Men's Health: Facts for Your Head and Body

A gargle to get you to quit smoking, a drug warning and a new fast-acting aspirin gel. Read on.

Sideline Infection Protection Athlete’s foot isn’t all you can catch in the locker room. According to Japanese researchers, one player on an American football team accidentally infected 10 of his teammates with hepatitis B. The virus was likely transmitted through exposure to open wounds during training. If you play contact sports that can cause bloody injuries, ask your doctor about a hep-B vaccination. You can also make sure that bandages stay in place on the court or field by covering them with prewrap and tape, just as you would a strained muscle.

CCB Caution If you’re taking a CCB for high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about switching to a more effective medication. Researchers at Wake Forest University collected data from 27,000 patients taking heart-disease drugs and found that people on calcium channel blockers have a 25 percent higher likelihood of suffering a heart attack or heart failure than people taking ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, or diuretics.

Anti-Tobacco Gargle Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo have developed a mouthwash that alters the taste of cigarette smoke. The new mouthwash reacts with nicotine, altering its flavor and making it taste unbearably bad. “The taste is so awful that in a test of 20 hard-core, long-term smokers, most couldn’t get past the first puff,” says Sebastian Cianco, D.D.S., who developed the product. The mouthwash lasts 3 to 4 hours and has no effect on the tastes of other food. Look for it early next year.

A Deadly Sweet Tooth Your body constantly produces a small number of free radicals—molecules that roam your tissues, advancing aging and increasing heart-disease risk. Until recently, however, scientists had no idea that sugary foods cause your body’s production of free radicals to soar. State University of New York researchers made the discovery after having 20 volunteers drink either 75 grams of sugar water or a substitute. Saccharin had no impact on free-radical levels, but glucose caused levels to balloon by more than 250 percent. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E counteract some free-radical damage, says Paresh Dandona, Ph.D., M.D., author of the study.

Scrubbing Against Symptoms Mold in the bathroom? Clean it up quickly. A University of Maryland study found that being exposed to mold spores can trigger flu-like symptoms and may even weaken your immunity to other illnesses. “Mold normally just causes allergies, but in extreme cases, inhaling the stuff can lead to serious illness, such as bleeding in the lungs,” says Bruce Jarvis, Ph.D., the study’s author. Kill mold by wiping infested areas with a 1-to-5 solution of bleach and water. Dehumidifiers and frequent dusting prevent its return.

Risk for Cold Weather Athletes Two recent European studies found that exercising in cold weather may lead to lung damage—including a 25 percent greater chance of developing bronchitis and three times the risk of developing asthma. “These illnesses are especially common in endurance athletes who train in harsh environments,” says Kai-H?kon Carlsen, Ph.D., of Norway’s Vokenstoppen Children’s Asthma and Allergy Center. To reduce “environmental stress” during cold-air workouts, warm up indoors and wear a mask.

The Power of Mint Wonder why women chew gum at the gym? Turns out it’s so they can bench more than we do. Researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia found that smelling peppermint boosts exercise performance levels. The scent alters your perception of how hard you’re working, says Bryan Raudenbush, Ph.D., the study’s director. “This makes workouts seem less strenuous, slower-paced, and easier to complete,” he says. Any minty smell should work, including the scent of mouthwash, gum, or juleps in the water bottle.

Fat Not a Foe? Fat might not be so bad after all. According to a University of Wisconsin study, a dietary fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may help increase your levels of lean muscle mass. Over a 6-month period, researchers gave CLA supplements or a placebo to men and women starting an exercise program. Among those who gained weight, the CLA group gained almost twice as much lean muscle mass—45 percent compared with 26 percent. “CLA doesn’t get rid of fat, but it can prevent new fat from attaching to your cells, and it may make results from exercise longer-lasting,” says Michael Pariza, Ph.D. CLA is available as a supplement, but you probably already have some in your refrigerator. Beef and dairy products are both excellent sources of the stuff.

Gel Aspirin Say goodbye to bottled aspirin. Researchers at Rutgers University recently found that a new aspirin gel reduces pain almost immediately after being rubbed on joints or muscles. The gel activates when it comes into contact with water in the skin. “The difference is that this form of aspirin may not cause problems, such as stomach irritation, since it isn’t taken internally,” says Kathryn Uhrich, Ph.D., study author. The gel—called PolyAspirin—will be on the market in about 2 years.