mayo clinic - Tirumalesa
Health Tips
From reducing risk of stroke to preventing falls
Brain and Heart
1. Reducing your risk of stroke and heart attack . . . . . .
2. Exercising for a healthy heart . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3. Choosing a home blood pressure unit . . . . . . . . . .
4. Staying mentally sharp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Digestive and Urinary Tracts
5. Avoiding heartburn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
6. Preventing excess gas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
7. Preventing constipation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
8. Managing mild diarrhea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
9. Dealing with stress incontinence . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Bones and Joints
10. Preventing osteoporosis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
11. Treating back pain at home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
12. Living with arthritis: Assistive devices . . . . . . . . . 13
Skin and Hair
13. Spotting skin cancer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
14. Guarding against dry skin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
15. Controlling dandruff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Eyes and Ears
16. Ensuring proper lighting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
17. Protecting your eyes from the sun . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
18. Preventing noise-induced hearing loss . . . . . . . . . 18
19. Choosing the right hearing aids . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Nose, Throat and Mouth
20. Relieving seasonal allergies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
21. Soothing minor sore throat pain . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
22. Battling bad breath . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
23. Choosing toothpaste and mouthwash . . . . . . . . . 22
Legs and Feet
24. Controlling painful leg cramps . . . . . . . . . . . . .
25. Self-care tips for varicose veins . . . . . . . . . . . . .
26. Shopping for shoes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
27. Staying ahead of athlete’s foot . . . . . . . . . . . . .
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
28. Preventing and treating corns and calluses . . . . . . . 26
29. Warming up cold hands and feet . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Prevention of Common Illnesses
30. Do’s and don’ts for avoiding infections . . . . . . . . 27
31. Fending off the flu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
32. Avoiding food and drug interactions . . . . . . . . . . . 29
33. Asking the right questions about
your medications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Doctor-Patient Relationship
34. Getting the most from a visit to your doctor . . . . . . . 32
35. Following your doctor’s advice . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Food and Nutrition
36. Choosing disease-fighting foods . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
37. Using healthy cooking methods . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
38. Do’s and don’ts for losing weight . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Handling food safely . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
40. Keeping foods safe at picnics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Dietary Supplements
41. Getting your vitamins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
42. Making informed decisions about
herbal supplements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
Safety and First Aid
43. Preventing falls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
44. Avoiding yardwork mishaps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
45. Treating puncture wounds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
46. Do’s and don’ts for minor burns . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
47. Staying clear of lightning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
48. Handling a medical emergency . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Stress Management
49. Healthy ways to deal with stress . . . . . . . . . . . 45
50. Getting a good night’s sleep . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
Mayo Clinic
Reducing your risk of stroke and
heart attack
Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death, while stroke isn’t
far behind. Protect your heart and brain with these steps:
•Don’t smoke
One of the best ways to protect yourself against a stroke or heart
attack is by not smoking. The benefits of quitting show up after only
a few months.
•Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight increases your risk of high blood pressure, high
cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease and diabetes — risk factors
for a stroke and heart attack.
•Limit fats and cholesterol
Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Limit saturated fats and
avoid trans fats. Instead of butter, margarine and shortening, use
monounsaturated oils (olive, canola and peanut) and polyunsaturated oils (corn, safflower, sesame, sunflower and soy).
•Eat fish that have omega-3s
Eat fish that have omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and trout.
(See “Eat foods high in omega-3s,” page 34.)
•Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Produce contains nutrients such as potassium, folate and antioxidants
that may protect against stroke and heart attack. Eat at least three
servings of fruits and at least four servings of vegetables daily.
•Limit alcohol use
Small amounts of alcohol may have cardiovascular benefits, but too
much alcohol can raise blood pressure. Moderate drinking means no
more than one drink a day for women and anyone 65 or older and
no more than two drinks a day for men younger than 65.
•Reduce salt (sodium)
Limiting sodium in your diet and making other lifestyle changes can
help prevent high blood pressure. If you already have high blood
pressure, reducing sodium intake further may help lower it.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Exercising for a healthy heart
If you exercise regularly, you may lower your risk of a heart attack
and stroke. If you are middle-aged or older and haven’t been exercising
regularly or have a chronic health problem, work with your doctor
to develop an exercise program. To condition your heart safely:
•Start at a comfortable level of exertion
Try walking five to 10 minutes over a short distance indoors.
Increase your time by five minutes a session as you’re able.
•Schedule regular exercise
Aim for 30 to 60 minutes a day of low- to moderate-intensity physical
• Include variety
Combine three types of exercise — stretching (flexibility), endurance
(aerobic or cardio) and strengthening (weight training). Start each
session with a warm-up of lower intensity, and cool down gradually.
Mind-body exercises, such as yoga and tai chi, may provide even
greater benefits.
•Cross-train to reduce your risk of injury
Alternate among exercises that emphasize different parts of the
body, such as swimming, bicycling and walking.
•Don’t overdo it
Start slowly and build up gradually, allowing time between sessions
for your body to rest and recover. And forget the saying “No pain,
no gain.” A little muscle soreness when you do something new isn’t
unusual, but soreness doesn’t equal pain. If it hurts, stop doing it.
•Increase your physical activity
Even routine activities such as gardening, climbing stairs or washing
floors can burn calories and help improve your health. You’ll get
the most benefit from a structured exercise program, but any physical
movement helps. Walk or bike to the store instead of driving, park
farther away at the shopping mall or take the stairs instead of taking
an elevator.
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Choosing a home blood pressure unit
You can track your blood pressure by using a home monitor between
checkups. To choose the best monitor for you, ask your doctor for
advice and balance convenience with accuracy:
•Know your options
Manual blood pressure monitors use a stethoscope and an inflatable
arm cuff connected by a rubber tube to a gauge that records the
pressure. Digital monitors have a cuff that automatically inflates and
a gauge that records blood pressure. Manual monitors are usually
less expensive than digital monitors, but can be more difficult to
use. If your heart rhythm is usually irregular, a digital model may
give you an inaccurate reading. Wrist and finger monitors provide
less reliable readings.
•Get a good fit
Many monitors offer different-sized cuffs, so make sure to buy the
right size for your arm. A poor fit reduces accuracy. Measure
around your upper arm to choose the correct cuff size.
•Consider your abilities
Is the gauge or digital display large enough to read easily? Do you hear
well through a stethoscope? Can you easily pump the inflatable cuff
on a manual model?
•Choose a validated monitor
Look for a model that’s been validated, meaning its readings are accurate and repeatable.
•Learn how to use it properly
After you buy a blood pressure monitor, take it with you to your
doctor’s office. In addition to making sure the device works properly,
your doctor or nurse can help you learn how to use it.
•Check accuracy
Every six to 12 months, have your home monitor checked against a
standardized unit at your doctor’s office, fire department or public
health service.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Staying mentally sharp
Boost your memory and develop habits that can help counter agerelated memory loss:
•Make associations
For example, if you’re introduced to Fred who has red hair, link his
name to his hair color.
•Choose what to remember
If you meet several people at once, focus on remembering a few
key names.
•Recite, retrieve and review
Recite key information several times to learn it and retrieve it often.
Review information you’ll need, such as paging through your high
school yearbook before your reunion.
•Break it down
Break down new information into units. For example, to memorize a
long-distance phone number, break it down into the area code, the next
three digits and the four remaining numbers.
•Pay attention
Forgetfulness may indicate nothing more than having too much on
your mind. Slow down and pay full attention to the task at hand.
Limit distractions.
•Keep track of appointments, tasks and contacts
Use appointment books, calendars, to-do lists, address books or
computer software — whatever works for you.
•Develop routines
For example, put frequently used items such as keys in a designated
spot when not using them.
•Create rituals and cues for common tasks
Make sure your keys are in hand before locking your car doors, for
example. Place packages you need to mail near the front door so
that you won’t forget them.
