DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a veteran of submarine warfare. At 83, I work out at a gym three days a week and walk the golf course the other days. I am 5 feet 9 inches tall and weigh 153 pounds. I do 15 minutes of heart exercise on a stationary bike and six different abdominal exercises of 150 reps each. Why has my waist ballooned from 29 inches to 35? Is there any hope? — L.S.

ANSWER: L.S.’s letter appeared four months ago. I asked for reader help and got plenty of it. I’m incorporating that information into today’s answer. Thanks to all responding readers.

At older ages, people shrink because the spine compresses. That shrinkage causes waist bulging. There’s not a whole lot to do for spinal shrinkage, but attention to posture helps. When lying on the floor, you’ll notice your abdomen flattens. That’s because the inward curve of your back straightens. Maintaining a posture with little inward back curvature takes inches from the waist.

Abdominal exercises don’t remove fat from the abdomen. They do strengthen muscles that act as a girdle, holding abdominal organs in place and stopping the abdomen from ballooning. The crunch and the bicycle maneuver are two good exercises. Both are done lying on the floor, face up. For the crunch, bend the knees 90 degrees and keep the hands at the sides of the head. Lift only the head, shoulders and shoulder blades off the floor and hold the raised position for five seconds. Return to the starting position slowly and repeat 10 times, if possible. For the bicycle maneuver, clasp the hands behind the head. Raise the left knee to about a 30 degree angle and touch the right elbow to it. Then repeat with the right knee and left elbow. Try to do 10 repetitions. Don’t do either if it hurts.

As you progress, increase the number of repetitions and the number of times you do the exercises during the day.

There’s more information for you, L.S., and I’ll provide it at a later date.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: The problem I have is when I work out in the gym. After I stop and before I can jump in the shower, I break out with little “strawberries.” The strawberries don’t hurt, but they are very itchy. About 10 minutes after I take a shower, they are all gone.

I take Benadryl before I go to the gym, but it’s not doing much good. There is no history of shingles. I am in pretty good health. This has been going on for about seven years. Is there anything I can do or take, or should I just be happy that they go away? — F.C.

ANSWER: You provide a good description of a condition called cholinergic urticaria, a special kind of hives. They’re also called heat bumps. They occur when body temperature rises with exercise, but not when usually it rises on other occasions. The outbreak is mostly on the trunk and sometimes on the face, but it can occur anywhere. Shingles has nothing to do with it.

The rash lasts for 30 minutes to an hour and a half. A cold shower makes it go away more quickly.

Benadryl, an antihistamine, prevents this rash from happening for some people. Hydroxyzine and cetrizine (Zyrtec), two other antihistamines, might work better for you. See a doctor to confirm or refute my long-distance diagnosis.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Our grandchildren, 13 and 14, play in lacrosse tournaments. There are four half-hour games in one day, with half-hour rest periods after the first two games and an hour rest after the third.

Would it help them to bring sleeping bags and lie down during the rest periods, or should they stay active. — I.S.

ANSWER: Lying down in a sleeping bag might draw unwanted attention to your grandchildren.

They can reconstitute their energy supply by sitting, roaming around or just hanging out. If they want to take a snack during the rest period, that might help restore their fuel reserves. Peanut butter on crackers, dried fruit or a sports drink is fine.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.


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