Ditch those pie-in-the-sky New Year’s resolutions you make every year. With these doctor- and nutritionist-approved goals, you can be healthier and happier in the new year.By Lauren Gelman and Kelsey Kloss
Keri Peterson7 New Year’s Resolutions Health Experts Wish You’d Really Make
How much water is too much? I’m petite, but I drink three liters a day. -Lina P., Northvale, NJ
The amount of H2O you need depends on how much you sweat, not your size. If you’re a jogger in Miami, three liters might be perfect. But if you live somewhere cold and slack on exercise, it could be excessive. Keep an eye on your pee. If it’s dark yellow, you need to drink more; if it’s clear, you may have gone overboard. Sip about eight cups of water throughout the day (don’t chug it all at once!) and you should be just fine.
I can’t seem to stop biting my nails. Could I really be hooked?
—Stacey J., Cleveland, OH
The myth that your nails contain an addictive chemical is just that: a myth. Most nail biting is simply a nasty habit— one that can spread germs and cause bleeding and infections. Try wearing unbreakable fake nails or coating your own with a bitter ointment like Control- It. In extreme cases, biting could signal an anxiety problem, so talk to your doc.
Keri PetersonI can’t seem to stop biting my nails.
The sinus drip in the back of my throat is driving me nuts. What can I do?
Your sinuses are lubed with a thin lining of germ-catching mucus. But when that layer becomes infected or irritated by allergies, it swells and starts to drip. First, try flushing out your nose with a daily saline rinse.
If, after two weeks, the trickle persists, visit your doc and ask about a steroid nasal spray, which can reduce mucus build up and inflammation. And if that doesn’t work, get a course of antibiotics. Just be sure to stick with them; sinus infections often require a few weeks of damage control.
Does “holding it” strengthen or weaken your bladder muscles?
Neither! When you’re squeezing to hold back the flow of urine, you’re actually flexing your pelvic-floor muscles. But while you might be giving those a good workout, don’t get into the habit of walking around with a full tank. Though holding it won’t damage anything or cause an infection, when your bladder is filled to the brim it can start to spasm, which may cause some humiliating leakage. Why take that chance? Relieve yourself as soon as you feel the urge.
Keri PetersonDoes “holding it” strengthen or weaken your bladder muscles?
I love keeping my “summer blond” year-round, but I’ve heard the highlighting chemicals can cause health problems. True?
—Rachel B., New York, NY
Not quite. Highlights are a safe health bet, as long as they’re applied only to the hair shaft and not to the scalp, where
they could burn your skin or seep into your bloodstream. Women yearning for darker locks, however, should take note: Preliminary studies have found tentative links between some permanent dark-color dyes (typically applied to hair and scalp) and certain cancers. That’s not to say you shouldn’t tint your locks—just keep it to
a few times a year, and ask your colorist about newer, safer dyes.
We all know smoking is awful, and second-hand smoke is bad. Is third- hand smoke harmful too?
—Sue R., Baltimore, MD
Yes. Inside every plume of smoke are traces of some
250 poisonous gases such as cyanide, ammonia, arsenic, and cadmium. They can linger on hair, skin, and clothing for months after a smoker stubs out her butt. Research shows third- hand smoke may also contain lead, which can mess with brain function. That’s bad news for smokers and the people around them. You don’t need to run next time your smoker buddy visits, but do your best to minimize your day-to-day exposure.
The Superbowl is just days away and for many revelers that means enjoying some cocktails while rooting for their favorite team. Too much imbibing also means a Monday morning hangover. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about how to avoid and cure hangovers—like eating a late night snack to absorb the alcohol in your stomach or drinking coffee to cure a hangover. Here are a few mythbusters:
Myth: Alcohol helps you sleep well
Fact: Many people have a glass of wine to help them sleep, but actually alcohol disrupts sleep. While a nightcap may help you fall asleep more quickly it interferes with the quality of your sleep. You don’t spend enough time in the deepest cycle of sleep called the REM cycle and since you sleep more lightly you wake up earlier.
It feels like a jungle out there, and not the concrete kind. The weather is sweltering this week and that means we have to protect ourselves from the heat. Heat exhaustion doesn’t just occur when someone has been out in the hot wilderness without water. It can occur right in our homes, on a job site or any place where you are exerting yourself outside for long periods of time. The people most at risk for developing heat exhaustion are those who exercise outdoors and the elderly.
Be on the alert for avoiding dehydration. Sweating is our main cooling mechanism and can cause the body to lose significant amounts of water. If you don’t replenish these losses you can become dehydrated. The first sign of dehydration is not the sensation of thirst surprisingly, but is actually fatigue and irritability. Thirst lags behind dehydration, so up to a point, we tend to forgo drinking when we need it most. Dehydration is a preventable condition- activities should be avoided during peak sunlight hours, consume plenty of fluids (at least 8 glasses a day!) and eat foods high in water like watermelon or cucumbers.
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to dehydration- the body becomes overwhelmed by heat.
The death of Amy Winehouse is a powerful example of how drug and alcohol addiction can take hold of and destroy people’s lives. Every year abuse of alcohol and illegal substances contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans.
So how do drugs work in the brain to produce pleasure? Most drugs cause the brain to release excessive amounts of dopamine. Flooding the brain with dopamine causes an intense state of euphoria and this response strongly motivates people to take drugs again and again.
The Confusion We know that food fuels us. But if you’re looking to lose weight, some people—possibly those who read the 1999 bestseller Body for Life—believe exercising with a growling tummy may help burn fat faster. “The rationale behind this theory is that low glycogen levels cause your body to shift energy utilization away from carbohydrates toward fat,” says Keri Peterson, MD, a medical contributor to HealthiNation.