Surprising Ways to Stay Healthy

February 4th, 2013 | Comments Off on Surprising Ways to Stay Healthy | Posted in Lifestyle
Sneaky Health Threats

1-dog-licking-woman-lgnYou wear contacts daily, your iPad is practically glued to your lap and a little marmalade on your toast sounds like a sweet breakfast move, but these seemingly innocent everyday habits (to which you barely give a second thought) can affect your health in a big way. Luckily, little tweaks to these routines can keep you safe and well all year long. Here, 10 to try.

1. Use Your Contacts Properly

Popping ‘em in isn’t as foolproof as you think: 99% of contact wearers are making at least one mistake that could harm their eyesight, found a study in Optometry & Vision Science. One of the most common flubs? Showering with contacts. Water exposure can increase your risk of corneal infections, a rare condition that can lead to vision loss. To keep eyes in tip-top shape, don’t swim, shower or sleep in lenses (which dries out and irritates eyes) and prevent infections by replacing lenses according to the instructions, using fresh contact solution every time.

2. Reposition Your Tablet

Oh, your aching neck! Blame your iPad: Recent research published in IOS Press revealed that using a tablet causes muscle strain in the neck and shoulders, says study author Jack Dennerlein, PhD, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. The biggest no-no? Keeping your tablet on your lap, which forces you to gaze down for long periods of time, painfully pulling on neck muscles. To keep comfortable, change positions often, rest tablets on a table or counter and put tablets in a case that can stand up on its own, since holding devices puts pressure on hands and forearms.

3. Be Careful with Casseroles

Reports of glass baking dishes suddenly shattering after cooking are on the rise, according to an investigation by Consumer Reports. Some cookware, like Pyrex, may now be made from soda lime silicate, a glass more vulnerable to exploding from temperature swings (like going from oven to countertop) than the previously predominant glass borosilicate, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Since it’s tough to know exactly what your dish is made from, home cooks should follow the advice on the Pyrex warning label: Allow the oven to preheat fully before placing bakeware in it, add liquid to the dish before cooking and place hot glass bakeware on a dry cloth (not directly on top of the stove).

4. Consider New Pillowcases

Dust mites are one of the biggest triggers for allergy and asthma symptoms. One of their favorite hideaways: your bedding—especially pillows. For people prone to allergies, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends using special zip-up pillowcases. But these are often made with vinyl, which contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that may disrupt hormones and cause other problems, according to a 2012 study in Environmental Health Perspectives. So get allergy-blocking cases that are vinyl-free and made of natural fibers like cotton.

5. Don’t Mix Citrus with Some Meds

Grapefruit, limes, Seville oranges, pomelos (which are similar to grapefruits) and tangelos (a tangerine-grapefruit hybrid) contain a compound that impairs your body’s ability to break down some 43 drugs (up from 17 in 2008, according to a new study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal). So citrus plus statin cholesterol medications, the blood pressure medication nifedipine and the painkiller oxycodone may up your dose to three times what the doc prescribed. James Winger, MD, assistant professor in the department of family medicine at Loyola University Chicago, suggests asking your doctor or pharmacist if your medications carry this risk. And if so, “skip the fruit and juice—no amount is safe,” he says.

6. Pack an Emergency Snack

Long rides make pulling into a drive-thru all too easy. But rethink that fast-food order: Just one meal high in saturated fat can harm your heart. A study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found that eating a junk food dinner causes peoples’ arteries to dilate 24% less, impeding blood flow and raising blood pressure, than consuming a healthy one. So stock the glove compartment with nutritious, hunger-taming snacks, like Larabar or Kind bars, suggests registered dietitian Amari Cheffer. Or try her trail mix: Combine 4 cups nuts, 3 cups dried fruit, 2 cups cereal and 1 cup of chocolate chips; portion ¼-cup servings into snack bags.

7. Use Patches and Creams with Caution

If a product is available over-the-counter, it’s a no-brainer to use, right? Not exactly. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings about topical OTC products that treat muscle and joint pain, like Bengay and IcyHot. These contain ingredients, like menthol and methyl salicylate, that could cause first- to third-degree chemical burns. It’s rare, but “these warnings serve as a reminder that everything we put in or on our bodies has the potential to cause adverse reactions,” notes Dr. Winger. Always follow product directions, and if you do experience pain, swelling or blistering after using a muscle soother, stop using the product and call your doctor, advises the FDA.

8. Rethink Yoga Mat Storage

After that energizing yoga class wraps up, you probably roll up your mat to stash in a corner at home. Yet that’s a prime recipe for trapping bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast that can cause nasty skin infections, notes dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD. Instead, mark one side of your mat with an “x” and always face that side up. After every class, wipe down your mat with a disinfecting wipe. Fold in half to tote out of the studio (rolling transfers dirt from the floor to the mat side that comes in contact with your skin). Finally, store your mat open in a dry area. Dr. Fusco hangs hers over a deck railing to air it out.

9. Cut Your Rice Consumption

Brown rice is a healthy diet staple, and that’s why recent results from a Consumer Reports investigation of 200 rice products were so alarming: Nearly every sample contained measurable amounts of the carcinogenic chemical arsenic. “The FDA suggests that more studies are needed before recommending changing our eating habits, but it’s smart to take precautions until we know more,” says Cheffer. Eat brown rice, which has more arsenic than the white kind, a few times per week max. Substitute other nutrient- and fiber-rich grains like quinoa, barley and buckwheat. Cook rice with more water than needed, and then drain excess H20, which gets rid of some of the chemical.

10. Avoid Kisses from Canines

That old saying, “A dog’s mouth is cleaner than yours” is a myth. Just think about what yours licked yesterday! New research from Archives of Oral Biology discovered that oral bacteria can be transferred between humans and dogs—bad news since this bacteria is linked to gum disease. While the threat isn’t common, you don’t know exactly where Fido’s mouth has been, says Dr. Winger. So skip face kisses (let pups lick your hand instead) and then after petting or belly rubs, wash your hands.

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Valentine’s Day: Just the Facts

February 4th, 2013 | Comments Off on Valentine’s Day: Just the Facts | Posted in Lifestyle

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