Health "Rules" You Should Break


Your Food and Drink


Smart advice:
Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables.

Tailor it if you take the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin).
This drug prevents dangerous blood clots by blocking the action of vitamin K, which is needed to make clot-building compounds in the blood—but too much K in your diet can overwhelm your protection. The nutrient is especially abundant in dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, and kale, so don't have more than one serving of any of these in a day.

Smart advice:
Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day.

Tailor it if you have bladder control problems.
You might be able to avoid leaks by cutting back a bit on fluids. Ask your doctor how much you should drink each day—and don't worry if it doesn't come close to the magical "8 glass" rule. Nearly 20 percent of your water intake comes from food anyway, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. If you're peeing at least every eight hours and your urine is light colored, you're likely drinking enough.

Your Medications


Smart advice:
When it comes to blood pressure, lower is better.

Tailor it if you have coronary artery disease (CAD).
Getting your blood pressure down—to about 120/80—can help you avoid a heart attack or stroke, but don't go much lower. You need a little extra pressure to push blood through your narrowed vessels. A study of more than 22,000 people with CAD found that cutting diastolic pressure (the bottom number) to less than 70 more than doubled the risk of a heart attack or death. One exception: Low blood pressure didn't seem risky for CAD sufferers who'd had angioplasty to clear obstructed vessels or bypass surgery to reroute blood through a healthy new vessel.

Smart advice:
Acetaminophen is one of the safest pain relievers and a first line choice for arthritis relief.

Tailor it if you have a glass of wine (or any alcohol) daily.
There's already a warning on bottles of acetaminophen for people who have three or more drinks every day, noting that the combo can damage the liver. But even light drinking can prime the liver for trouble, says Donald Jensen, MD, a board member of the American Liver Foundation. Although 4 grams of acetaminophen is the recommended maximum daily dose, he says, you shouldn't exceed 2 grams of acetaminophen on any day you have even one drink.

Smart advice:
Get your nutrients from whole foods, not pills.

Tailor it if you're a strict vegetarian.
If you don't eat eggs or drink milk, you may need supplements to get enough vitamins B12 and D. Try 6 mcg of B12 (the amount in a typical multi). The current recommendation for vitamin D is 200 to 600 IU, depending on your age, but researchers say that needs an update: 1,000 to 2,000 IU is optimal and safe to take. And although you can get plenty of iron through a vegetarian diet, it takes planning. Get a blood test to check your iron levels if you fatigue easily.

Smart advice:
If you have chronic pain, you'll get safe, effective help from a nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen or a prescription only variety such as Indocin.

Tailor it if you're age 65 or older.
The main risk with NSAIDs is that they can cause stomach ulcers and internal bleeding—and that danger rises substantially with age. In fact, almost all deaths from NSAID-related bleeding occur in the elderly, experts say. If you're over 65 and need relief from chronic pain, talk with your doctor: Other options include acetaminophen (which isn't an NSAID) and corticosteroids—and even narcotics like Demerol, as long as you follow your doctor's instructions to reduce the chances of dependence or side effects.

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