"Men's Health"

Your Questions-My Answers

"Men's Health Help"

Professor Ellis-4MEN Health staff

It's almost Christmas time and I've got some shopping to do for my wife and her friends, so let's get to it.

I came back from vacation with crabs and my girlfriend wonít talk to me. I didnít do anything (not for lack of trying), so how the hell did I get them?
Itís possible to get crabs (also known as pubic lice) by using infested sheets, towels, or clothing. If you sleep in a squalid hostel or loan your sweatshirt to a French backpacker, the little buggers can jump off louse-ridden fabric and straight onto your skin. In rare cases you can even catch them from a public toilet seat. The little white lice march to your groin and lay eggs at the base of your pubic hair. There they feast on your skin until their bodies turn rust-colored, swollen with your blood, and they make you itch so much that all you want to do is rub your genitals against the bark of a tree.

The good news is that itís easy to get rid of the annoying buggers. You donít even need to shave (a solution, sure, but itíll make the itching even worse). Douse yourself with an over-the-counter treatment such as Nix, RID, or A-200 Pyrinate. Then take a fine-tooth comb to your pubic hair and remove any leftover eggs. If all else fails, head to the doctor and get a prescription for Kwell or another medicated shampoo. Remember to vanquish every last crab by washing your clothes in hot water (125 degrees) or sealing them in a plastic bag for two weeks. "Even if you never scored, you may have gotten close enough to an infected person to catch pubic lice," says Dr. Craig Burkhart, a clinical professor at the Medical College of Ohio. "The way people dance these days, you could even have caught them that way."

I hate condoms, and my girlfriend canít be on the pill. She says I should get a vasectomy. Just how reversible are they?
Well, vasectomies can be almost as permanent as getting your testicles caught in a blender. It severs each vas deferens (the tube that carries sperm to the seminal glands) so that sperm are absorbed back into the body and never have the chance to fertilize an egg. Reconnecting the pipes is tricky business, costing five times as much as a vasectomy with no guarantee that youíll shoot anything but blanks. The testes can actually stop producing sperm after the operation-and scarring can sometimes bungle its reversal.

"In 70 to 90 percent of vasectomy reversals, there is sperm in the ejaculate," says Dr. Terry T. Turner, a professor of urology and cell biology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. "The questions are ĎHow much sperm?í and ĎIn what condition?í Sperm in the ejaculate is not necessarily a mark of true success, so the pregnancy rate after vasectomy reversal may be 50 percent or even lower." On the bright side, vasectomy does fulfill a pipe dream that youíve had ever since puberty: the chance to enjoy endless bouts of condom-free, worry-free sex. But if you do want to spawn rug rats some day, make sure to store a six-pack of semen at a sperm bank. Or just find a girlfriend who would never suggest taking a knife to your private parts.

Ahh, I see a question from a college student here...
Whatís really worse for you: drinking booze or smoking pot?Neither habit is necessarily "bad" for you-but really, it depends on how you want to die. A single case of alcohol poisoning can put you six feet under, and chronic alcoholism can cause brain damage, seizures, and cirrhosis of the liver. Smoking pot has never led to a known fatal overdose, but research indicates that carcinogens in marijuana are stronger than those in tobacco and that smoking pot regularly can double your risk of head and neck cancer.

According to the CDC, 16,000 people die from drug use each year, compared with 20,000 from alcohol abuse. And because toking accounts for a fraction of total drug use, herb may not be quite as bad as your seventh-grade health teacher claimed-at least not as bad as booze. "People pour into clubs for happy hour and consume copious amounts of liquor," fumes Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, "but if I were to go home and smoke this green leaf that has mild psychotropic effects, I would break statutory law."

The men in my family have high cholesterol, but my brother says it doesnít matter as long as you have the right kind. Whatís he talkiní íbout, Willis?
It's Ellis...not Willis. Your bro is talkiní íbout two different types of molecules carrying cholesterol in the blood: high-density (HDL) and low-density (LDL) lipoproteins. "The first is good cholesterol while the second is bad," says Dr. Richard Stein, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association and chief of cardiology at Brooklyn Hospital Center. "LDL increases your risk of heart attack, while HDL lowers it." Confused? Just remember: Feeling "high" is good. Cholesterol is essential to digestion, nerve function, and hormone production. But too much LDL (rich in cholesterol) can clog your arteries. A high level of HDL (mostly protein) does the opposite, flushing cholesterol out of the arteries to the liver.

Ask your doctor for a lipid profile. This blood test will track your total cholesterol (ideally below 200 mg/dl), HDL (preferably above 45), and LDL (best below 120). You can lower your LDL by getting less than a third of your calories from fat-and cutting saturated fat down to a third of your total fat intake. To boost your HDL, exercise regularly, quit smoking, and drink a glass of red wine every day. Keep both types in balance. If you have a high LDL, a high HDL wonít necessarily protect you. If you have a low HDL, a low LDL isnít sure to save you either. So clean up your lifestyle, and be nice to your brother for a change-he actually knows what heís talking about.

Class dismissed for the holidays.

Season's Greetings
Academically yours,
Professor Ellis
4MEN Staff

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