•Include physical activity in your daily routine
Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, ­including
your brain. This may help keep memory sharp.
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Avoiding heartburn
Heartburn results from a backup of acid-containing stomach contents
into your esophagus. Here are tips for prevention:
•Eat smaller meals
Too much food expands your stomach and puts pressure on a band
of muscle (the lower esophageal sphincter) that helps keep food and
acid from backing up into your esophagus.
•Avoid alcohol, fatty foods, chocolate, spearmint and
These foods can relax your lower esophageal sphincter and promote
upward flow of stomach contents.
•Consider using an antacid or H-2 blocker
Antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Tums and others help neutralize
stomach acids temporarily. Over-the-counter H-2 blockers such as
famotidine (Pepcid AC), ranitidine (Zantac) and others reduce stomach acid production, which may relieve or prevent symptoms when
taken before a meal. But overuse of ­antacids or H-2-receptor blockers can cause side effects.
•Don’t eat before sleeping
Wait two to three hours after eating before lying down. This allows
enough time for the stomach to empty and increased stomach acid to
taper off.
•Stop smoking
The nicotine from cigarettes can relax your lower esophageal
sphincter, allowing acid to flow back into your esophagus.
•Lose excess weight
Slimming down if you’re overweight helps reduce the pressure your
abdomen puts on your stomach when you’re lying down.
•Wear loose clothes
A tight belt or waistband can put pressure on your stomach and
push acid into your esophagus, causing discomfort.
•Elevate the head of your bed
Raise the head of your bed four to six inches. This helps keep
stomach acid in your stomach, where it belongs.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Preventing excess gas
Too much gas typically is caused by the incompletely digested
foods fermenting in the intestine. To prevent excess gas:
•Limit gassy foods
The worst gas formers are beans and other legumes, wheat and
wheat bran, cabbage, onions, Brussels sprouts, sauerkraut, apricots,
bananas, and prunes. Milk and other dairy products also can cause
gas if you have reduced amounts of lactase, the enzyme needed to
digest lactose, the main sugar in milk.
•Consider taking anti-gas products
Beano, a food enzyme, helps improve the digestion of gas-forming
foods. Nonprescription medications such as simethicone (Gas-X,
Mylicon) or antacids that also have simethicone (such as the anti-gas
formulations of Maalox or Mylanta), may relieve gas.
•Eat fewer fatty foods
Fatty meats, fried foods, cream sauces and gravies tend to increase
gas and bloating. They also can contribute to unwanted weight gain.
•Limit sugar substitutes
Many healthy people don’t easily absorb sorbitol and mannitol
contained in some sugar-free foods, candies and gums. The amount
of sorbitol contained in five sticks of sugar-free gum can cause gas
and diarrhea in some people.
•Consider products for lactose intolerance, if needed
If you have trouble digesting milk sugar (lactose), consider buying
lactose-reduced or lactose-free products. Or choose products with
the lactase enzyme (Dairy Ease, Lactaid), which can help you
digest lactose.
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Preventing constipation
Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement fewer than
three times a week. To help prevent constipation:
•Don’t skip meals
Balanced, regularly scheduled meals promote regular bowel function.
•Eat high-fiber foods
Emphasize fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains at every meal.
Increase fiber even more by adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of wheat bran
to cereals, casseroles and baked goods.
•Drink plenty of fluids
Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of liquid daily in the form
of water, juice, milk, tea or soup.
•Increase your physical activity
Try to get 30 minutes or more of exercise, such as walking, biking
or swimming, on most days of the week.
•Answer the urge
When you feel the urge to go, don’t delay. Holding a bowel
movement can foster constipation.
•Be flexible about ‘normal regularity’
Don’t fret if you’re not a once-a-day person. Some people have
bowel movements several times daily, while others might have them
only three times a week.
•Ask your doctor about fiber supplements
If you’re having difficulty getting enough fiber in your diet, your
doctor may recommend a fiber supplement. Over-the-counter products
such as Citrucel and Metamucil promote regularity. But food is still
the best source of fiber.
•Don’t rely on stimulant laxatives
These include products such as bisacodyl (Dulcolax) and senna
(Senokot), which work by irritating the walls of your intestines.
Habitual use can make constipation worse. For occasional relief,
try osmotic agents, such as milk of magnesia or Miralax. Don’t use
laxatives regularly without consulting your doctor.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Managing mild diarrhea
Diarrhea ordinarily clears up on its own within one or two days.
For a mild case of ­diarrhea, here’s how to ease your discomfort:
•Drink certain liquids
Try broth, diluted fruit juices (except prune juice) and beverages
such as Gatorade that contain electrolytes. Drinks that have electrolytes help replace the fluids and body chemicals lost during diarrhea.
•Drink enough liquids
Drink enough liquids so that you urinate about every four hours.
If you have diarrhea and your urine is dark, you may be getting
­dehydrated. This is a clue to drink more fluids.
•Eat low-fiber foods (only when you have diarrhea)
As your symptoms improve or your stools become formed, start to
eat low-fiber foods, such as soda crackers, toast, white bread, eggs,
rice or chicken. Avoid greasy or fatty foods, milk, and highly
­seasoned foods for a few days.
•Avoid anti-diarrheal medications
Short-term diarrhea doesn’t require antibiotics. Over-the-counter
anti-diarrheal products may actually prolong your diarrhea. Situations
vary, though, so ask your doctor about your specific case.
Dealing with stress incontinence
Sudden, strong pressure (stress) on your bladder from exercising,
coughing, sneezing or heavy lifting can cause incontinence. This
“leaky bladder,” called stress incontinence, is common among
women. Treatment varies, depending on severity. Talk with your
doctor about options, such as:
•Kegel exercises
To do these, imagine that you’re trying to stop your flow of urine.
Squeeze the muscles you’d use and hold for a count of three. Relax
for three counts. Repeat. Do these several times a day. With a simple
physical exam, your doctor can help you identify these muscles and
learn to do Kegels. Most women will benefit, and the results can be
long lasting. If you do Kegels routinely, you’ll likely see improvement within two months. If you don’t, talk with your doctor.
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•Stock up on supplies
Incontinence pads or protective undergarments are not bulkier than
normal underwear and can be worn under everyday clothing.
• Other procedures
Ask your doctor about other options, such as medications, biofeedback, devices and minimally invasive surgical procedures.
Preventing osteoporosis
Proper nutrition and regular physical activity can help prevent this
bone-thinning disease. Following these suggestions:
•Eat calcium-rich foods
Products such as yogurt, cheese, dairy milk and milk substitutes —
such as soy, almond and coconut milk — are rich sources of
calcium. Fat-free and low-fat products, calcium-fortified orange
juice and cereals, fish with edible bones, and certain vegetables (such
as rhubarb, soybeans and spinach) are good sources. Healthy adults
ages 19 to 50 need at least 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day
from all sources. Older adults need 1,200 mg a day.
•Consider a calcium supplement
Calcium citrate is more easily absorbed than calcium carbonate,
but requires more pills to reach the recommended amount. Calcium
carbonate is the least expensive and most commonly used calcium
supplement, and it’s absorbed best when taken with meals.
•Get enough vitamin D
If you’re not taking a multivitamin, consider a calcium supplement
that also has vitamin D, and milk that’s fortified with vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for enhancing the amount of calcium that
ultimately reaches your bones. In addition, the body can produce
vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Ten to 15 minutes of exposure
two to three times a week helps.
•Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity and exercise help slow bone loss and
improve balance, coordination and muscle strength.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
•Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol
Smoking increases the rate of bone loss. Regularly drinking more
than moderate levels of alcohol can hasten bone loss and reduce
your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Treating back pain at home
Back pain usually resolves within two to three weeks with these
simple self-care measures. But contact your doctor immediately if
your back pain resulted from a fall or blow to your back, or if it
causes weakness or numbness in one or both legs, or new bladder
or bowel problems.
