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Sit-Ups to Make Your Belly Stronger

Sit-ups can strengthen your belly muscles, but doing them incorrectly can hurt your back. Sit-ups should be done while you lie on your back with your knees bent enough for the soles of your feet to touch the floor. Place both hands on your chest and slowly raise your head off the ground. Then, slowly raise your shoulders around one foot and then lower them to the ground. Do this slowly ten times, rest a few seconds and then do two more sets of ten. After a week or two, this exercise will feel easy, so do it with a light weight, wrapped in a towel, held behind your neck or on your chest. As you become stronger, you can use heavier weights.

There's no need to do more than 30 sit-ups in one workout. To strengthen your belly muscles, you increase the resistance, not the number of repetitions. Keep your knees bent to protect your back. If you do a sit-up with your legs straight, you place a great force on the iliopsoas muscles that increase the arch in your back, which can damage the ligaments and joints. If your belly muscles are weak, you are likely to arch your back excessively when you sit up and increase the chances of injury. If you are doing sit-ups to flatten your stomach, you need to raise your head only about one foot because going higher than that uses the quadriceps muscles in the front of your upper legs, not your belly muscles.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Why is baldness so much more common in men than in women?

Women lose their hair as often as men do. They just don't lose as much. All women lose hair when they have a sudden loss of estrogen after stopping birth control pills, after giving birth and after entering the menopause. They also lose hair after various illness, after suffering a high fever, and after losing weight rapidly. These factors rarely cause permanent hair loss; hair growth usually returns to normal within nine months. Hair grows for three years, rests for three months and then starts to grow again. You cannot reverse hair loss until most hairs have gone from resting to active growing and that takes about nine months. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common curable causes of male pattern baldness in women.

Don’t believe the ads that tell you baldness is caused by blocked pores and that you can cure baldness by applying a special shampoo that opens the pores so that hair can break through the skin and reach the surface. Bald men have almost the same number of hairs on their heads as those who have full heads of hair. However, the hair of bald men is so thin, light and short that you can see it only when you look very closely. Blocked pores do not cause baldness and unblocking pores will not cause hair to grow.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is there any way to prevent painful leg cramps in the middle of the night?

Cramping during sleep is usually due to an exaggeration of a normal muscle reflex. When you turn during sleep, you contract your calf muscles and stretch their tendons. This stimulates nerve stretch receptors in the tendon and sends a message back to the spinal cord, telling the calf muscles to contract. Sometimes, the muscles remain contracted and hurt. Painful muscle cramps at night can also be caused by nerve damage such as that caused by pinching a nerve, muscle damage, a partially-obstructed flow of blood to the legs or abnormal mineral or hormone levels. If you have this problem often, check with your doctor. If you do not have a serious cause, you can often prevent night cramps by exhausting the stretch reflex before you go to bed by stretching your calf muscles with wall pushups, and applying a heating pad for 10 minutes before you go to sleep. The most common cause of leg cramps in exercisers is lack of salt.

The Food and Drug Administration has ruled that none of the over-the-counter drugs used to treat night-time leg cramps are recognized as safe or effective. The only drug that has been shown to be effective in treating night-time leg cramps is quinine. Doctors often prescribe 1 or 2 quinine pills at bedtime, but they can cause birth defects and miscarriages, so they should never be taken by a woman who may become pregnant. They can also cause ringing in the ears, headache, nausea, disturbed vision, chest pain and asthma.


Have you tried some of Diana’s soup recipes that use OATMEAL to give an amazing creamy texture in a healthy way? These soups are extra-easy if you have a hand blender (that goes right into the pot to puree everything quickly.) Here are two new ones:

Creamy Carrot Soup
Portuguese Potato-Garlic Soup
And try the recipe that started it all . . .
Incredible Creamy Clam Chowder

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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