Q: Are there really any benefits to hitting the sauna after a workout? Am I sweating out a few extra calories or just relaxing?
Sean via instinctmagazine.com
A: There are definitely some added benefits to hitting the sauna after a workout. There are two main things a sauna will help you do: sweat and relax your muscles. The benefit of sweating is detoxification and the removal of impurities from your body. But the major benefit of sauna use is muscle relaxation. The heat from a sauna will dilate blood vessels, allowing blood to pass more easily throughout the body, and will in turn increase the flow of oxygen to muscles, reduce muscle swelling and aid in muscle recovery through the removal of lactic acid buildup. The heat can also temporarily help relieve joint pain. Weight loss is an exaggerated benefit of sauna use. While you will probably lose some extra weight from sweating, remember that it’s only temporary—the weight will come back as soon as you start drinking water again. As far as extra calorie burn (which leads to weight loss), that’s another exaggerated benefit. The calories you burn from your time in the sauna aren’t enough to make an impact for weight loss. If you want to lose weight, focus on burning calories through physical activity and cleaning up your eating habits. —MD
Q: I know this is going to make me sound crazy, but I’m look- ing for advice: Lately, I’ve been having some memory issues, like forgetting why I went into a room for something. With that, I’ve noticed I keep making simple but stupid mistakes, like misspelling words. Maybe I’ve watched too many doctor dra- mas, but could this be serious?
Karl via instinctmagazine.com
A: There are many reasons why someone might forget something. But know there is quite a difference between forgetting or misplacing something and not knowing the day of the week or month. There is also a difference between short-term memory loss versus long-term memory loss. Recent memory loss in older age groups can sometimes be attributed to Alzheimer’s disease. This might include trouble with vocabulary, but simply forgetting how to spell a word is not typical. For younger groups, the typical age-related changes would be miss- ing a monthly payment, sometimes forgetting which word to use and even losing something. But there could be other reasons for your recent memory lapses. Are you upset with anything in your life? Has there been a recent change in your mood or personality? There are other unconventional causes of memory changes, like acute or chronic metal intoxication. I would have your mercury level checked if you consume a lot of sushi or fish. Although fish is good for the diet, large amounts of tuna and swordfish should be avoided. To help with your memory, I would also encourage us- ing mercury-free fish oils. And there are many herbs and supplements to help with your memory and main- taining adequate brain function, so look around at your health store for different options. —PF
AN ARRAY OF OPTIONS
Q: The last time I went in to get tested, the woman at the clinic offered me a whole bunch of test op- tions: rapid tests, blood, antigen, oral swab. I was a little confused by all the options, so what is the best nowadays for an HIV test?
“Testing” via instinctmagazine.com
A: When it comes to getting tested for HIV, there isn’t really a “best” option. Some people prefer to have their blood drawn; others prefer one of the many rapid oral tests that are available. It’s really about your own comfort level. Rapid HIV testing has become increasingly popular because of the short time it takes to produce results (20-40 minutes) and also because of the convenience of being able to get tested in nontraditional medical settings. They’re also 99 percent accurate—rapid oral tests can detect results within three months of exposure to the HIV virus. The same applies to other rapid tests that collect blood samples through a simple prick of the finger. Still, if you test positive for HIV on one of these initial tests, a blood test is taken to confirm the results. If you suspect you may have been infected more recently, the state-of-the-art nucleic acid amplifica- tion test (or NAAT) can detect HIV as early as eight days after exposure. The NAAT test is unique because it looks for the presence of HIV in the blood, whereas other blood tests look for HIV antibodies. The NAAT test—the most advanced HIV test—can cost more than $100 at a doctor’s office, but may be available for free at your local community clinic. If you live in the Los Angeles area, it’s a test we offer at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. Regardless of which method you prefer, remember to keep yourself educated on the latest advances in HIV testing. And if you’re sexually active, be sure to get tested for HIV every three to four months! —RB