•Apply heat
Try using a heating pad (on the low setting), heat wrap, heat pack
or warm compress for 20 minutes. To avoid burns, don’t fall asleep
while using a heat source. Consider setting a timer to turn off the
heat source or to wake you up if you do happen to fall asleep.
•Use over-the-counter medications if needed
Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help control pain.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil,
Motrin IB, others), also can reduce inflammation. Read labels and
use the recommended doses unless your doctor advises otherwise.
Check with your doctor if you’re taking other medications.
•Combine rest with gentle movement
Get plenty of rest, but avoid prolonged bed rest. Staying in bed more
than a day or two may slow your recovery. Moderate movement
keeps your muscles strong and flexible. Avoid heavy lifting, pushing
or pulling.
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Living with arthritis: Assistive devices
If you have arthritis, assistive devices may allow you to carry out
daily tasks more independently. Consider these options:
•Hand aids
Look for aids that provide a wide-diameter grip, such as a foam or
plastic sleeve that slides over a pen.
•Grooming and personal hygiene
If you have limited range of motion, use long-handled brushes and
combs. Consider bathing aids such as long-handled sponges and
brushes, bath benches, and grab bars. Use an electric toothbrush or
one with a foam handle. Use mirrors with foam rubber handles for
an easier grasp.
•Getting dressed
Buy a shoehorn with an extension handle and use a stocking aid
to help pull on hosiery. Look for tools that grip buttons and zippers.
Sew fabric fasteners such as elasticized Velcro tabs onto shirt cuffs.
Select wraparound skirts or stretch trousers if limited range of
motion makes dressing a challenge. Try clip-on neckties.
•In the kitchen
Put everything that you use often within easy reach. Store frequently
used cookware and utensils in cabinets at hip-to-shoulder height.
Consider a single-lever faucet so it’s less taxing on your finger
joints. Use an electric can opener and electric knife.
•Cleaning your home
Use a long-handled mop, dustpan and broom. Keep cleaning supplies
on each floor and store supplies within easy reach. Avoid unnecessary
bending or stooping.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Spotting skin cancer
Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of the three types of
skin cancer. Even melanoma, the deadliest form, can usually be
successfully treated if caught early. And remember, no matter what
your age, minimizing your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light will
help reduce your risk of skin cancer and premature aging.
Although melanoma can occur in any area of your skin, it often
develops in a mole or other dark spot. Examine your moles and look
for these ABCDEs identified by the American Academy of
Asymmetry. One half of the mole doesn’t match the other half.
B order irregularity. The edges are often ragged, notched, blurred
or irregular, and the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
C olor. The mole may have shades of black, brown and tan, or
areas of white, gray, red, pink or blue.
Diameter. Melanomas are typically larger than a pencil eraser,
although early melanomas may be smaller.
Evolving. Look for changes in the size, shape, appearance or
color of a mole over a few weeks or months. Changes may include
scaliness, oozing, bleeding, itchiness, tenderness, pain, the appearance of a bump or the spread of pigment from the border into the
surrounding skin.
•Basal cell carcinoma
This may appear as a small, raised, smooth, shiny or pearly bump
that’s whitish to pink in color. Over time, it may scab, crust or turn
into an open sore and bleed. Basal cell carcinoma grows slowly and
rarely invades internal organs, but it can spread to nearby tissues if
left untreated.
•Squamous cell carcinoma
Most often this type of skin cancer appears as a raised, scaly, crusty
or wart-like bump, ranging in size from a pea to a chestnut.
Squamous cell carcinoma can spread internally if left untreated.
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Guarding against dry skin
With age, oil glands become less active. Your skin is less able to
replenish the oils and fluids removed by soap and water. To guard
against the drying effects of bathing, try these tips:
•Limit baths and showers
Bathing once a day or every other day is sufficient for most people.
•Limit time and temperature
Use warm (not hot) water for five to 10 minutes.
•Select soaps carefully
Choose superfatted, nonsudsing soaps that clean without removing
natural oil. This includes brands such as Basis, Purpose and others.
Soap substitutes in bar, gel and liquid forms are less drying than are
deodorant and antibacterial soaps.
•Limit use of soap
Limit the use of soap to your face, underarms, genital areas, hands
and feet. Using clear water on the other areas of your body cleans
adequately most of the time.
•Pat dry, don’t rub
When toweling dry, pat your skin gently. Or brush your skin rapidly
with the palms of your hands.
•Seal in moisture
While still damp, lubricate your skin with an oil or cream, especially
on your legs, arms, back and sides. A heavy moisturizer (water-inoil formula) is longer lasting than a light cream that contains more
water than oil.
Controlling dandruff
•Shampoo regularly
Start with a mild, nonmedicated shampoo. Gently massage your
scalp to loosen flakes. Rinse thoroughly.
•Use medicated shampoo for stubborn cases
Look for those containing pyrithione zinc, salicylic acid, coal tar,
selenium sulfide or ketoconazole. Brands include Denorex, Head &
Shoulders, Neutrogena T/Gel, Selsun Blue or Nizoral. For best
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
results, use dandruff shampoo as directed. A prescription shampoo
such as ciclopirox (Loprox, Penlac) also may help.
•Use tar-based shampoos carefully
These shampoos work well, but they can leave a brownish stain
on light-colored or gray hair. They can also make your scalp more
sensitive to the sun. Check the label for ingredients.
•Treat your hair gently
Dandruff shampoos can be harsh on your hair and scalp. Use a
conditioner regularly. For mild cases of dandruff, alternate dandruff
shampoo with your regular shampoo.
•See a dermatologist
If dandruff persists or if your scalp becomes irritated or extremely
itchy, you may need a prescription shampoo.
Ensuring proper lighting
Increase overall lighting in your home to compensate for your need
for more light as you get older. Make sure rooms have uniform
lighting from several sources.
•Position lights appropriately
Concentrate light on close work by using adjustable gooseneck
lamps and lights underneath kitchen cabinets. The finer your task,
the more light you need. Position lights for reading to shine from
over your shoulder. Use lampshades that completely shield the bulb
so that light is directed up and down, not into your eyes.
•Turn down glare
Replace glaring ceiling fixtures with wall or floor lamps that direct
light upward. Choose matte surfaces instead of shiny tabletops and
highly polished floors that reflect light into your eyes. Select a nonglossy, off-white paint for walls. This type of surface maximizes
light in a room without creating glare.
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•Use natural light wisely
Design skylights with light wells that provide reflected light, not
direct sunlight. On windows, install blinds that allow you to direct
light upward to reflect off the ceiling. This offers uniform illumination and minimizes glare.
Protecting your eyes from the sun
Sunglasses protect your eyes from damage from ultraviolet (UV)
light. Long-term exposure to UV light increases your chance of
cataracts. Choose sunglasses that:
•Provide maximum protection from UV light
Choose lenses that block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet A (UVA)
and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Check the label.
•Reduce glare
Choose sunglasses that are dark enough to reduce glare — light
that bounces off smooth surfaces such as pavement, water, sand
and snow — but not so dark that it’s hard to read traffic signals.
Polarized lenses decrease glare, but make sure they also provide
maximum UV light protection.
•Fit close to your face
To minimize UV light that can enter from the sides, buy wraparound sunglasses.
•Meet your needs
Sunglasses that effectively block UV light don’t need to be
­expensive. If you wear glasses for vision problems, ask your eye
doctor about transition lenses that darken automatically when you’re
out in the sun. However, it takes time for the lenses to darken and
lighten in different lighting conditions, so make sure these types of
lenses meet your needs.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Preventing noise-induced hearing loss
Repeated exposure to loud noise — or even a one-time exposure ­—
can damage the delicate, sound-sensitive hair cells in your inner ear.
This type of hearing loss is irreversible but preventable. To protect
your hearing:
•Lower the volume on your TV and stereo
Choose personal stereos with an automatic volume limiter.
