Too Much of a Good Thing


Good/Bad Thing #2: Antibiotics

Use the right tools for the job. We wish doctors would internalize this message better. Many insist on banging in nails with screwdrivers by prescribing antibiotics--which fight bacterial infections--for viral ailments. "When a doctor doesn't want to be wrong because there's a slight chance a patient has a bacterial infection, or if a patient insists, then antibiotics are more likely to be prescribed," says Lauri Hicks, D.O., medical director of the CDC's "Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work" campaign. Upper-respiratory infections are classic examples. They account for 75 percent of all antibiotics prescribed by general practitioners, yet their cause is viral about 90 percent of the time. What's the harm? Antibiotic overuse can spawn resistance in fast-evolving bacteria, such as NDM-1 and the skin infection MRSA. Also, antibiotics can kill off beneficial bacteria in your body.

Battle better Ask your doctor if your condition could resolve itself without a prescription, or whether a first-line antibiotic, like amoxicillin or penicillin, would be more appropriate than a broad-spectrum antibiotic, like azythromycin. "There's a perception that newer antibiotics are more effective, and that's not always the case," says Dr. Hicks. "Good old penicillin is still an important initial therapy, and it leaves options for further treatment."

Good/Bad Thing #3: Coffee

Your daily java provides long-lasting health advantages. Recent research suggests a link between coffee consumption and lowered risks of Alzheimer's disease, liver cancer, and prostate cancer.

But beware the telltale buzz of caffeine addiction, which can set in if you slurp more than 300 milligrams of the stuff each day. (A 12-ounce Starbucks standard brew has 260.) As your body adjusts to regular caffeine exposure, your fatigue-regulating adenosine system--which is hijacked by caffeine-- becomes more sensitive, and you'll feel sluggish in your noncaffeinated moments, according to a 2010 British study. The buzz that addicts feel is merely the emergence from fatigue-causing withdrawal symptoms.

Spread out your fix Pace your daily intake. "Better to spread it throughout the day to prevent overdose," says James D. Lane, Ph.D., the director of Duke University medical center's psychophysiology laboratory. "It's the high peak of caffeine in your blood that causes problems." If you normally drink 12 ounces with breakfast, limit yourself to half that in the morning, and have the other half at lunchtime.


More from Men's Health:

5 Myths About Antioxidants

8 Things Your Doctor's Not Telling You

Your Healthiest Year Ever!

The Worst Frozen Coffee Drinks in America

Good/Bad Thing #4: Ibuprofen

When knees and muscles ache, wounded warriors in a hurry to heal dose up on "vitamin I"-- ibuprofen. And if the recommended 400 milligrams of magic relief from pain and swelling don't quite do it, well, pop two more. In fact, why not head off workout pain by gulping several ibuprofen tablets before going running or playing hoops? So goes the logic that leads men to pop them like Tic Tacs.

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