Match the Pain Reliever to the Pain

You may be a pro multitasker, but few can juggle work, family and other responsibilities when in physical pain. And with so many people relying on you, you don’t have time to get sidelined by a headache or other aches and pains. You just need relief. 

The trouble is, with all the over-the-counter pain relievers available, deciding which is best can be, well, a major pain. But it doesn’t have to be. Find your ailment below, then the treatment that experts say is most effective so you can get a grip on pain and get on with your life. (If you have health problems or a medical condition, however, consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter drugs.)

1. Headache
Whether you have a tension headache or a migraine, look for a pain reliever that combines acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. “The meds block pain at different levels, so the combination tends to be more effective than any one alone,” says Dr. ­Vincent Martin, an internist and headache expert who teaches at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

How they work: When you have a headache, blood vessels in the brain dilate. Caffeine constricts those vessels, easing pain, explains Martin. Meanwhile, aspirin helps block pain-provoking chemicals in the brain called prostaglandins and improves the pain-relieving effects of acetaminophen.

See a doctor if:
You have frequent headaches. Also, consult a medical doctor if you have liver problems, because you may not be able to take acetaminophen.

2. Heartburn
For occasional heartburn, any chewable or liquid antacid will quickly neutralize stomach acid to provide relief, says Dr. Charlene Prather, a gastroenterologist with a master’s in public health, and an associate professor at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

If you’re prone to diarrhea, choose an antacid with aluminum hydroxide or calcium rather than magnesium. Vice versa if you tend to get constipated.

For persistent heartburn, take a tablet that combines both an antacid and an acid blocker (such as famotidine or ranitidine) instead. “You’ll get immediate relief from the antacid, then more sustained relief from the acid-blocking drug,” says Prather. Acid-blocking drugs can last up to 12 hours.

See a doctor if: You get heartburn more than a few times a week or your symptoms worsen.

3. Back pain or strained muscles

Ibuprofen and naproxen (aka non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs) are stronger and will last longer than other pain relievers, says Dr. Dana S. Simpler, an attending physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. They block the production of pain-causing prostaglandins and reduce inflammation in the strained muscles.

If you have high blood pressure or stomach or kidney problems, however, NSAIDs may not be an option. Acetaminophen is the next best thing. It targets the part of the brain that receives and processes pain messages from the injured area.  

Whichever pill you take, you can also rub on a topical pain-relieving gel containing menthol or salicylate, says Simpler. The anti-inflammatory agents “are absorbed through the skin, so the majority of the medicine goes directly into the muscles,” she explains.

See a doctor if:
Your back pain or muscle strain persists or worsens after a few days.

4. Flu aches and fever
Reach for either an NSAID (ibuprofen or naproxen) or acetaminophen, says Simpler. Both reduce your fever and alleviate achiness by affecting the brain’s ability to receive pain messages. NSAIDs also calm inflammation.

NSAIDs are stronger and work longer, but they can upset your stomach. So if you are nauseated or susceptible to stomach problems, you may be better off with acetaminophen.

Either way, avoid aspirin or medications containing aspirin. Ingesting it when you have the flu can trigger a rare but dangerous condition called Reye’s Syndrome.

See a doctor if:
You get chest pain, shortness of breath, a seriously phlegm-y cough or fever that lasts longer than a week.  

5. Menstrual cramps
Surveys suggest the majority of women experience some degree of menstrual pain. In this case, NSAIDs are usually your best bet. They block the production of prostaglandins that cause muscle cramps and spasms in the uterus.

Take ibuprofen or naproxen around the time you expect your period to start or at the first twinge of pain. Doing so will keep you ahead of the hurt, says Dr. Jill Maura Rabin, head of urogynecology at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

See a doctor if: NSAIDs don’t offer sufficient relief and you can’t function or if your cramps are accompanied by unusually heavy bleeding.

Cancer-Preventing Moves to Make Right Now

Preventing cancer often seems like a long, dreary list of don’ts: don’t smoke, don’t go out without sunscreen, etc. But along with the no-nos are lots of positive dos -- easy steps that could reduce your cancer risks. “The best defense is enjoying a colorful, plant-rich diet and an active lifestyle,” says Elisa Zied, a registered dietician based in New York and author of Younger Next Week, who notes that such smart choices can also benefit your heart and your brain.

Here are a few ways you can boost your odds of living a longer, healthier life.

