Health & Fitness

You Docs: Today, we’re egging you on

There’s a reason we think the only thing that shouldn’t be done in moderation is walking: Extremes virtually always backfire – crash diets, quickie marriages, vitamin megadoses, “simple” 9-9-9 tax plans, Paris Hilton’s up-to-there hemlines. But Americans have trouble doing things in moderation.

Take eggs. For decades they were the all-American breakfast staple – who knew about cholesterol? Then the U.S. went cholesterol-crazy, eggs were seen as heart attacks in a shell, and consumption tanked. Then eggs wound up back on the menu when it turned out that even one a day didn’t increase strokes or heart disease. Consumption picked up.

Then eating an egg a day was linked with a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Men and women who had seven eggs a week appeared to be 60 percent to 70 percent more likely to get the disease.

And now? A follow-up study to test the diabetes link – led by the same researcher – found no links between eggs and type 2 diabetes. None.

We’re driving home two points here. The first is one you’ve heard us hammer on before: One study is never enough, no matter how sensational the headlines. Second: Having a few eggs a week (not none, not tons) is a great way to get a high-quality protein fix. If you need to watch your cholesterol, use three egg whites for every yolk in omelets or egg salad. The yolk is where all the cholesterol is, and half the protein is in the white.

That pap test you’ve been putting off? No worries

Like millions of women, our wives and daughters have an annual Pap smear. The alternative? Not detecting cervical cancer. Not an option.

It was a gleeful moment when, two years ago, enough research had piled up for docs to say: “Hey, you’re over 30. Your last three Pap tests were fine. Skip next year – and stick with every two years as long as your tests stay fine.” What women said back: “Woo hoo!”

News flash: Every two years could become every three. Proposed new guidelines say to get your first Pap at 21; if it’s fine, repeat every three years as long as they’re A-OK. At 65, discuss stopping with your doc. The task force behind the new guidelines found no evidence that testing every year or two is better than every three. It increases costs, stomach knots and cold feet – not cancer detection.

Also, the testing’s being upgraded. Two tests will be run on the cervix cells: the Pap, plus one for HPV (human papilloma virus), a major culprit in cervical cancer. Important: Get vaccinated for HPV. It radically decreases this cancer. In fact, it’s thought the HPV test may be even better than the Pap.

Yes, there are exceptions: Women who smoke, have AIDS, have had abnormal Paps or were exposed to DES in-utero need more tests.

Sinuses already driving you crazy? Try this

Between fall allergies and winter colds and flu, peak sinusitis season is here. Your nasal passages may be threatening to cave.

So here’s a surprise: Sometimes that stuffy, pressured, my-head’s-gonna-explode feeling is triggered by heated air and humidity, not actual congestion. When this happens, the rules get tossed. Shut off the humidifier. Turn down the thermostat. Cool air helps. Cold, dry air helps most.

Think about it. You know how sometimes when you feel totally congested, stepping outside on a cold, crisp day opens up your nasal passages in minutes? When you go back inside, back comes the stuffiness. Sucking on a menthol drop helps, too; just the sensation of coolness clears your sinuses. Why isn’t clear yet; figuring that out comes next.

Of course, if it’s the real deal – you can tell from tissues that your head is a mucus fiesta, and you feel like you’re breathing through a mask – don’t let it get worse. In addition to a blocked schnoz, you’ll get headaches, hacking and a full-blown sinus infection.

Take a deep breath, even if it’s through your mouth, and do this: Wash out your nose with a neti pot (from your drugstore). It looks like a genie lamp. Just fill it with saltwater and rinse your sinuses, pouring the water in one nostril and letting it run out the other. If you’ve never tried this, it sounds weird, but it’s not uncomfortable. And it works.

Stock up on vitamin D-3 before Sunday

It’s that great/gloomy time of year again. The great part? You get an extra hour’s sleep on Saturday night, when daylight saving time ends. (You intend to spend it all in bed? Ole!)

The gloomy part: Until March 11, when DST returns, the days will be short and dark. Or, in our view: There goes the sun, here comes the Great Winter Vitamin D-3 Deficiency.

Even in summer, few North Americans get enough sun to activate the skin’s vitamin D-3 factory for long (why it’s called the “sunshine vitamin”). In winter, it’s way worse. The sun’s rays are too wimpy to have much effect. Yet D-3 (vitamin D’s most active form) is essential. It protects you from brittle bones, hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, certain cancers and more – as if this list isn’t plenty important enough. Stock up.

Start with food.

Take a supplement.

Get a blood test for D-3.

Happy ending:

Six things your doc shouldn’t tell you to do

Regular readers know we think it’s vital to cut medical costs, for the economy’s sake and yours. You shouldn’t spend a dime on health care that you don’t need. Yet it likely happens whenever you see a doc. The upshot: billions of dollars wasted, often because MDs are “covering the bases” (or their behinds). Now physician coalitions are urging docs and you to just say “no” to these steps, unless you’re both sure you need them.

1. Don’t get X-rayed for low-back pain. Yes, it’s miserable, but it usually clears up in a few days or a few weeks. An X-ray won’t help. It just exposes you to radiation. Get one only if the pain lasts six weeks, sharply worsens or you have other symptoms (like leg problems).

2. Don’t take antibiotics for sinusitis. It’s unlikely to be bacterial, especially in the first 10 days. Yet 80 percent of the millions who see docs for sinusitis get antibiotics, which only fight bacterial infections. You’re taking drugs that won’t work.

3. Don’t get a Pap test if you’ve had a total hysterectomy. The surgery removed your cervix. Paps look for abnormal cervix cells. No cervix, no point.

4. Don’t get “routine” ECGs. Plenty of savvy docs order electrocardiograms for people over 40 as part of a routine checkup, no matter how healthy they are.

5. Don’t lie down for a bone density scan if you’re under 65. Exceptions: You’ve lost height, taken steroids or had a bizarre bone fracture (like from a hard sneeze).

6. Don’t get a complete blood work-up or urine analysis if you’re healthy. Save them for when something internal’s gone amok.