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9:55am EDT July 22, 2002

Style points

“BrainStyles: Change your life without changing who you are,” is a new book by Marlane Miller, who urges you to stop trying to change and start becoming the person you really are.

To improve yourself, you have to be more of yourself, says Miller. Each of us has a natural brainstyle wired into our genes. Your brainstyle is your particular set of gifts, the essence of who you are. Neurological research has shown that the left and right sides of the brain are accessed at different speeds, and in varying sequences, in different people. This is critically important when making decisions, so important that relationships and businesses pivot around those judgments. By understanding how your brainstyle mandates your decisions, you can deliver your best in any relationship.

Feel the burn

Is doing sit-ups the best way to lose my belly?

Abdominal exercises are great for strengthening and firming up the abdominal muscles, but they do little to erase the fat that accumulates at the belly. To lose the fat, you literally have to burn it off by using it for energy. You can do that by engaging in regular aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise, reducing your caloric intake or through a combination of the two. Your body will then draw from the fat stores at your belly, using them for energy. Thus, your belly size will be reduced, according to

Saw those teeth

When flossing, use a sawing motion and gently pull the floss between your teeth. Always remember to rinse after flossing, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Drink up

Water makes up most of your body composition (an average 150-pound person contains 42 quarts of water); it’s the medium in which chemical reactions occur in your body; it’s a lubricant for muscles and joints; and it serves as a vehicle to rid your body of unwanted metabolites and wastes through urine.

You need about 1 milliliter of water for every calorie you consume. Translated to cups, you require about 8 cups (2 quarts) if you consume 2,000 calories a day. This figure rises if you exercise heavily, since you’ll lose water through sweat. Depending upon your sweat rate, you lose anywhere from 1 to 2 quarts of sweat an hour, especially in warm weather.

Not counting beer, other alcoholic beverages and coffee and sodas with caffeine, all of which boost urine production and fluid loss, you should be reaching for 2 to 4 quarts of water and other fluids throughout the day. Your urine color, which serves as a good gauge of your hydration status, should be pale yellow. Dark urine suggests you are not drinking enough fluid.


Drink to your health

You don’t have to drink when others are, and you do not have to accept an offered drink. Practice saying “no” politely, says the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The swarm

Keep your family safe from stinging insects. Avoid the sweet smells bugs are attracted to, such as perfumes and hair sprays, open food and drink, and garbage areas. Advice from American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

I told you so

To prevent future attacks of gout, be sure to follow the medication guidelines your doctor prescribes, says the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

What’s up, doc?

Learn to talk to your doctor. Probably the biggest complaint most people have about their health care is their relationship with their doctor: Office visits are too short and the physician is in such a rush to get on to the next patient that it’s easy to forget to ask important follow-up questions.

The financial pressures on doctors aren’t going to go away, so the only way to get more out of the encounter is to be firm in pressing your physician for clear answers to clear questions. Make a written list of questions ahead of time if that helps, and don’t be afraid to call back later if you think of pertinent questions once you get home.

Keep track of your bills. This is especially important if you have traditional insurance that requires you to pay a portion of the bill. When you get a bill from the doctor or a statement from the insurance company, look over it carefully to see exactly what it says. Often, the first bill from the doctor’s office won’t seek payment from you, but will tell you how much your insurance company is being billed. And once you get the insurer’s statement, carefully go over the codes attached to any denials so you understand why a particular payment was rejected. Billing mistakes are common, and it’s up to you to catch them.


A little yuck goes a long way

When shopping for tonight’s dinner, stop by the supermarket’s salad bar. Add garbanzo beans and beets for extra crunch and color. Some advice from The National Cancer Institute.

Give me drugs, any drugs

According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, Americans spent $17 billion on nonprescription medications in 1997. And over the past 15 years or so, a CHPA reports shows, Americans have become less inclined to tough it out and are quicker to make a run to the drugstore to get immediate relief from those annoying symptoms.

Most doctors say if symptoms persist beyond seven to 10 days, despite taking over-the-counter medication, patients should go in for a visit, as many viral and bacterial infections tend to clear up after about a week.

Start running

This quiz, adapted from the American College of Sports Medicine, will help you identify the health risks associated with beginning to exercise.

  • Has your doctor ever told you that you have a heart condition?

  • Do you ever have pains in your heart or chest?

  • Do you frequently lose your balance, feel faint or have spells of severe dizziness?

  • Has a doctor ever said your blood pressure was too high?

  • Do you have a bone or joint problem that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?

  • Are you taking any prescription medications, such as those for heart problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes?

  • Do you know of any other reason why you should not engage in physical activity?

  • If you’re female, are you pregnant?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, The American College of Sports Medicine suggests you see a physician before beginning a program — and that includes any fitness appraisals or pre-exercise tests typically offered at fitness centers. If you honestly answered “no” to all of the questions, you can be reasonably sure that you can safely start becoming more active, if you do so gradually. To really be sure, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Instant body

What is the quickest way to tone up?