Take the Weight Off

Obesity and excess weight are “clearly associated” with postmenopausal breast cancer, colorectal and pancreatic cancers, and are implicated in others, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS also says that excess weight accounts for 14 to 20 percent of all cancer deaths. Trimming down to a healthy weight with a waistline of less than 32 inches (a measurement which is an important indicator of dangerous belly fat) can cut your risk.  

Shake a Leg

The National Cancer Institute notes that there is “strong evidence” that physical activity reduces the risk of colon and breast cancer, while other studies suggest links to lower lung, endometrial and prostate cancer.

How much exercise is enough? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity at least three times a week for adults and an hour a day for kids -- with at least three of those hours being “vigorous” activity (hiking, running over 6 mph, soccer, etc.). And you don’t have to spend all that time in the gym. Romp on the beach with your kids, go dancing with your spouse or play a fun game of volleyball.

Got young daughters? Vigorous exercise is especially important for pre-pubescent girls, says epidemiologist Ruby Senie, PhD, of Columbia University, because it could postpone the start of menstruation, limiting their lifetime exposure to estrogen and later risk of breast cancer.  

Go Big on GBGG

That stands for Greens/Beans/Grains/Garlic, a cancer-fighting combo that health experts recommend for your daily diet. Many -- though not all -- published studies link cruciferous veggies such as arugula, watercress and broccoli to lower risk of lung, colon, stomach and other cancers. Beans and grains pack plenty of fiber, shown by numerous studies to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. And research cited by the National Cancer Institute suggests that regular garlic consumption can decrease the risk of stomach, colon and pancreatic cancer.

Feast on Fruits, Nom on Nuts

Blackberries and raspberries are not only delicious; they also deliver more fiber than broccoli, not to mention bolstering your defenses against colon and breast cancer. Enjoying a peach a couple of times a week could lower your risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, according to one large study. And while nuts are higher in calories than berries, nibbling an ounce of them twice a week might also protect against pancreatic cancer, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Indulge in Moderation

Enjoying a little Chardonnay once in a while is fine -- just don’t overdo it. The ACS emphasizes that drinking alcohol in any form raises the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, colon and breast. Stick to recommended consumption levels to moderate the damage: 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.

Studies also link high intake of red meats with higher rates of colorectal cancer, so limit your consumption to 6 ounces twice a week, says Zied. And when you’re going to grill your rib-eye, marinate it first: Grilling produces carcinogens called HCAs, but researchers from Kansas State University found that marinating meat for half an hour cuts the HCA level by up to 88 percent.

Keep Cool! Stopping Sweat in Its Tracks

While many of us have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of summer with open arms, we may be less than thrilled about the effect that wonderfully steamy weather has on the underside of those arms … not to mention the scalp, chest and forehead.

Although you can’t stop sweating altogether -- this essential function helps regulate our internal temperature and cools the body year-round -- there are ways to keep those sweat-prone areas dry when the temperature soars. As you embrace your favorite summer activities, from outdoor workouts to backyard cookouts, keep these perspiration-stopping tips in mind:

Skip the Silk

A variety of factors can impact how much you perspire -- including the clothes you wear. Wearing fabrics like silk or polyester can increase your body temperature and bring on the dampness. Wear light, breathable clothing with loosely woven fabrics and natural fibers like cotton or linen to help prevent sweat stains and decrease perspiration. If you’re in an air-conditioned environment, such as an office or movie theater, dress in layers that you can easily take off to avoid overheating.

Go Bland

Spicy foods can up your body temperature as well, so if you’re prone to perspiration, avoid the hot sauce when you barbecue. Switching to iced coffee and tea can also help you keep your cool.

Pick the Right Product

Contrary to popular belief, deodorants and antiperspirants are two different products. Deodorants help cover up the odors associated with perspiration, but to curb the wetness itself, you need an antiperspirant. Most antiperspirants contain aluminum, which soaks into the skin, blocking sweat.

Head for Your Pantry

Antiperspirants can be applied anywhere on the body, but may cause irritation to sensitive areas of your skin. To keep your chest dry and cool, dust some baking soda under and around your breasts. If your scalp tends to sweat, apply dry shampoo or baby powder before you go out.  

Keep Clean

To keep sweat at bay, Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York dermatologist and author of Skin Rules, stresses frequent showers with antibacterial soap to clear away the perspiration and fight the bacteria that cause body odor.

Change Your Routine

If you typically shower in the morning, try switching to bedtime, and apply your antiperspirant after toweling off. This gives it more time to work because your skin is dry and your body temperature is naturally lower at night. If you apply it in the morning, increased temperature and sweat volume may cause the antiperspirant to wash away too soon.

