Spring is upon us—and with it, allergy season. If you check online for pollen count forecasts in your area, make sure you’re going to an accurate source. Some websites only use predicted pollen counts, Reuters reports.
Use the National Allergy Bureau’s Pollen & Mold Levels tool, which uses actual data from daily readings at counting stations nationwide, to enter your location and get a good sense of whether your day will be a sneeze-fest or not.
Another useful tool is the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s The Virtual Allergist—just click on your symptoms to find out what allergic conditions might be ailing you.
Do you have an emergency supplies kit?
Every time a disaster strikes, I get into emergency preparedness mode. I went on a kick and bought a bunch of supplies online a year ago. (The constant delivery of which prompted my UPS man to ask, “Are you some kind of crazy survivalist?”) I filled survival backpacks for my husband and I and stashed them, along with some other essentials like a lantern and water jugs, in the corner of our closet.
After the recent Japan earthquake/tsunami I pulled out our gear and took stock. Good thing, too, because three out of the five gallon-jugs of water are mysteriously empty even though they’re still sealed—I presume due to evaporation. Only three PowerBars survived my husband’s pilfering for workout snacks…and they’re expired. Luckily, one of our backpacks contains 12 water drink boxes with a 5-year shelf life and two big questionable-looking blocks labeled “Emergency Ration.” (Hmm, maybe I am a crazy survivalist.)
Regardless, I’m now taking FEMA’s advice to change food and water supplies every six months very seriously. I’m also using this handy checklist from ready.gov to see what else I’m missing. I like that “books, puzzles or other activities” is on it (we have playing cards). It also made me think of exercise gear, so I’m adding a pair of old running sneakers to my pile—less for exercise than, you know, any run-for-my-life scenarios that might pop up.
Any ideas for other exercise or sports gear that would be a good add to an emergency kit?
Downing a soda a day may bring the doctor your way, new evidence suggests.
Soda and other sweetened beverages like fruit drinks are associated with higher blood pressure levels in adults, a new study in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association finds.
In addition, those who consumed more than one soda/sugary drink on a daily basis took in nearly 400 more calories per day and had higher body mass indexes (BMIs) compared to those who drank less, according to the findings. “People who drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages appear to have less healthy diets,” explains Ian Brown, Ph.D., research associate at Imperial College London in an AHA press release about the study. “They are consuming empty calories without the nutritional benefits of real food. They consume less potassium, magnesium and calcium.”
Opting for diet soda may not be a healthier option. While the study didn’t find a high blood pressure link in diet soda drinkers, separate research presented earlier this month showed daily diet soda drinkers had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events (like stroke) than soda abstainers.
I woke up with a sore throat this a.m., so I’ve been sucking on zinc lozenges. Taking zinc within 24 hours of the first signs of a common cold really does help shorten its duration by about a day, according to a new Cochrane Review of studies on the topic. However, people taking zinc lozenges (as opposed to tablets or syrups) are more likely experience side effects like bad taste and nausea, the report notes, so I’m being careful not to go overboard!
(Psssst…Not into lozenges? Try these six foods that fight off colds and flu!)
The New York Times Well blog yesterday reminded me about Six-Word Memoirs on the website Smith Magazine. The idea: sum up your life in just six words. It’s hard to do but a lot of fun. And if boiling down your entire existence into a super short sentence is too daunting, you can focus it around a topic, like these great examples from the readers/contributors of Smith Magazine:
Love: “E-harmony rejects found love on Facebook.”
Resolutions: “Knit, guitar, gym and be kind.”
Food: “Full of pie, full of happy.”
When I went to a Six-Word Memoirs book launch a couple of years ago and had to write a memoir on my name tag, I came up with: “So far, so good. More TK.” (TK means “to come” in journalist-speak, which would be seven words. So, technically, I was cheating.) I’m working on a better one. Hey, that was six words!