•Turn down the volume on headphones
By directing sound into your ear, headphones can produce levels
loud enough to damage your hearing. Hold your headset an arm’s
length away. If you can hear the sound, the volume is probably
too high.
•Muffle the sound
Noise can be damaging if you have to raise your voice to be heard
by someone an arm’s length away. Wear earplugs or earmuffs when
you’re around noisy tools, equipment or firearms. Use commercially
made devices that meet federal standards. Make sure the protectors
fit snugly. Don’t use cotton earplugs. They’re ineffective and can
become lodged in your ear canal.
•Have your hearing tested
If you’re frequently around loud noise, have your hearing checked
annually. A hearing test can detect mild hearing loss before the
damage is obvious or disabling.
Choosing the right hearing aids
You can greatly increase your satisfaction with a hearing aid by
following these suggestions:
•Learn about the choices
Hearing aids come in many styles and sizes — from small ones that
fit completely in the ear canal to larger ones that fit in or behind the
ear. The components can be analog or digital. Discuss all options
with your audiologist or otolaryngologist.
•List your priorities
When people buy hearing aids, they typically face a trade-off among
three factors — cost, performance and size. If you rank those factors,
it’ll help you make a selection.
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•Find out what meets your needs
Make sure you understand why a specific type of hearing aid is
recommended and how it will meet your needs. Don’t assume the
latest, most expensive model is best. Practice putting the battery in
and taking it out until you can do it easily.
•Buy on a trial basis
A hearing aid should come with a 30- to 60-day trial period and a
warranty. Get the terms of the trial period in writing. Also ask how
long the warranty lasts — preferably one or two years — what is
and isn’t covered, what the return policy is, and what amount will
be refunded if you return the hearing aid.
Relieving seasonal allergies
Follow these tips if you have hay fever or seasonal or year-round
nasal allergies (allergic rhinitis):
•Identify your personal allergy season
If you have hay fever and live in the Midwest, for example, fall is
a common allergy season, due to ragweed.
•Reduce your exposure
If you have allergies during the summer, try to spend more time in
air-conditioned places. Consider a high-efficiency particulate air
(HEPA) filter for your home heating and cooling system.
•Rinse your nose with a saltwater solution
Rinsing with a saltwater (saline) solution can remove irritants and
allergy-causing particles from your nose. Saline nasal irrigation kits
and devices, such as bulb syringes and neti pots, are available overthe-counter. Buy or make your own sterile saline solution.
•Ask about medications
Prescription steroid nasal sprays are among the most effective treatments. Antihistamines, available by prescription and over-the-counter,
often provide symptom relief. Oral decongestants or anti-allergy nasal
sprays may help. Avoid decongestant nasal sprays because they can
worsen nasal congestion. Ask your doctor for advice.
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•Pinpoint the offender
If medications aren’t effective, a skin or blood test may help identify
the substance you’re allergic to (allergen). Tiny amounts of suspected
allergens are introduced into the skin by multiple pricks, scratches
or injections. Be sure a doctor who specializes in allergic diseases
does the test.
•Consider allergy shots
If you have severe, recurrent allergies, or if allergy medications
aren’t working, allergy shots may help desensitize your system.
Soothing minor sore throat pain
To help relieve a sore throat, try the tips below. However, see your
doctor if you’re exposed to strep or have any of these signs or
symptoms: fever, nausea, vomiting, swollen neck glands, difficulty
breathing or swallowing, tonsils with pus, sores in your mouth, or
severe pain that doesn’t improve in a few days.
•Drink lots of liquids
Staying well hydrated helps keep mucus thin and easy to clear.
•Gargle with warm salt water
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water to soothe and
help clear your throat of mucus.
•Suck on lozenges or hard candy, or chew sugar-free gum
These products stimulate secretion of saliva, which bathes and
cleanses your throat.
•Consider taking pain relievers
Over-the-counter analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol,
others), or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), may temporarily
help relieve sore throat pain. An oral anesthetic and analgesic
combination such as Chloraseptic may also be helpful.
•Rest your voice
If your sore throat involves an inflamed larynx, talking a lot may
lead to more irritation and temporary loss of your voice.
•Humidify the air
Adding moisture to the air prevents drying of mucous membranes.
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•Avoid air pollutants
Don’t smoke. Avoid smoke-filled rooms and fumes from household
cleaners or paint.
Battling bad breath
Occasional bad breath is usually due to bacteria, certain foods or a
dry mouth. When bad breath doesn’t respond to self-care, ask your
dentist to check for gum disease or poor-fitting dental work, or see
your doctor for a possible medical cause. To fight bad breath:
•Brush and floss after you eat
Good dental hygiene is the best way to prevent odor.
•Brush your tongue
Giving your tongue, including the back of your tongue, a good
brushing removes dead cells, bacteria and food debris. You can use
a toothbrush or tongue scraper.
•Chew sugar-free gum
The action stimulates the low of saliva to prevent dry mouth and to
wash away food particles and bacteria.
•Rinse your mouth with water
Periodically swish your mouth with water to help keep it clean.
•Don’t use tobacco products
Smoking and tobacco use cause an unpleasant mouth odor and
­irritate gum tissue.
•Cut down on odor-causing foods and beverages
The most likely offenders are garlic, onions, fish, milk, eggs,
legumes, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, coffee and alcohol.
•Carry mouthwash or breath mints
Mouthwashes generally don’t fight bacteria, but they disguise bad
breath. The strong oils in peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen
also cover up odor.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Choosing toothpaste and mouthwash
Fluoride provides the best defense against tooth decay. Other claims
you may find in toothpaste and mouth-rinsing products include:
•Plaque control
Some products claim to remove plaque or kill bacteria that can cause
plaque. But all toothpastes remove some plaque if you brush and
floss well.
•Tartar control
Anti-tartar pastes can help prevent a buildup of tartar, but no
toothpaste can remove tartar — that takes a professional cleaning.
In addition, an anti-tartar paste may increase your teeth’s sensitivity
to cold.
•Desensitizing pastes
These products contain chemicals that block pain perception in your
teeth. Sensitive teeth may be a sign, however, of a problem that
needs treatment, not cover up.
•Baking soda pastes
Baking soda is a mild abrasive and stain remover, but when wet it
loses some of its stain-removing power.
•Mouthwashes and rinses
Using a mouthwash or rinse can complement dental care by protecting surfaces you may have missed when brushing and flossing.
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Controlling painful leg cramps
Several factors, including dehydration, use of diuretic medications
or overuse of your muscles, can trigger leg cramps. They usually
occur at night. Your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant if you
have frequent leg cramps.
To prevent leg cramps:
•Stretch daily
At least three times a day, including before bedtime, stretch your
calves and feet. Stand two to three feet from a wall, place your
hands on the wall. Keep your heels on the floor. Lean toward the
wall and bend one knee. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Straighten your
leg. Repeat with the other knee. Stretch each leg at least three times.
•Drink plenty of liquids daily
Water and other fluids help your muscles contract and relax.
To relieve leg cramps:
•Stretch and massage
Straighten your leg and point your toes upward while you gently rub
the cramp to help the muscle relax.
•Stand up
For a calf cramp, put your weight on the cramped leg and slightly
bend your knee. For a thigh cramp, keep both legs straight and lean
forward at the waist. Use a chair to steady yourself.
•Apply cold or heat
Use ice or a cold pack if you have pain and tenderness. Use a warm
towel or heating pad to relax tense muscles.
Self-care tips for varicose veins
If you have varicose veins, try these tips to improve circulation:
•Wear compression stockings
These stockings are sold at most pharmacies and medical supply
stores. Using a tape measure, you or your pharmacist can measure
your legs to ensure you get the right size and fit according to the
size chart on the package.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Walking is a great way to get the blood circulating in your legs.
Ask your doctor about an appropriate activity level for you.
•Elevate your legs
When sitting or lying down, elevate your legs above the level of
your heart. Do this 10 to 15 minutes three or four times daily.
