-the-counter cousins, but they last longer with a single dose.

7. Leukotriene modifiers

Leukotriene modifiers were initially developed to treat asthma, but because they work by stemming production of leukotrienes, they can also help treat allergy symptoms. One leukotriene modifier, Singulair, is approved for use in allergic rhinitis. Ask your doctor if this prescription could be right for you.

Ways to Improve Women’s Health

To look and feel your best at every age, it’s important to make smart lifestyle and health choices. Here are six simple things that women can do every day (or with regularity) to ensure good health:

Health Tip #1: Eat a healthy diet. “You want to eat as close to a natural foods diet as you can,” says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. That means a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Eat whole grains and high-fiber foods and choose leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Include low-fat dairy products in your diet as well — depending on your age, you need between 800 and 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily to help avoid osteoporosis, Dr. Novey says. Avoid foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat.

Healthy eating will help you maintain a proper weight for your height, which is important because being overweight can lead to a number of illnesses. Looking for a healthy snack? Try some raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, or zucchini with dip made from low-fat yogurt.

If you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet, you might want to take a multivitamin and a calcium supplement to make sure you’re maintaining good health.

Health Tip #2: Exercise. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in America, but plenty of exercise can help keep your heart healthy. You want to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, if not every day. Aerobic exercises (walking, swimming, jogging, bicycling, dancing) are good for women’s health in general and especially for your heart, says Sabrena Merrill, MS, of Lawrence, Kan., a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise.

Health Tip #3: Avoid risky habits. Stay away from cigarettes and people who smoke. Don’t use drugs. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Most women’s health studies show that women can safely consume one drink a day. A drink is considered to be about 12 to 14 grams of alcohol, which is equal to 12 ounces of beer (4.5 percent alcohol); 5 ounces of wine (12.9 percent alcohol); or 1.5 ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey, 80-proof).

Health Tip #4: Manage stress. No matter what stage of her life — daughter, mother, grandmother — a woman often wears many hats and deals with a lot of pressure and stress. “Take a few minutes every day just to relax and get your perspective back again,” Novey says. “It doesn’t take long, and mental health is important to your physical well-being.” You also can manage stress with exercise, relaxation techniques, or meditation.

Health Tip #5: Sun safely. Excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can cause skin cancer, which can be deadly. To protect against skin cancer, wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 if you are going to be outdoors for more than a few minutes. Even if you wear sunscreen faithfully, you should check regularly for signs of skin cancer. Warning signs include any changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of birthmarks, moles, or freckles, or new, enlarging, pigmented, or red skin areas. If you spot any changes or you find you have sores that are not healing, consult your doctor.

Health Tip #6: Check for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society no longer recommends monthly breast self-exams for women. However, it still suggests them as “an option” for women, starting in their 20s. You should be on the lookout for any changes in your breasts and report any concerns to your doctor. All women 40 and older should get a yearly mammogram as a mammogram is the most effective way of detecting cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.

A woman’s health needs change as she ages, but the basics of women’s health remain the same. If you follow these six simple healthy living tips, you will improve your quality of life for years to come.

The Benefits of Beer for Health

Beer drinkers, take note: Your favorite pint may be healthier than you realize. When it comes to good-for-you happy hour beverages, we tend to think mainly of red wine and its heart-friendly antioxidants. Recent research, however, reveals that beer may also help what ales you, from reducing the risk of osteoporosis to beating brain fog.

But before you go on a beer binge, remember that moderation is key to reap its health perks. That means no more than two 12-ounce beers a day for men and one for women. “If you overdo it, alcohol can take a toll on your health, contributing to liver damage, certain cancers, heart problems, and more,” says Andrea Giancoli, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. People with certain health conditions — including gout, high triglycerides, or breast cancer, for example — should avoid drinking beer or other alcohol because it can exacerbate those health problems, according to Joy Bauer, RD, nutrition and health expert for Everyday Health and The Today Show.

Too much alcohol can also cause weight gain. After multiple rounds, calories can add up quickly (a 12-ounce regular beer can pack up to 150 calories, while a light beer has around 100).

But for most of us, here are five healthy reasons to toast your next beer:

Beer Boost No. 1: A Stronger Skeleton

Make no bones about it: Beer in moderation may protect bone health thanks to its high silicon content. Participants who sipped one or two beers a day had greater bone mineral density than those who drank more or fewer beers, found a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Silicon helps stimulate bone-building cells, and the estrogenic effect of alcohol also has a protective quality for bones,” says study author Katherine Tucker, PhD, professor of nutritional epidemiology at Northeastern University in Boston. Which brew boasts the most silicon? Try an India Pale Ale. A 2010 University of California Davis study found that IPAs had the highest levels of the mineral.

Beer Boost No. 2: A More Powerful Ticker

A beer a day may keep heart disease away. “Alcohol raises levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol,” says Arthur Klatsky, MD, senior consultant in cardiology at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. “It also has anti-clotting effects, which keeps blood vessels clear and healthy.” In fact, Israeli researchers found that people who drank one beer daily had lower levels of fibrinogen, a protein that helps promote blood clotting, than those who abstained from drinking. (Blood clots can cause heart attack and stroke.) Study participants drank Maccabee beer, but researchers believe that any type of beer could have similar heart-healthy effects.

Beer Boost No. 3: Healthier Kidneys

Finnish researchers found that men who drank beer had a 40 percent lower risk of kidney stones compared to those who drank other types of alcohol. The benefit may be due to beer’s high water content. Dehydration can increase the risk of kidney stones, which are little deposits of salt and minerals such as calcium that can form in your kidneys. Beer’s hops (a kind of flower that gives beer its bitter flavor and acts as a preservative) may also help prevent kidney stones by slowing the release of calcium from bones.

Beer Boost No. 4: Better Brain Power

While excessive alcohol intake can cause irreparable brain damage, moderate daily consumption actually safeguards a sharp mind, research shows. One classic New England Journal of Medicine study, which analyzed the drinking habits of about 11,000 women over more than 15 years, found that those who had up to one drink a day had a 20 percent lower risk of brain function decline (as measured by memory and other cognition tests) than nondrinkers. Alcohol intake may protect blood vessels in the brain and also lower stroke risk, say researchers.

Beer Boost No. 5: Lower Cancer Risk

Beer’s health benefits aren’t limited to those who drink it: Marinating steak in your favorite brew could eliminate up to 88 percent of the carcinogens that form as a result of pan-frying meat, according to a Portuguese study. Cooking meat at high temperatures creates cancer-causing compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Researchers think that the sugars in beer help prevent HCA formation.