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Good Health Magazine : PULSE : NO! NO! NOT THE DENTIST!

April 28, 1991|KATHLEEN DOHENY | Doheny writes the weekly Your Body column for The Times.

About 12 million Americans are dental phobics, too scared to sit in the dentist's chair for even routine care. These people should go in with a battle plan, says Dr. Carl Jepsen, co-founder of the Health Center of Medical, Dental and Psychological Services in San Diego. As cited recently in the California Dental Assn. Journal, Jepsen tells patients: Communicate your fear to the dentist. You're probably not his first fearful patient. For six hours before the appointment, avoid coffee, tea or other beverages that contain caffeine. You'll be less jittery. Decide in advance on a signal to let the dentist know you need a break during treatment. Patients who feel in control are less scared. Breathe normally. Sit in a relaxed position, with hands folded over your abdomen.

MICROWAVED AWAKENINGS

Those new microwaveable breakfasts with healthful-sounding names may seem a godsend--but don't push the start button yet. You may be better off skipping breakfast, says Jayne Hurley, a nutritionist with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The center evaluated more than 50 microwaveable breakfasts, but none merited a "Best Bite" recommendation. Problems? Too much fat and too much salt. Many of the meals get more than half their calories from fat; some get 75%. One microwaveable breakfast variety contains more salt than the recommended intake for an entire day. So forget your mom's childhood nagging. "The truth is," Hurley writes, " what you eat for breakfast is more important than if you eat breakfast. There is no solid evidence linking breakfast to better health or performance, at least not in adults."

WHEN SURGERY CAN WAIT

If possible, women should not schedule surgery during their menstrual cycle, says Dr. Trinsa Lindblad, a physician at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The risk of nausea and vomiting is reduced during the time between menstrual periods, she told colleagues at a recent meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. She bases the advice on her study of 85 women undergoing surgery. Half were menstruating; half were not. At the conclusion of surgery, nausea and vomiting occurred in 85% of menstruating women but in only 56% of nonmenstruating ones. Changing estrogen levels in the blood of menstruating women may be related to their higher rate of nausea and vomiting, Lindblad speculates.

PIZZA PENANCE

So you indulged and ate one measly slice of pizza, all 300 calories of it. How long could it take to work off? Longer than you might imagine, according to the Scripps Clinic Personal Health Letter. "A 150-pound person would have to jog for 15 minutes, walk for one hour or sit still for three and three-quarter hours."

PARK THE GUM

Patients about to undergo surgery that requires anesthesia should not chew gum for at least one hour before, Georgia researchers say. The gum chewing stimulates production of gastric juices and increases the volume of liquid in the patient's stomach, says Dr. Steven A. Dubin, assistant professor of anesthesiology at the Medical College of Georgia, who bases his advice on a study of patients, half of whom chewed gum before surgery and half of whom did not.

A BAD MIX

Breast-fed babies of smoking mothers ingest nearly 3,000 nanograms of nicotine with each ounce of milk, notes the Scripps Clinic Personal Health Letter. These infants are also at risk for elevated blood pressure.

ITCHY CASTS

Broken bones are traumatic enough, but itchy skin underneath a cast can be terribly annoying. Resist the urge to use a coat hanger or stick to scratch that itch, suggests a Health After 50 newsletter published by Johns Hopkins. Instead, use a hair dryer turned to a cool setting to blow talcum or baby powder onto the itchy skin.

WHAT'S IN A NAME? PLENTY

Prospective parents, take note. A child's name can affect self-image, popularity and, to some extent, success. One's appearance and one's name create a good or bad first impression, says Albert Mehrabian, a UCLA professor of psychology and author of "The Name Game: The Decision That Lasts a Lifetime" (National Press Books). "Many names are selected by whim, instinct or family tradition. Parents owe it to their children to select a name that will help, not handicap, them." In researching his book, Mehrabian gave respondents a name and asked them to imagine they were about to meet that "person." Among the findings: For females, Jacqueline and Katherine are associated with success and Prudence with morality. Stacy was rated the most cheerful and Beth the warmest, with Brooke the healthiest and Bunny the most feminine. For males, James and Madison implied success and Moses morality. Moses was rated tops for warmth, too, and Scott most cheerful. Chad sounded healthiest and Conan the most masculine.

OUT, DAMNED GERM!

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