•Don’t sit or stand for long periods
Change your position frequently. During long car trips, stop to take
a brief walk every couple of hours. On flights, walk through the
cabin about once every hour. Don’t sit with your legs crossed.
Remember to wear your compression stockings when traveling.
•Watch what you wear
Tight clothes can restrict circulation. Avoid high heels.
•Control your weight
Being overweight puts extra pressure on your veins.
Shopping for shoes
For healthier and more comfortable feet, try these tips:
•Don’t buy shoes with pointed toes or high heels
Pointed shoes cramp your toes and can lead to foot problems such
as ingrown nails, calluses, corns or bunions. High heels can cause
back problems by forcing you to lean back to compensate for the
forward tilt of your heel.
•Leave ample room for your toes
Laced shoes generally offer more room and adjustable support.
Athletic shoes are ideal. Other good selections are strapped sandals,
and for women, soft, roomy pumps with cushioned insoles.
•Select shoes that don’t trap sweat
Shoes that don’t allow feet to breathe promote perspiration, which
can irritate your skin.
•Shop for shoes in the afternoon
Feet swell as the day goes on. If you buy shoes in the morning, they
may feel too tight later on. Getting fitted at the end of the day may
give you a fit that’s too roomy in the morning.
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•Have your feet measured
Shoe size can change as you age or put on weight. Your arches tend
to relax with age, and you may need larger, wider shoes.
• Choose shoes that are comfortable right away
Don’t buy shoes that feel too tight or that you need to “break in.”
They should fit well and feel comfortable when you try them on.
Staying ahead of athlete’s foot
The fungus that causes this itchy rash thrives in the warm, dark, wet
environment between your toes. The key is keeping your feet dry.
•Select well-ventilated shoes
Wear sandals, leather shoes or athletic styles that allow feet to breathe.
•Alternate shoes
Don’t wear the same pair every day. Change wet shoes immediately.
Don’t store out-of-season styles in plastic.
•Protect your feet in high-risk areas
Wear waterproof sandals or shoes around public pools, showers and
locker rooms.
•Wear acrylic socks
When wearing closed-toe shoes, wear socks made of synthetic
fibers, such as acrylic or polypropylene, that wick away moisture.
Cotton socks tend to absorb moisture from your feet.
•Change damp socks
If your feet sweat, change your socks twice a day.
•Use antifungal products
For recurring infections, use an antifungal medication such as
clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF, Mycelex), terbinafine (Lamisil AT) or
miconazole (Micatin, Zeasorb). If an infection lasts longer than
four weeks, see your doctor.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Preventing and treating corns
and calluses
Try these tips to keep skin from developing thick, hardened layers:
•Wear comfortable shoes
Wear shoes that don’t cramp your toes. Consider soft, leather shoes
or open-toe sandals. Soft insoles cushion your feet.
•Adjust your walking style
Walking on the sides of your feet can produce calluses and corns. If
you tend to wear down one side of the heels of your shoes, you may
be shifting your weight unevenly as you walk. Ask your primary
care doctor or a foot doctor (podiatrist) if a shoe insert (orthotic
device) could help distribute your weight more evenly.
•Safeguard your skin
Pharmacies and medical supply stores sell a variety of products such
as tufts of lamb’s wool, nonmedicated corn pads and toe coverings
to protect your skin.
•Try home treatment
Gently rub thickened skin with a towel or pumice stone after bathing.
Don’t try to remove all of the toughened skin at once — this process
may take a week or longer. Don’t trim a corn or callus, especially
if you have diabetes or circulation problems — you might introduce
an infection. If you have diabetes or circulation problems, avoid
over-the-counter foot care products that contain salicylic acid.
•Get professional help
If a corn or callus becomes an open sore (ulcerated), see your
­doctor. Don’t delay, especially if you have diabetes or circulation
problems — a simple problem can quickly turn into a serious one.
Warming up cold hands and feet
If your hands and feet always seem to be cold, try these simple
­measures to keep warm:
•Wear warm clothes
This keeps your whole body warm and helps maintain circulation to
your hands and feet. Layer clothing for indoor as well as outdoor
wear. Try wearing a long-sleeve, silk camisole or shirt under a
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blouse or sweater, topped by a wool jacket for indoor dress. Use
warmth-conserving fabrics such as silk, wool or down, or synthetic
fabrics such as polypropylene.
During activity, small, surface blood vessels dilate so that more warm
blood flows to your hands and feet. The effect can last several hours.
•Avoid all forms of nicotine
Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor ­— a substance that narrows blood
vessels and reduces blood flow to small, surface vessels.
•Avoid certain medications
Certain migraine medications with ergot derivatives and beta blockers
such as propranolol act as vasoconstrictors and may cause cold
hands and feet. If you suspect that a medication might be causing
your symptoms, talk with your doctor, but don’t make changes to
your medication regimen without your doctor’s advice.
•Reduce stress
Chronic stress and anxiety can cause your nervous system to pump out
adrenaline. This hormone also acts as a vasoconstrictor.
Do’s and don’ts for avoiding infections
Follow these tips to help lower your risk of infections:
•Do wash your hands
Wash your hands with soap and water before handling food, after
using the bathroom and after handling pets. Wash your hands
often when you have a cold.
•Don’t share eating or drinking utensils
That’s a good way to spread infections.
•Do cook certain foods thoroughly — especially hamburger
— to kill bacteria
Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat or poultry, raw seafood, or raw
eggs. Don’t drink or cook with unpasteurized milk.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
•Don’t drink water that’s likely contaminated
This includes, for example, water from streams or lakes near
­campsites or hiking trails.
•Don’t put your fingers in your mouth or eyes
Doing so transmits germs.
•Do avoid contact with ticks, rodents and reptiles
Stay away from turtles, snakes, lizards, ticks, mice and other
potential disease carriers.
•Do keep up to date with vaccinations
They can protect you from life-threatening infectious diseases.
•Do recognize signs of generalized infections
Signs and symptoms of an infection include fever, sweats and chills.
For skin infections, look for redness and warmth.
•Don’t delay contacting your doctor if you’re sick
Many serious infections are treatable in the early stages.
•Don’t expect an antibiotic each time you’re sick
Antibiotics don’t help with many common infections, and overuse
encourages the growth of drug-resistant microorganisms.
Fending off the flu
To help prevent any illness, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep,
exercise regularly and wash your hands often. A vaccination is
­recommended to reduce the risk of flu (influenza). Flu vaccine is
available as a shot or nasal spray.
•Who needs a flu shot?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual
flu shots for everyone older than 6 months. If the vaccine supply is
limited, the priority typically goes to people at high risk of complications from the flu, including:
• Children age 6 months until their 5th birthday
• Children 5 years of age or older and adults with a chronic
condition (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease), or those
with a suppressed immune system
• Pregnant women
• Adults age 50 and older
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Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
Those who are extremely obese
Health care workers
Those at high risk of complications from the flu, including
caregivers and household contacts of anyone at high risk
•Who should avoid flu vaccination?
Flu shots are safe for almost everyone. However, if you have had a
serious reaction to a dose of flu vaccine, are allergic to eggs or have
a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome, ask your doctor for advice.
•What’s the best time for a flu shot?
Flu shots need updating every year because the virus strains change
frequently. It’s best to get your flu shot as soon as it’s available,
generally from August through October.
•What are the side effects?
Some people may have a minor reaction, such as soreness at the
injection site, mild muscle aches or a slight fever for a couple of
days afterward.
Avoiding food and drug interactions
When taking a prescription or nonprescription medication:
•Read the label and all printed information
Nonprescription products print information on the package.
Prescription drugs generally come with information fact sheets and
may have warning stickers on their containers. Drug information is
also available on drug company websites.
•Don’t mix medications into food unless advised
Acid or minerals in certain foods can alter some drug ingredients.
Breaking apart pills can destroy special coatings that protect your
stomach or the medication, or that allow for slow, uniform absorption.
