For those of you who need a quick course on vaping: It's a hipster version of smoking tobacco. Retail vaporiums sell flavored vapor cartridges – with or without nicotine. Placed in high-tech gadgets with names like EGO and iTaste, the cartridges are battery-activated to produce a smokeless cloud when you inhale.
The vaping liquids are sometimes made with propylene glycol (other bases are used, but not all companies say what they are). While the Food and Drug Administration says propylene glycol generally is safe in personal-care products and plastics, animal research indicates that inhaling the chemical may affect fertility and the health of offspring. You also can tell your daughter that one study found five minutes of vaping lowers lung function as much as smoking a conventional cigarette.
In its favor, this cloud of vapor doesn't contain the 60 known carcinogens found in tobacco smoke, and it may be a way to kick tobacco (it works for some folks). But as a general rule, putting anything besides relatively clean air into your lungs can lead to a roster of complications, depending on what's inhaled. If your daughter wants to feel hip, suggest nonpermanent, vegetable-based hair color (try red! blue!); you can live with that, and so can she, right? And for stress relief, suggest joining an after-school athletic program or doing yoga together. She'll learn how important it is to inhale without extra chemicals in every breath – and appreciate how much you want to help.
Q: I'm 48 and just got a prescription for testosterone therapy because I'm tired all the time and am having trouble with my sex life. Now I hear it may be bad for my heart. Can I raise my testosterone levels without taking my low-t medication? – Steve G., Stonybrook, N.Y.
A: Although we don't know your medical history, there's a good chance you can elevate your total and free testosterone levels and improve your sex life without your prescription.
First, you may not have clinically significant low testosterone. More than 25 percent of low-t prescriptions handed out in the past few years were dispensed without a blood test, which is the only way to know for sure. (When you get a blood test, your free testosterone level is what's in your bloodstream and is the important number, but many labs report only total t.)
Even if you had a blood test, minor illnesses, lack of recent exercise, the time of day, stress or even your favorite team losing a game can cause a temporary drop in free testosterone.
So get another (or your first) blood test. If your free testosterone level is below 200 nanograms per deciliter, that qualifies as a deficiency. (Below 300? Repeat the test.)
Also, high blood pressure, elevated LDL cholesterol, diabetes or obesity can cause low-t levels. Improve those conditions by eliminating the Five Food Felons and eating nine servings of produce daily, plus increasing physical activity (aim for 10,000 steps a day). That will give every aspect of your life a boost, including your sex life.
Using do-it-yourself t-boosters also helps you dodge potential health risks from testosterone supplements. A new study shows low-t therapy doubles the risk of heart attack for men over 65 and almost triples the risk for those younger, if they have a history of heart disease.
So, to recap: The smart steps to increase your t level and improve your sex life include improving your diet and increasing physical activity, plus limiting alcoholic drinks to two a day, reducing stress using meditation, stopping smoking if you smoke and increasing cuddle time with your honey.