The Pulse: November 2002

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As if PMS Isn't Bad Enough
The monthly curse may just have gotten worse-at least for skiers. A recent study of 69 female athletes showed that women are two and a half times more likely to tear their ACLs when they're ovulating; researchers believe that roller-coastering hormone levels explain the difference. Although oral contraceptives seem to provide some protection, it's too premature to take the Pill just to save your knees.

Packing Heat
Most people reach for pills when they tweak their lower backs, but maybe they should reach for ThermaCare (thermacare.com). According to the journal Spine, the new heat wraps, which radiate a 104-degree temp for eight hours, significantly reduce muscle stiffness, providing 33 percent more pain relief than ibuprofen and 52 percent more than acetaminophen. The caveat: Heat does make swelling worse. Bring inflammation down with ice and NSAIDs first, and then try heat.

A Breath of Recycled Air
If you catch a flight, then catch a cold, don't blame the air on the plane: You're just as likely to get sick in cabins that use fresh air than cabins that recirculate it. San Francisco researchers found that 19 percent of passengers who traveled on two-hour flights with recirculated air came down with runny noses, compared to 21 percent who inhaled the fresh. So go ahead and breathe easy-just don't touch those bathroom door handles.

Eyes Wide Open
Go on. Have that second (or third) cup of joe-it could keep you out of trouble in the trees. The National Academy of Sciences reports that caffeine has an impressive docket of benefits: With a dose of about 250 milligrams (that's a couple cups of coffee, or a few cans of Mountain Dew), caffeine increases the speed of your reactions, returns the endurance that is lost at high altitudes, and keeps your eyes sharp.

A Toast to Drinking
The news is older than most of the bottles in the cellar: Red wine is good for your heart. More recently, though, studies have shown that most of what you toss back, from Mad Dog to martinis, has some health benefit. How convenient. But this doesn't mean you should start bingeing-research has shown that hitting the bottle more than once or twice a day can turn all those drinking positives into a bunch of serious negatives (you know, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, alcoholism, depression...). Downsides be damned, here's how your favorite quaff measures up.