•Don’t mix medicine into hot beverages
Heat can destroy or alter drug ingredients.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
•Don’t consume grapefruit or grapefruit juice with
A substance found in grapefruit and its juice can alter the effects
of several drugs, sometimes causing a buildup of medication, which
could become toxic. One example is atorvastatin (Lipitor), which is
used for high cholesterol.
•Avoid alcohol
Alcohol can increase or reduce a drug’s effects or increase side
•Don’t take a vitamin and mineral supplement or
antacids at the same time as your medication unless
your doctor approves
Some nutrients can bind with drug ingredients, reducing their
absorption and limiting their effectiveness.
•Tell your doctor if you’re taking dietary supplements
Many herbal and other dietary supplements have known interactions
with medications, and others haven’t been thoroughly tested for
interactions. While you’re on medications, check with your doctor
or pharmacist before adding supplements.
•Take medication as recommended
Some drugs are better absorbed with food to reduce the risk of
stomach irritation or upset. Other drugs may be better absorbed
when taken with a full glass of water an hour or two before meals.
Follow your doctor’s or pharmacist’s instructions.
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Asking the right questions about
your medications
Keep a list of your medications and doses readily available in your
purse or wallet. Whether you’re taking a prescription drug or one
you buy over-the-counter, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or
­pharmacist questions.
•What’s the name of the medication?
Learn both the generic and brand names.
•Why are you taking it?
Knowing why your doctor has recommended a particular medication
increases the chances that you will take the medication appropriately
and receive the intended benefit.
•What effect can you expect?
How will the drug make you feel? How soon can you expect
results? Some drugs take days or weeks to have an effect.
•How much, when and how long should you take it?
Make sure the directions make sense. “Four times daily” could
mean with each meal and at bedtime or every six hours, including
the middle of the night.
•Are there restrictions?
Some foods can interfere with the effectiveness of a drug. Alcohol
also can interfere and cause certain side effects. In addition, some
drugs can make you sensitive to sunlight.
•What are the side effects?
What are common side effects? Which side effects may go away
with time? Which side effects should prompt you to contact your
•What do you do if you miss a dose?
Do you take it as soon as you remember or wait until the next dose
is due?
•Are there alternatives?
Do other drugs or treatments cost less or have fewer side effects?
Will a generic drug provide the same benefit?
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Getting the most from a visit
to your doctor
Make the best use of the short time you have for your appointment.
•Arrive on time
Promptness helps ensure an unhurried visit.
•Know your own and your family’s medical history
Your previous medical conditions and those of blood-related family
members are important. Be prepared to discuss them in detail with
your doctor.
•Bring someone along if you feel comfortable
Someone else may help think of additional questions or help you
understand instructions.
•Bring a list of concerns
Once you’re in the doctor’s office, it’s easy to forget health issues
you want to discuss. A list may jog your memory, but keep it brief.
Include only issues of primary concern.
•Bring your medications
Show your doctor all your medications in their original bottles so
that your doctor can see the dosage and types of drugs. Also bring
in or make a list of any vitamins, herbal products, dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications you use.
•Answer questions accurately and completely
Your doctor needs facts on which to base an accurate diagnosis and
treatment plan.
•Speak up
If you have questions or doubts about your diagnosis or treatment,
express them. For example, your doctor can explain the benefits of
a medication, its possible side effects and how long it will take to
work. Don’t leave until your questions are addressed and resolved.
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Following your doctor’s advice
To get the most from your appointment, make sure you understand
and can use your doctor’s advice when you get home.
•Ask for written instructions
Have your doctor list the main points as you discuss them. Or request
brochures, videos or websites about the topics you discuss.
•Know your prescription
Ask why this drug is best. Find out what you can expect from it,
including side effects and how to take it correctly.
•Expect explanations
Be sure you know why a test is ordered, what it will involve, what
the risks are, and how and when you’ll learn results.
•Repeat what you hear
This process allows your doctor to identify any instructions that
aren’t clear.
•Solve problems together
If you don’t think it’s realistic to follow your doctor’s recommendations, speak up. For example, financial restraints might keep you
from buying a certain medication. Your doctor may know of a less
expensive generic medication that will work just as well.
Choosing disease-fighting foods
Research indicates that eating certain foods can help lower your risk
of several diseases.
•Eat at least four servings of vegetables a day
Vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals, contain fiber,
have no cholesterol, and are low in fat and calories. They’re a
great source of many nutrients that appear to help reduce the risk
of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Eat a variety of vegetables to get all the health benefits.
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•Eat at least three servings of fruits a day
Fruits are filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
Except for a few, such as avocado and coconut, they’re virtually
free of fat. Fruits are a major source of nutrients that may help
lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Choose a variety of fruits to get the most health benefits.
•Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids
Eating at least two servings (about 4 ounces each) a week of fish
that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids — such as salmon, trout, tuna,
herring and sardines — can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Instead of frying, bake or grill the fish. Note: The Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) advises pregnant women, nursing mothers
and young children to avoid king mackerel, shark, swordfish and
tilefish (golden bass or golden snapper), which are higher in mercury.
Tuna steak and albacore tuna generally have more mercury than
canned light tuna. Plant sources of omega-3s may not have the same
effect. These include canola oil, soybeans (whole and oil) and walnuts
(whole and oil).
•Choose whole-grain foods
Eating whole grains may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease,
type 2 diabetes and cancer. In addition to the more familiar wholegrain breads and cereals, add variety to your diet with hulled barley,
brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta
and wild rice.
Using healthy cooking methods
Several easy cooking methods can promote healthier eating.
•Invest in nonstick cookware
Instead of pouring oil in a pan, use nonstick cookware and vegetable
cooking sprays. One tablespoon of vegetable oil has 120 calories
and 14 grams of fat, but a one-second spray has negligible calories
and less than 1 gram of fat.
•Think flavor, not fat
Sauté vegetables such as onions, mushrooms or celery in a small
amount of wine, broth, water, soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce.
Keep a supply of onions, fresh garlic, ginger root, Dijon mustard,
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fresh lemons and limes, flavored vinegars, sherry or other wines,
cornstarch (to thicken sauces), and plain fat-free yogurt.
•Try different cooking methods
Microwave or steam vegetables. Then dress them up with flavored
vinegars, herbs and spices. Cook fish in parchment paper or foil to
seal in flavors and juices.
•Modify recipes
In most recipes, you can reduce sugar, salt and fat by one-third to
one-half without sacrificing taste.
•Minimize meat
Decrease the amount of meat in casseroles and stews by one-third
and add more vegetables, rice or pasta. Or, replace meat with beans,
nuts, eggs or low-fat cheese. Buy lean cuts of meat.
Do’s and don’ts for losing weight
•Don’t skip meals
During the day when you’re active, your body needs calories and
nutrients. Eating regular meals, including a healthy breakfast, may
reduce impulse snacking, meal size and calorie intake.
•Limit meat consumption
Meat is a major source of fat — keep portions under 6 ounces daily.
Eat more servings of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
•Don’t starve yourself
If you’re on a diet that’s too strict, eventually you’ll go back to
eating regular food. Unless you’ve learned how to eat a variety of
healthy foods and still lose weight, you won’t achieve long-term
weight control.
•Exercise regularly
Any exercise burns calories. To promote weight loss, exercise at a
moderate intensity for at least 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the
week. Walking is a good form of exercise.
•Drink water
Drinking water with your meal can help fill you up. Drinking water
also slows the pace of your eating — and people who eat fast tend
to overeat.
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•Weigh wisely
Daily weighing can be a helpful tool for some people who are trying
to lose weight or prevent weight gain. But daily shifts in body water
can show up as pounds on your scale. So keep this in mind and pay
greater attention to trends in your weight.
•Reduce stress
Stress can trigger overeating. Instead of turning to comfort foods,
try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
Handling food safely
Keep food safety in mind from the time you shop to the time you eat.
