The New Numbers to Live By

Heather Weston

3...the number of sushi rolls you can safely enjoy each week
Fish is a great source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but those who eat fish daily risk ingesting too much mercury.

The Food and Drug Administration recommends that women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant have no more than 12 ounces a week of lower-mercury fish like shrimp or salmon. Assuming a six-piece roll has 4 ounces of fish, thats about three rolls a week—the amount many of us eat in a meal. If its a higher-mercury fish like tuna, says Toby Smithson, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, “limit it to 6 ounces a week,” about a roll-and-a-half.

The risk of mercury poisoning is one of cumulative exposure, so eating lower-mercury fish and no more than three large rolls a week is a healthy way to go. Mercury aside, those at greater risk for foodborne illness (pregnant women, young kids, older adults, those with weak immune systems) should skip raw or partially cooked fish or shellfish entirely.

6...the max number of over-the-counter NSAID painkillers you can have in a day
Sixty million Americans regularly swallow OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. But up to 30 percent will experience gastrointestinal (GI) ulcers, and even more battle upper-GI symptoms like heartburn or upset stomach because these drugs can irritate the digestive tract.

Healthy women taking OTC meds for cramps or pain shouldnt take more than two tablets of ibuprofen three times a day, says Byron Cryer, MD, professor of gastroenterology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and a spokesman for the American Gastroenterological Association; if taking naproxen, no more than three in 24 hours. If your pain is extreme or doesnt improve in 10 days, talk to your doctor: hell want to rule out a more serious problem or perhaps give you the go-ahead to increase your dosage, Dr. Cryer says. (If youre on blood thinners, avoid them altogether. If youre pregnant, check with your doctor first.)

1...the number of hours a day max you should be “social” online
Networking on Facebook or Twittering can be fun and even help you with work. But spending more than an hour a day doing it, at the expense of things or feelings youre trying to avoid, could be a sign that your real life needs some attention, says Toni Galardi, PhD, author of The LifeQuake Phenomenon: How to Thrive (Not Just Survive) in Times of Personal and Global Upheaval.

While research on social networking is still scarce, the hour-a-day figure is widely accepted in addiction-treatment circles as the amount of time over which being online may start to negatively affect your offline relationships or work, Galardi says. Ask yourself, “Whats going on in my life that Im not feeling challenged or not wanting to deal with?” Looking up from the monitor may give you time to think about how to make some positive changes.

Next Page: 1...the number of dress sizes you can drop by gaining—yes, gaining!—3 to 4 pounds