Your Body: Quick Picks

Your Body: Quick Picks

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Take a Dip in Dark Chocolate

Studies show that dark chocolate appears to help lower blood pressure and boost blood flow to the heart and brain, and it might even improve how the body processes sugar, which in theory could thwart diabetes.

Reach for products with high cocoa content—ideally, 70 percent or more—understanding that the taste will become more bitter as these numbers go up. Still, to call chocolate a "health food" would be a stretch, says Jeffrey Blumberg, director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University. But "it's easier for people to maintain a healthy diet when they can include little indulgences, like dark chocolate. So skip the potato chips, and have chocolate." —Lindsay Lyon

Give the Gift Card of Good Health

Worrying about whether your loved ones are taking care of their health can be hazardous to your own. Now, thanks to the new healthcare gift card, you can breathe easier. The cards, available at GiveWell.com for $4.95, can be loaded with amounts from $25 to $5,000 and used for health and wellness expenses from merchants that accept Visa cards.

It's hard to know what people need—"A colonoscopy? You shouldn't have!"—and handing out greenbacks can seem impersonal. "Some people look down on a cash gift," says Kristin Ash, spokesperson for Pennsylvania-based insurer Highmark, which partnered with Visa to sponsor the card. "But with a gift card, they can buy their glasses or cover their prescriptions or go to a spa." And you can fret a little less. —Michelle Andrews

Get Yourself Tested For An STD

Attention: You or your partner may be harboring a sexually transmitted disease. Consider getting tested this year.

HIV/AIDS. Everyone ages 13 to 64 should be screened at least once, according to health experts.

Chlamydia. Women 25 and younger should be screened annually. Older women with risk factors—including a new sexual partner or multiple recent partners—and men who have sex with men should also be screened.

Human papillomavirus. The Pap and HPV DNA tests are the standard screening tools for women, who are often tested annually, depending on age and infection risk. There is no routine test for men.

Other screening recommendations are at CDC.gov/std. —January Payne

Dump Those Old Pills Safely

Wait—don't just toss that old bottle of pills in the toilet or trash. The government wants you to mix the medicine with used kitty litter or coffee grounds, seal it up, and then throw it away. Why? To keep others—including your children or your pets—from accidentally ingesting or intentionally abusing the substances.

Abuse of prescription painkillers now ranks second, behind marijuana, as the country's most prevalent illegal drug problem, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. About 6.4 million Americans say they use prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes. Read the drug disposal guidelines, including a list of medications that can be safely flushed down the toilet, at WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov. —January Payne