•When shopping
Don’t buy food that’s in dented or bulging cans, or in jars with
bulging lids. Refrigerate perishable items as soon as possible­—
within two hours (or one hour if the temperature is above 90 F).
Put fresh fruits and vegetables in bags rather than directly in the
shopping cart to prevent contact with additional germs or with
drippings from other foods.
•When preparing food
Wash your hands with soap and water. Rinse produce thoroughly
before and after peeling. Wash knives and cutting surfaces after
handling raw meat and before preparing other foods to be eaten
raw. Launder dishcloths and kitchen towels frequently.
•When cooking
Cook all ground meat, hamburger or roast beef thoroughly. Meat,
especially if grilled, is likely to brown before it’s completely cooked,
so use a meat thermometer to ensure that meat is heated to at least
160 F at its thickest point. Avoid undercooked eggs.
•When storing food
Always check expiration dates. Use or freeze fresh meats within
three to five days after purchase. Use or freeze fresh poultry, fish
and ground meat within one to two days after purchase. Refrigerate
or freeze leftovers within two hours of serving.
•When eating out
Order red meat prepared medium or well done. Ask that seafood be
thoroughly cooked.
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Keeping foods safe at picnics
Use these tips to ensure safe eating at your picnics:
•Use an insulated cooler
Put ice or a frozen gel pack on top, with foods to be kept coldest
on the bottom.
•Pack right from the refrigerator
Keep food cold or frozen to the touch before putting it in your cooler
or cold vacuum bottle, such as a thermos.
•Wrap all foods separately in plastic
Don’t place foods directly on ice that’s not of drinking-water quality.
Keep raw meat, poultry and fish well wrapped so that drippings
don’t contaminate other foods.
•Don’t put your cooler in a hot trunk
Transport your cooler inside your car — not the trunk. Keep the
cooler in the shade at your picnic or campsite, and keep the lid on.
•Keep food and utensils covered until serving time
Flies, other insects and household pets can carry salmonella bacteria.
•Keep hot foods hot
Use a vacuum bottle or insulated dish for serving.
•Clean your hands
Take along alcohol-based hand sanitizer and disposable hand towels
to use before and after working with food.
•Remember the 2-hour rule
Return leftovers to your cooler as quickly as possible. Two hours
is the maximum time food should be left unrefrigerated — one hour
if the temperature is 90 F or higher. If your ice has melted or the gel
pack is only cool, discard perishable leftovers.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Getting your vitamins
In recent years there has been increasing evidence that multivitamins
and single or combination vitamin-mineral supplements may not
provide the health benefit consumers expect. In some cases, the
opposite or no beneficial effects have been reported. If you eat a
balanced diet, taking a multivitamin may mean you’ll exceed what
your body needs or can use. Talk to your doctor or dietitian to weigh
the possible benefits and risks of a vitamin supplements.
•Get enough calcium
Women age 51 and older and men 71 and older need 1,200
milligrams (mg) of calcium a day. For men ages 51 to 70, the
recommendation is 1,000 mg daily. See “Consider a calcium
supplement,” page 11.
•Get enough vitamin D
This helps the body absorb calcium and is essential to maintain
proper bone strength. Because many older adults don’t get regular
exposure to sunlight and have trouble absorbing vitamin D, taking
a supplement with 600 international units (IU), or 800 IU if you’re
older than 70, may help improve bone health.
•Look for vitamin B-12 (cobalamin)
Adequate levels of this vitamin may reduce your risk of anemia,
cardiovascular disease and stroke. Older adults often don’t absorb
this vitamin well. A supplement with 2 micrograms (mcg) may help.
You also may need supplemental vitamin B-12 if you take a proton
pump inhibitor, your stomach doesn’t have enough acid, you’ve had
gastric bypass surgery or you’re a strict vegetarian.
•Check the iron content
Adult men and women who are beyond menopause generally don’t
need iron supplements. Because of the risk of iron overload, don’t
take a multivitamin with iron unless your doctor recommends it.
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Making informed decisions about
herbal supplements
Because of the limited regulation of herbal supplements in the
United States, be cautious about using any herb. Read reports on
clinical studies about safety and effectiveness, and tell your doctor
if you’re using herbal products.
Avoid using these herbs:
•Borage, coltsfoot and comfrey
Toxic chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids contained in these
herbs may cause liver disease, lung problems and possibly even
cancer, especially with long-term use.
Use of this herb (also called creosote bush or greasewood) has been
linked to liver disease. Chaparral has been touted to cure cancer,
slow aging, “cleanse” the blood and treat skin problems, but no
­evidence supports these claims.
•Ephedra (ma-huang) and other weight-loss herbs
This herb, once found in several weight-loss products, contains
ephedrine, which can stimulate your heart and nervous system to
­dangerous levels, causing a heart attack, seizure, stroke or sudden
death. The sale of ephedra has been banned in the U.S. since 2004.
Some ephedra substitutes, including bitter orange (Citrus aurantium)
and aristolchia also have been linked to serious health risks.
Evidence doesn’t support claims that this element, found in some
dietary supplements and herbal remedies, promotes good health,
fights AIDS, cancer and other illnesses, or helps treat heavy metal
(mercury) toxicity. However, there have been numerous reports of
kidney failure, nerve damage and even some deaths linked to its use.
Also called kava kava, this herb is used for anxiety and insomnia.
Reports of severe liver damage linked to its use have caused several
European countries to pull it off the market. The FDA has issued
warnings but not banned sales. Until more is known, don’t take
kava or products that contain it. If you’ve been using it, ask your
doctor whether you need tests to check your liver function.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Yohimbe can cause serious side effects, including tremors, anxiety,
high blood pressure and rapid heart rate.
Exercise caution if using these herbs and many others:
•Ginger and ginkgo
Taken in high doses or combined with blood thinners, such as warfarin
(Coumadin) or aspirin, or with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen
(Advil, Motrin IB, others), each of these herbs could increase the
risk of bleeding problems.
•St. John’s wort
Used for mild to moderate depression, St. John’s wort can alter the
effects of many common prescription drugs, such as warfarin, heart
drugs, seizure medications and drugs to prevent organ rejection in
people who have had transplants.
Preventing falls
Falling is one of the most common causes of loss of independence
among older adults — but you can take many steps to prevent falls.
Use this checklist to take a fall-prevention inventory of your home:
•All rooms
Keep electrical cords and furniture out of walking paths. Fasten
carpets to the floor with tape or tacks. Don’t use throw rugs.
Make sure that stairways are well-lighted and include sturdy handrails
on both sides. Carpet runners should not be loose. If you have low
vision, apply bright tape to the first and last steps.
Install grab handles and nonskid mats inside and just outside your
shower and tub and near the toilet. Shower chairs and bath benches
minimize the risk of falling.
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Don’t use difficult-to-reach shelves. Never stand on a chair. Use
nonskid floor wax, and wipe up spills immediately.
Put a light switch by the door and a lamp by your bed so you don’t
have to walk across the room to turn on a light. Plug night lights
into electrical outlets in bedrooms, halls and bathrooms.
Avoiding yardwork mishaps
Follow these easy steps:
•Save your back
Choose tools with handles long enough to allow you to work without
bending over, or use a garden stool. Don’t lift oversized packages
of fertilizer or sod. Use a wheelbarrow or just buy smaller packages.
•Wear sunscreen
Avoid sunburn by using sunscreen with a minimum sun protection
factor (SPF) of 15.
•Protect yourself from insects
Use insect repellent that contains DEET. Perfume, scented hair
spray or lotion attracts stinging insects.
•Wear light-colored, well-fitting clothes
Bright colors attract insects, too. And loose clothes allow insects
access to your skin.
•Choose sensible shoes
Wear closed-toe, sturdy, nonskid shoes to prevent injuries from
lawn mowers.
•Turn off the lawn mower motor
Then unclog, adjust or fix the equipment. Add fuel before starting
the engine or after allowing the motor to cool for several minutes.
