Welcome to Health Shortcuts
20 Smart Health Shortcuts
1. Chew gum. Pop a stick in your mouth, and you'll feel your stress levels sink. A recent study showed that frequent gum chewers had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
2. Have a meeting on the move. Need to go over details from the last PTA meeting or even just catch up with a friend? Why not take a brisk walk while you talk?
3. Order your meds by mail. Forget the long lines at the pharmacy! "This is a great timesaver for medications (and contact lenses too), but make sure you still visit your doctor yearly so she can reassess what you're taking," says Paul Lyons, MD, professor of family and community medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Many online pharmacies and insurance companies also have programs in which you can get a discount when you order three months' worth of a medicine you take regularly.
4. Consider an electric toothbrush. If you're a less-than-perfect flosser (and that means not doing it once a day, every day), try an electric toothbrush. Many models have plaque-removing features and technology that can help get rid of bacteria between your teeth. "Some research does tend to indicate these brushes are nearly as effective as flossing," says Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, professor at NYU's College of Dentistry. Of course, the combo of brushing and flossing daily is ideal.
5. Do a 5-minute workout. You've probably heard that you can break up the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise into three 10-minute chunks. Experts say that six 5-minute workouts a day can also do the trick.
6. Lift weights while you watch TV. Use 3- to 5-pound hand weights or make your own by filling a plastic bag with cans, says Dr. Lyons. "Each can is around 12 or 13 ounces, so it's easy to increase or decrease the weight by a pound," he says.
7. Make doctor visits a family affair. If you choose a family physician as your primary health care provider, you can save time by scheduling everyone's doctor visits on the same day.
8. Stash a healthy-snack kit in your car or purse. The ultimate healthy-eating shortcut is having good-for-you food on hand when a craving strikes. Keep your car and/or handbag stocked with snacks like nuts, whole grain crackers, pretzels and low-fat granola. They'll help you drive right past that double cheeseburger!
9. Drink a smoothie. You can easily knock out two or three of those nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables in one smoothie. Try this favorite WD recipe that serves two: 1 pt (12 oz) strawberries, hulled and cut up; 1 ripe banana, cut up; 1/2 cup blueberries; 1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt; 1/3 cup 1% lowfat milk. In addition to three servings of fruit, it packs 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for just 153 calories per serving!
10. Do a mole check in the shower. You're already naked, so why not give your body the once-over once a month? What you're looking for: moles that are new, have changed (bigger, darker, different color), have irregular borders or are larger than a pencil eraser. Post-shower, make a pass by a full-length mirror so you can get a good look at your back. Then examine your scalp, checking for spots of unusual discoloration as well as new or changing moles, while you're styling your hair.
11. Carry your grocery bags to the car. This is a great way to work some weight training (which is crucial to keeping bones strong and staving off weight gain) into your weekly routine. And don't forget to park far away from the store entrance!
12. Sprinkle ground flaxseed on cereal or yogurt. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but if fish isn't your favorite, try some flaxseed in your cereal or yogurt. One tablespoon has 1,000 mg of omega-3s, which is more than half the amount in a 4-ounce piece of salmon.
13. Use moisturizer or foundation with SPF. Sunscreen is an absolute everyday essential to guard against skin cancer (not to mention wrinkles), regardless of climate, season or skin type, says Dr. Jackson. "There are so many products on the market.
14. Add edamame to your salad. Just one serving, or 1/2 cup, of shelled edamame contains 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and almost 10% of the daily recommended intake for two key antioxidants: vitamins A and C. What's more, it has a little more iron than a 4-ounce roasted chicken breast.
15. Wash your hands for 10 seconds instead of 30. Sudsing up for 10 to 15 seconds, as long as you do a thorough rubdown, gets rid of the majority of bacteria on your hands after most germy encounters, says Dr. Lyons.
16. Substitute quinoa for rice. A 1/2-cup serving of cooked quinoa has about 20 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of protein. In addition, it has all of the essential amino acids your body needs, which makes it one of the few plant sources that contains complete protein, points out Marissa Lippert, RD.
17. Nab a nap. Research shows that if getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep just isn't possible, grabbing some quick zzz's during the day can really help. One study found that occasional napping lowered a person's risk for coronary heart disease by 12%, but regular napping cut this risk by as much as 37%.
18. Squeeze in a quickie. Of deep breathing, that is. Thirty minutes of yoga or meditation isn't the only way to destress. Focused breathing works, too. Two or three minutes of simply sitting quietly and paying attention to breathing in and out is all you really need to clear your mind.
19. Add vegetables to foods you're already eating. Don't agonize over force-feeding your family (and yourself!) those green beans and broccoli. Just weave them into dishes everyone already likes. "A favorite in my house is to toss in frozen veggies when you're making pasta," says Dr. Lyons. Other tips: Ask for lettuce and tomato slices on your burger; add sliced fruit to your cereal in the morning.
20. Get your calcium and fiber together. Mixing just 6 ounces yogurt with 1/4 cup lowfat granola gives you 300 mg calcium and about 7 grams fiber, which is 30% of the calcium and 25% of the fiber you need daily.