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Athletes and Spectators Should Heed Lightning Warnings

People who are killed by lightning are often spectators or participants in sporting events. In the United States each year, lightning kills more than 70 people and injures more than 300 people, often permanently. Lightning strikes without warning, so sponsors of outdoor athletic events should have loudspeakers, sirens or horns to alert people to approaching electrical storms.

Water, metal and high objects attract lightning. When an electrical storm starts, try to enter a building or your automobile as quickly as possible. Get in your car, not near it. Standing near a car increases your risk of being struck by lightening because you are standing near metal. To avoid being near metal, get off your bike and away from it when you seek shelter. If you are on the golf course, get away from your golf clubs and carts and anything that contains metal.

If you are in an open field, you are the tallest object and therefore most likely to attract lightening. Standing makes you the tallest object, so if you cannot get to a sheltering building, go to a low spot and crouch down. Avoid being near the tallest object; do not stand under a single tree or by a pole. Standing under a tree that is shorter than other trees in the area is better. It is safer to be in a forest with many trees than to be under a single tree.

Don't stay in or near water. Just being near a lake, ocean or swimming pool increases your chances of being struck by lightning. Water sports such as swimming, fishing and boating increase your risk. Take the lifeguard's warnings or radio bulletins seriously, get out of the water and go to the nearest shelter.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Will following a low-carbohydrate diet help me run faster?

There is no evidence that it will. Runners get fuel for their muscles from fat and sugar in muscles, fat and sugar in the bloodstream and, to a lesser degree, from protein. The key to increasing endurance for racing is to store as much sugar in muscles before you race and keep it there as long as possible. Muscle sugar gives you the most energy for the least amount of oxygen.

Restricting carbohydrates does not stimulate muscles to store more sugar (Sports Medicine, April-May 2007). A low carbohydrate diet may impair performance if carried out for extended periods because a runner cannot train on a low- carbohydrate diet. If there are benefits from depleting muscles of their stored sugar supply, they probably come from the high- volume depletion workouts, not from the diet. To maximize stored muscle sugar, a runner should reduce his workouts for two to three days before a race. He should not restrict carbohydrates.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should I take selenium supplements?

If you take selenium pills, you may be increasing your chances of developing diabetes, according to a report from the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer (NPC) trial (Annals of Internal Medicine, August 2007). This study is the largest and longest available experimental study of selenium supplements and was done by randomly selecting people for either placebos or selenium and then checking to see who develops diabetes.

In 1973, researchers showed that selenium protects against oxidative damage, chemical reactions that damage cells and shorten life. However, there is a narrow margin between getting enough selenium to keep you healthy and taking too much. High levels of selenium bind to and damage many essential body proteins. In the United States, dietary levels of selenium are high so there is little chances of developing selenium deficiency. Furthermore, selenium can be toxic to humans at low doses. Symptoms of poisoning include loss of hair and nails, tiredness, nerve or liver damage, and as shown in this study, diabetes. Selenium over-dosage cause oxidants to be formed in the body. They block the body's ability to respond to insulin and can even damage the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. We do not know definitely that selenium causes diabetes, but until more data is available, most authorities recommend that people not take selenium supplements unless they have been tested and shown to have a selenium deficiency.

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Recipe of the Week

Corn-Off-The-Cob Chowder

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June 26th, 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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