The best way to tone your body is to perform resistance/weight training exercises on a regular basis. Such exercises make your muscles firmer, stronger and more defined — which gives you that “toned” look. Of course, if the muscles are hidden under a layer of excess fat, you’ll need to combine your weight training with aerobic exercise and a healthy diet.

Why do I seem to gain weight around my middle and nowhere else?

When you gain weight in the form of excess body fat, it accumulates in certain locations based on gender and heredity. Males have a tendency to accumulate the fat around the belly because that is where their center of gravity is. Females tend to gain more fat in the hips, t highs and buttocks for reproductive purposes.


There’s a microbe in my soup

Food Handling Safety Tips

  • Be aware that raw or improperly cooked meat and poultry can harbor numerous types of food-borne illnesses. Always treat meat and poultry as if it were contaminated. There is no reliable way to tell just by looking at it.

  • Avoid cross-contamination. From the supermarket until they are ready to serve, keep meat and poultry separate from other food. This includes in the grocery bags, fridge and coolers. Take special care to ensure that meat juices do not drip onto prepared or raw foods, such as salads.

  • Use one cutting board or preparation area for meat and poultry and a separate one for other foods. Cross-contamination frequently occurs when meat and other foods are prepared on the same cutting board or whatever surface is available. If you do not have separate preparation areas, wash the one you are using in hot, soapy water after preparing the meat. Do the same with knives, utensils, plates or anything that comes in contact with the meat.

  • Thaw meat and poultry completely before cooking.

  • Cook meat and poultry thoroughly, using a meat thermometer.

  • Wash your hands often.

  • Follow the general guideline that hot foods should be kept hot (after cooking) and cold foods cold. This holds true for transportation to the picnic as well as during the event itself.

  • If you are a guest, get to the picnic early and eat right away. Pay attention to the way the food is handled and prepared. Unless it is on a burner or ice, do not eat anything that has been sitting out for more than two hours — one hour when it is really hot, above 90 degrees.

  • Food that has been sitting out for longer than one or two hours, depending on the weather, should be thrown away, not taken home as leftovers.

For more information, call the USDA’s toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at (800) 535-4555. Specialists are available to answer questions between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. eastern time, Monday through Friday. At any time, you can listen to recorded messages with answers to frequently asked questions about food preparation safety.

Stop jet lag

You may not be able to prevent jet lag completely, but you can certainly take preventive measures to reduce its severity.

  • Drink, drink, drink. But make it water; go easy on the booze. Drink water before, during and after the flight. Carry a bottle of water with you on board and sip constantly. The air in the cabin is extremely dry, and it is easy to become dehydrated. Dehydration, in turn, can worsen the symptoms of jet lag.

  • Start out well-rested. Get a good night’s sleep before you fly. Pack early, so that you are not up until 3 a.m. the night before your trip.

  • Set your watch ahead. Start “thinking” in the time zone of your destination. Plan how you will adjust your eating and sleeping schedules to the local time as quickly as possible.

  • Get some daylight exposure. Spend half an hour or so outside in the daylight soon after arrival or the next morning if you arrive at night. This lets your body clock adjust to the different position of the sun.

  • Pace yourself. Do not climb off the plane and onto the tour bus. Spend some time just resting and relaxing. The longer the flight, the more time you should allow.

Source: OnHealth at

Caffeine in my blood

Caffeine is absorbed very quickly from the gastrointestinal tract and then distributed in the various body tissues. After absorption, it passes into the central nervous system.

Caffeine sensitivity” refers to the amount of caffeine that will produce negative side effects. This amount will vary from person to person. Caffeine does not accumulate in the bloodstream nor is it stored in the body. It is excreted in the urine many hours after it has been consumed. Caffeine will

not reduce the effects of alcohol, although many people still believe a cup of coffee will “sober up” an intoxicated person.

Caffeine may be used as a treatment for migraine headaches and in relieving, for a short time, fatigue or drowsiness. There is no human requirement for caffeine in the diet. Moderate caffeine intake, however, is not associated with any health risk. Three 8-ounce cups of coffee (250 milligrams of caffeine) per day is considered an average or moderate amount of caffeine. Ten 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is considered excessive intake of caffeine.


That’s a stretch

Should I stretch before or after I do aerobic exercise?

First of all, stretching “cold” muscles is potentially harmful and less effective than stretching when the muscles are properly warmed up. Theoretically, you should perform some sort of aerobic activity lightly for five minutes to warm up, then stretch, then resume your aerobic activity, and stretch again at the end, according to The problem is that most people don’t.

Regular stretching is probably the most neglected area of fitness. Perform all your stretches at the end of the exercise session. It is more likely you will stretch once, rather than twice in the same workout. Aerobic exercise, such as walking and jogging, slightly stresses the muscles and tendons, making them tighter. Therefore, it’s best to stretch after a workout to help relax the exercised muscles. Muscles that are warmed up can be stretched safely and effectively.