Don’t smoke.
•Handle chemicals carefully
Before spraying bug or weed killers, wait for calm weather. Wind
can blow chemicals back toward you and irritate your skin. Wear
protective goggles, gloves, full-length pants and a long-sleeve shirt.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Treating puncture wounds
A puncture wound — for example, from stepping on a nail — usually
doesn’t result in excessive bleeding. The wound may seem to close
almost instantly, but it can still be dangerous because of the risk of
infection. If the puncture is more than superficial, contaminated, or
the result of an animal or human bite, seek medical attention right
away. Remember these tips:
•Apply gentle pressure if there’s bleeding
Press down on the wound using a clean soft cloth. If the wound was
deep enough to draw blood — especially if it spurts or continues to
flow after several minutes of pressure — seek medical attention
•Clean the wound
Rinse the wound under running water to help remove debris and
bacteria. Don’t use soap — it can irritate the wound. If dirt or debris
remains in the wound after washing, use tweezers cleaned with
alcohol to remove the particles. If you can’t remove all the debris,
see your doctor. To clean the area around the wound, use soap and
a washcloth.
•Apply an antibiotic
After cleaning the wound, apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream
or ointment such as Neosporin to help keep the surface moist and
discourage infection. If a rash appears, stop using the product.
•Cover the wound
Bandages can help keep the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria
out. Change the dressing at least daily or whenever it becomes wet
or dirty. If you’re allergic to adhesive, use adhesive-free dressings
or sterile gauze and hypoallergenic paper tape.
•Watch for signs of infection
See your doctor if the wound doesn’t heal or if you notice redness,
a pus-type drainage, warmth or swelling.
•Keep tetanus booster shots up to date
Adults generally need tetanus boosters every 10 years. If you have a
deep or dirty cut or wound, and you haven’t had a tetanus shot within
five years, your doctor may recommend a booster.
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Do’s and don’ts for minor burns
Seek emergency care if a burn is serious, covers a large area, or is
on your eyes, mouth, hands or genital area. For minor burns,
remember these tips:
•Do cool the burn
Hold the burned area under cold running water for about 15 to
20 minutes. If that’s impractical, immerse the burn in cold water
or cover it with cold compresses.
•Don’t put ice directly on the burn
Putting ice directly on a burn can further damage your skin.
•Do consider a lotion and pain relievers
Once a burn is completely cooled, apply a lotion or moisturizer to
soothe the area and prevent dryness. For sunburn, try 1 percent
hydrocortisone cream or an anesthetic cream. The gel from the leaf
of an Aloe vera plant also can help soothe a burn. A nonprescription
pain reliever, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others),
naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help.
•Don’t use butter
Putting butter on burned skin holds heat in the tissue and may cause
more damage. Applying butter increases your chance of infection.
•Do bandage a burn
Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Wrap loosely to avoid
putting too much pressure on the burn. Bandaging keeps air off the
burn and reduces pain.
•Don’t break blisters
However, if the area is tender, snip a tiny hole in the blister with
a small scissors that has been sterilized in alcohol. If the blister is
broken, wash the area with mild antibacterial soap and water, then
apply an antibiotic ointment and a gauze bandage.
Staying clear of lightning
In the United States, hundreds of people are injured or killed by
lightning each year. To protect yourself:
•Stay inside your home or an enclosed building
Keep away from doors, windows and anything that conducts electricity.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
•Use the 30-30 rule if you’re caught outside
If you see a lightning flash, count how long it takes until you hear
thunder. If it’s 30 seconds or less, seek a safer location right away.
If you can’t see the lightning but you hear thunder, go to a safer
•Avoid trees and tall isolated structures
They’re lightning targets. Avoid small, open picnic pavilions and
rain shelters. If you’re in an open area, drop anything you’re carrying,
get away from other people and crouch down as low as possible.
•Seek safety in an enclosed car
Close the windows. Convertibles and cars with plastic or fiberglass
roofs and sides won’t protect you. Get off bicycles and motorcycles.
•Don’t touch metal objects
Drop metal items ­— such as golf clubs, tools or tennis rackets —
which conduct lightning.
•Don’t mix water with lightning
Get out of and away from water — it conducts electricity. Don’t
wash your hands, and don’t do the dishes or the laundry. Get out
of the shower or tub.
•Turn it off and hang it up
Don’t use electrical appliances or talk on the phone. Lightning can
follow electrical wires and phone lines into your home.
Handling a medical emergency
Keep the numbers of emergency services, such as your doctor, fire
department and police, next to your phone. Take the time to learn
basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If your area is served by
911, call that number first.
•Stay calm
Speak slowly and clearly when describing the incident.
•Be exact about your location
Give your name, phone number, address, apartment number, city
or town, and directions, including landmarks or cross streets.
•Describe the type of help you need
Is it medical, police or fire assistance?
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•Give details about the victim’s condition
Is the person bleeding severely? Choking? Unconscious? How long
ago did the incident occur?
•Describe first aid
If someone else is present and giving first aid, what kind is it?
CPR or other emergency care?
•Describe the victim’s location
Is he or she in the upstairs bedroom? Downstairs on the bathroom
•Listen carefully
Then write down instructions. Ask the dispatcher to repeat the
•Don’t hang up too soon
Wait until the dispatcher tells you to hang up.
•Make sure your house number is clearly visible
If it’s dark, turn a light on outdoors to show your house number.
Healthy ways to deal with stress
Take common clues to stress — headaches, upset stomach, trouble
sleeping — seriously. Learn to manage stress with these ­techniques:
•Change the factors you can
You may not be able to walk away from a stressful job or home
situation, but you can develop new responses to defuse anger or
conflict. You can also learn to manage your time better with stresslowering techniques — from delegating household responsibilities
to just saying no.
•Exercise regularly
The natural decrease in adrenaline production after exercise may
counteract the stress response. Physical activity can relieve
­symptoms of anxiety. Along with medical care and counseling,
exercise can help improve anxiety and depression.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
Learning techniques such as guided imagery, meditation, muscle
relaxation and relaxed breathing can help you relax. Your goal is
to lower your heart rate and blood pressure while reducing muscle
tension. You can also focus on hobbies or activities you find calming,
such as reading, listening to music or playing with your pet.
•Find a friend
Social support can help reduce stress and prolong life.
•Recognize when you need help
If stress is keeping you from work or leisure activities, talk with
your doctor or a specialist in behavioral medicine. Behavioral
­therapy is one approach that can help you manage your symptoms.
Getting a good night’s sleep
Sleep deprivation can lead to forgetfulness and problems in
­concentration. To sleep better, consider these suggestions:
•Don’t try too hard to sleep
Read or watch TV until you become drowsy, and then go to your
bedroom to fall asleep naturally. Try to maintain a regular time for
going to bed and for getting up.
•Keep a regular sleep schedule
Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on
•Adjust your sleep environment
Your bedroom should be quiet, dark and cool. Hide the clock if you
worry about not sleeping. Don’t use the bed for anything other than
sleep and sex.
•Avoid or limit caffeine, smoking and alcohol
Caffeine is a stimulant. Nicotine also can interfere with sleep. And
although alcohol is a depressant and may help you doze off, it can
disrupt restful sleep.
•Exercise and stay active
Regular physical activity and exercise contribute to restful sleep. Aim
for 30 minutes or more of exercise on most days. Avoid exercising
too close to your bedtime so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.
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•Watch what you eat before you sleep
A light snack may help you relax before sleeping, but avoid heavy
meals and foods that could cause heartburn. Drink less liquid before
bedtime so that you won’t have to go to the bathroom as often.
•Avoid or limit naps
Daytime naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you really
need a nap, limit it to 30 minutes or less before 3 p.m.
•Check your medications
Ask your doctor if any of your medications — both prescription and
nonprescription — may contribute to insomnia.
50 Head-to-Toe Health Tips
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