Here’s a dirty secret from your resident health editor: for more than a decade, I didn’t go to a primary care doctor. I got yearly checkups from my ob/gyn and figured, since I was young and healthy, that was enough.
It’s a common practice among young women—but one that is putting our heart health at risk, I learned today at a Mayo Clinic-sponsored panel discussion of leading heart health experts.
Regular physicals are important, even if you feel fine, for detecting risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Heart disease is the number one killer of women and even young, fit women are at risk.
I finally got myself a primary care doc a couple of years ago. Now, before my next visit, I’m going to print out this list of questions to ask about heart health from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
Do you have a primary care doc on your health team?
Today is National Wear Red Day! To celebrate, we’re going shopping. Starting today and running through this weekend, you can save an extra 20%* off sale, clearance and select regular purchases at Macy’s simply by wearing red. Not your color? Buy a Red Dress Pin for $2 at a counter to receive the same discount. All proceeds benefit the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement. (You can also shop online with promo code: WEARRED)
Heart disease is the #1 killer of women and 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing the disease. Click here to assess your risk and get a personalized healthy-heart plan from the American Heart Association.
(*Or 10% off select departments. Some exclusions apply; ask for details in store.)
I watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Bravo, but I won’t be taking sex life advice from the ladies anytime soon. Camille Grammer talked on The View about how she and soon-to-be ex-husband Kelsey haven’t had sex for two years. Meanwhile, her cast-mate Lisa Vanderpump joked on the reality show’s recent reunion that she only has sex with her hubby Ken three times a year.
“Ideally you shouldn’t let your frequency fall below three times a week*,” says Eric Braverman, M.D., professor of integrative medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and author of Younger (Sexier) You in our February issue. The reason: having sex regularly is linked with heaps of health benefits. It busts stress and can even alleviate pain and boost immunity. (*Solo missions count.)
Busy lives intervene with getting busy, of course. But just like with your workouts, it’s good to have goals. And sometimes it helps to schedule it in!
Here’s a simple mind trick to help you reach your goal: shoot for round numbers. You’ll be more motivated and work harder when your performance is just shy of a round number, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science. Here’s what researchers found when looking at…
- SAT scores: Students retake the test more often when their scores are just below, rather than just above, a round number.
- Batting averages: Players change up their moves near the end of the season in order to finish just above, rather than just below, .300.
- Hypothetical situations: People say they’ll run one more lap around a track when they’re close to 20.
It’s good to know that my habit of jogging around the block a few times at the end of a run just so I’ll have a nice round mile number to put into my training log is just human nature.
How about you? Do you go the extra mile—or lap, or minute—when you’re thisclose to a round number in your workout?
What’s your current fitness, health, nutrition or life goal?
More from FITNESS: 7 Goals You Can Meet This Year
The last time I was sick, I quarantined myself in my cube and announced, “I have a cold!” to anyone who came within 10 feet of my desk (and anyone whose hand I would normally shake). Maybe it seems a tad rude, but I think it’s only good sick etiquette to curb my contagion. I’ve also been adhering to these CDC-endorsed germ stoppers:
- Wash your hands often, for as long as it takes you to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice—the scrubbing action helps eliminate pathogens.
- Or use alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer. I’ve been keeping a big bottle next to my keyboard and using it before I pass on folders, or anything else I touch, to my office mates.
- Do the vampire: cover your nose and mouth with your elbow, instead of your hand, when you cough or sneeze and don’t have a tissue at the ready.
- Stay home! It’s best not to come into the office in the first place if you’re sick, obvi. So clearly I haven’t followed this rule completely, but I will admit an afternoon on my couch watching a marathon of “Top Chef All-Stars” while in a cold medicine-induced haze did make me feel a little better—and saved my desk neighbors from listening to my incessant sniffling.
What’s your best sick etiquette tip—or pet peeve?
More from FITNESS: 31 Instant Health Boosters (aka How to Not Feel Sick in the First Place!)