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Cold Hands May Be Raynaud’s Phenomenon

If your fingers turn white and start to hurt when you're out in the cold, you may have a condition called Raynaud's phenomenon. On exposing your fingers to cold, the blood vessels close, skin turns white and their temperature drops. When the temperature drops to 59 degrees, your body tries to save your skin by opening the blood vessels and the skin turns red and starts to itch and burn. If you warm your hands at this point, your skin will not be damaged, but if you do not get out of the cold, the blood vessels in your hands can close and the temperature in your hands can drop to freezing, resulting in frostbite.

People who have Raynaud's phenomenon have blood vessels in their hands that do not open when the skin temperature reaches 59 degrees. Several diseases, smoking or using vibrating equipment can cause Raynaud's phenomenon.

If your fingers feel cold when you are outside, swing your arms very rapidly about your shoulder with your elbow straight. This will drive blood, like a centrifuge, into your fingers and warm them. Nitroglycerin ointment is used to treat angina, heart pain from closed arteries leading to the heart. When applied to the forearms, it opens blood vessels leading to the hands. If you suffer from Raynaud's phenomenon, wear gloves under mittens and ask your doctor about trying nitroglycerin ointment.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I’m confused by all the different opinions on taking in fluids while exercising. Should I drink water or not?

When you exercise hard or in hot weather, you sweat and breathe off huge amounts of fluid. Losing fluid reduces blood volume to make you tired. Anyone who exercises vigorously can increase their endurance by taking in fluids, and competitive athletes can increase their endurance by taking in extra fluids just before the start of their event and drinking fluids regularly during events that last more than an hour. Be sure to replace salt as well as fluid you lose when you sweat, and don’t force yourself to drink large amounts of water.

A study presented at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego (April 11-15, 2003) demonstrated that drinking water helps athletes to exercise longer. Ten college students drank four, eight or 12 eight-ounce glasses of water per day for 12 weeks. On four glasses of water per day, they had five percent lower blood volume than on eight glasses, and ten percent lower that on 12 glasses. Lowered blood volume should not effect non-exercisers, but regular exercisers can increase their endurance by drinking more fluids. More


Dear Dr. Mirkin: I have not had a period in almost a year. Should I be concerned? I’m on my college’s volleyball team and want to be as strong and healthy as possible.

Swedish researchers have shown that irregular periods in female athletes may be caused by high levels of male hormones, rather than just by not eating enough food, the commonly accepted theory (Fertility and Sterility, Volume 79, Issue 4, 2003). The researchers showed that many female athletes who have irregular periods have much higher blood levels of masculinizing hormones than those with regular periods.

Female athletes with irregular periods and high male hormone levels usually also have larger muscles and bones, and are stronger than the athletes with regular periods. This study suggests that women who have high blood levels of male hormones are more likely to become athletes and the masculinizing hormones that make them better athlete are more likely to cause irregular periods. Check with your doctor or a gynecologist.


Recipe of the Week:
Paella (Spanish Seafood and Rice)

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 27th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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