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The Best Time of Day

continued...

A root canal: BETWEEN 1 AND 3 P.M. According to European studies, local anesthesia lasts three times longer when given in the early afternoon than when given in the morning or evening.

A flu shot: EARLY FALL. Flu season typically runs from October through March, so the best time to get the jab is September or October. (The vaccination takes two weeks to become effective.) The shot can help you skirt the flu's chills, fever, and general misery, and may also help prevent heart-attack deaths, which can be triggered by acute inflammation, according to a study in the European Heart Journal.

A full-body skin check: WINTER. This is when skin tends to be fairest, making it easier for your dermatologist to catch unusual moles or other changes that could indicate skin cancer. Alicia D. Zalka, M.D., an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale, advises taking note of any darkly pigmented, irregularly bordered, nonraised spots or patches, or nonhealing bumps resembling pimples that don't go away. "Any lesion that goes unhealed for more than three to five weeks may mean a skin cancer or precancerous spot," Zalka says, "so see your doctor."

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR CYCLE
Hormones fluctuate wildly over the course of the month, creating great — and not-so-great — opportunities for a variety of health moves. Day 1 of your menstrual cycle is the day your period starts, so schedule these actions accordingly:

Before your period - DAYS 23-28:
Stay out of pain. Avoid procedures like a root canal or a bikini wax: They'll hurt more now. "Endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine" — all natural feel-good chemicals — "typically plummet right before your period," says Rebecca Booth, M.D., author of The Venus Week. Reschedule them for ovulation time (days 13-15), when, according to a University of Michigan study, we produce the most endorphins to offset pain.

During your period - DAYS 1-3:
Get busy. It may not be the most convenient time, but orgasms — always great — are even greater during your period. That's because they cause a spike in serotonin, which is naturally running low just before and during the first three or so days of menstruation. Some women even enjoy a heightened libido just before their period, thanks to a drop in estrogen and a rise in testosterone.

After your period - DAYS 3-13:
Do a breast self-exam (BSE). A post-period rise in estrogen returns your swollen, tender breasts to their most supple state, making it the perfect time to check them for unusual lumps and bumps. Although experts don't insist on a monthly BSE anymore, when you do feel your breasts for changes, do it at this time of the month — differences will be more detectable.

After ovulation - DAYS 14-23:
Plan to quit smoking. Women who try to kick the habit now, after ovulation, may be less likely to succeed — possibly because they have worse withdrawal symptoms, according to a recent study from the Medical University of South Carolina. So set a quit date during the first half of your cycle (days 1-13), and use these next two weeks to get psyched and gather the support you need to stop smoking for good.

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