Get a Checkup

Sometimes, excess perspiration can be a sign that something else is wrong. Certain medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity or an overactive thyroid, can increase sweating, says Jaliman. If you’ve been perspiring more than usual for no apparent reason, consult your doctor.

Call a Professional

If sweating is really affecting your lifestyle, there are additional options to consider. Prescription or clinical strength over-the-counter antiperspirants can reduce excessive sweating by blocking the sweat glands more effectively. And in extreme cases, Botox injections have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help combat underarm sweat and can decrease perspiration for about seven months, says Jaliman.

To learn more about excessive sweating, visit the International Hyperhidrosis Society’s website.

Body and Soul: 6 Ways to Take Care of Your Whole Self

If you think of health as simply swapping apples for cookies or getting a flu shot, you’re only seeing part of the picture. Complete wellness means maintaining balance in body, mind and spirit -- which is not always easy to do if you’re the kind of person who puts themselves last in line for TLC. “As women, we tend to take on more than we can chew,” says Elizabeth Trattner, an integrative health expert in Miami, Florida. “No one wrote the handbook on how much should women juggle.” Take control of your well-being and care for yourself with these wellness tips.

Care for Your Mind

Focus on the positive: The next time you feel self-defeating about your to-do list or a stressful work situation, try to see things in a positive light. Hard as it may be, give yourself a “this too shall pass” pep talk, then think about something fun. “By focusing on pleasant experiences, we generally have a better outcome,” says Kim Chronister, a wellness expert and psychologist in Los Angeles. “Olympic athletes take ten minutes to engage in positive thinking, so we should, too.”

Make it work by: allowing yourself to acknowledge your negative thoughts. Then let them simply float away and replace them with happier messages.

Take a vacation -- in your head: If you find it hard to break a stressed-out mood, try this. Let your thoughts linger on an upcoming vacation and then sketch out what you’re going to do -- without ever leaving your desk. “What this does is to help you set aside your current worries and replace them with something fun that’s on the horizon,” says Chronister.

Make it work by: adding music to the mix. If you’re dreaming of a weekend by the shore, put your earbuds in and tune in to your summer favorites.

Care for Your Spiritual Side

Get out in nature: To best feel spiritually fulfilled, step outside at least once a day to see the beauty in the natural world. “What happens is that you’ve disconnected from things around you,” says Trattner. “Whether it’s the woods, the ocean, a lake or even a flower shop, by being in nature you’ll feel the powerful effects of harmonizing with nature.”

Make it work by: leaving your electronic devices at your desk -- or at least turned off -- during your outdoor time. You can’t truly immerse yourself in nature if you’re distracted by a screen.

Learn how to meditate: No matter what your religion or belief system, daily meditation can help you connect with your spiritual self. It can also help you find deeper purpose and meaning in your life.

Make it work by: choosing a set hour and space for your daily meditation. This makes it easier to keep to the habit, according to The New York Meditation Center. Plan to spend at least five minutes sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing.

Care for Your Body

Learn how to breathe -- better: Turns out, one of our most basic functions -- breathing -- is something many of us are doing incorrectly. While most of us take upper body breaths, we should strive to take belly breaths that allow for the maximum flow of oxygen. “When you take a breath in, you should feel taller,” says Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist and author of Breathe. “But most of us are breathing from our upper bodies up near our shoulders.” Belly breathing can also help restore your energy, lower blood pressure, improve your sleep and even recharge your immune system.

Make it work by: placing one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. As you breathe, relax your belly so that it expands when you inhale and contracts when you exhale. Your hand should rise and fall about an inch as you do.

Find a trampoline (or a jump rope or hula hoop … ): Exercise doesn’t have to be dull or grueling. If you loved bouncing on a trampoline or skipping rope when you were growing up, go for it now! The goal: to find an exercise regimen that’s fun and makes you feel engaged. “We know exercise is as effective as antidepressants in improving mood and having a positive approach to life,” says Chronister. So grab your walking shoes or hula hoop and commit to getting your body moving for at least 20 minutes a day.

Make it work by: exercising early in the morning. You’ll feel energized all day and fall asleep more easily at night. Studies also show that you’re more likely to stick to a morning workout than an evening one.

Your Cinco de Mayo Menu

No matter what your background, Cinco de Mayo is a fun day to celebrate! Honor Mexican heritage by throwing a party featuring tasty authentic dishes. To get things started, we asked four chefs to share their favorites. So put away the plain salsa and chips -- whether you’re into seafood, steak or veggies -- we’ve got some great Cinco de Mayo recipes to spice up your meal!

Guacamole Sliders

Created by: Chef Arturo McLeod, Benjamin Steakhouse, White Plains, New York

Ingredients

Guacamole
1 Hass avocado
1 small red onion, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon cilantro
Salt, pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno (optional)

Directions

1. Cut avocado in half, remove pit and, with a tablespoon, scoop the avocado out of its peel into a bow. Immediately add lemon juice (this prevents the avocado from blackening).

2. Add chopped onions, tomato, cilantro, salt, pepper and jalapeno (if desired) and mix with a fork to retain some of the chunkiness of the avocado.

3. Cover and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Sliders
8 rolls, split and lightly toasted
1 pound ground beef
1 red onion, sliced
1 medium tomato, sliced
8 slices cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Pre-heat grill. Make eight 3-inch beef patties, adding salt and pepper to taste. 

2. Grill beef patties three to five minutes per side, depending on your preferred temperature. Place a slice of cheese on each patty during the last minute of grilling. 

3. Arrange bottoms of rolls on plate. Place a patty on each roll and add a slice of onion and tomato per burger.

4. Scoop approximately 1 tablespoon of guacamole per slider, then cover with the bun top. Pinch each with a toothpick and serve. 

Mini Carne Asada Steak Tacos

Created by Stephanie Allen, co-founder, Dream Dinners 

Ingredients 

Steak and Marinade

Place a bag with six 4-oz top sirloin steaks inside a stable container and fold edges over. Add:

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons sliced jalapeno peppers

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons lime juice

Salsa

1/2 cup fire-roasted tomatoes (you can make your own by tossing several halved plum tomatoes with olive oil and kosher salt, spreading them on a baking sheet and cooking in a 400 F oven for 40 minutes)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

Rub

2 teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning

1 teaspoon dried cilantro

1/4 teaspoon cumin

Other Ingredients

2 bags flour tortillas

2 bags low-fat refried beans

Directions

1. Remove steaks from marinade and sprinkle with half of the rub.

2. Grill or broil on medium high for three to five minutes, flip and sprinkle second side with remaining rub, continue cooking two to three minutes (until desired doneness).

3. Let steaks rest five minutes, then cut across the grain into thin strips. Meanwhile, wrap tortillas in foil and place on grill or in oven for three to five minutes. Place refried beans in small saucepan and heat for three to five minutes.

4. Place sliced steak and refried beans in warm tortillas; top with salsa.

Roasted Red Pepper and “Cheese” Taquitos

Created by: Jenny Engel, co-owner of Spork Foods, a vegan food company in LA

Ingredients:

1 roasted red pepper (from jar), seeded

1/2 brown onion, sliced into thin strips

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese

1 package corn tortillas (12 count)

2 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil (refined coconut or safflower) 

Directions

1. Slice roasted red pepper into thin strips. Place in a mixing bowl and add onion, oregano, cumin, sea salt, chipotle and lime juice. Set aside.

2. Place shredded vegan cheese in a bowl and set aside. Using tongs, heat each tortilla over an open flame for about five seconds on each side, to make them pliable. 

3. Place 2 tablespoons filling mixture and 1 tablespoon cheese in center of each tortilla, in a line. Roll into a long taquito (or cigar) shape.  

4. Over medium heat, add oil to a skillet over medium heat and add oil. Cook taquitos seam side down, until golden brown, about three to four minutes.  Flip and continue to cook on the other side for an additional four to five minutes. 

5. Serve taquitos warm, along with your favorite salsa, guacamole or other dips. 

Shrimp Margarita

Created by: Ben Lillard, chef, La Cocina Mexican Grill and Bar in Seacrest Beach, Florida

Ingredients 

Shrimp

1 pound medium shrimp (deveined, peeled and diced)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

11/4 cups jarred salsa

3 tablespoons ketchup

1 cup homemade Pico de Gallo (recipe below)

2 ripe avocados (peeled and seeded)

White rice

Pico de Gallo

3/4 cup diced tomato

1/4 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 minced jalapeno

1 1/2 Tablespoons minced garlic

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

1. Sauté diced shrimp over medium high heat for one to two minutes until shrimp is firm and pink. Season with salt and pepper.

2. In a mixing bowl, add shrimp to your favorite salsa, ketchup and the fresh chopped Pico de Gallo. Dice two avocados and mix in. Serve in a martini glass on a bed of white rice. 

3. Mix together pico de gallo ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste.