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25 fast and easy ways to get healthier

By Sunny Sea Gold, Health.com
April 10, 2013 -- Updated 1116 GMT (1916 HKT)
Go outside!
Go outside! "Fresh air is full of feel-good negative ions, which may boost oxygen flow to the brain," an expert says.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Going commando helps reduce bacteria and prevent urinary tract infections
  • Microwave your wet kitchen sponge for 30 seconds to sanitize it
  • Move your body, no matter how briefly, to stop stress in its tracks

(CNN) -- Get going! Here are 25 ways to get healthier right now:

1. Grab your toes. Now pull. "This boosts circulation after your feet have been cramped in shoes all day," says Michele Summers Colon, a podiatrist in El Monte, California. "Without proper circulation, the muscles and nerves in our toes don't work properly. And that can cause pain in your knees, hips, and back."

2. Wash the linens. Dust mites, a major allergy trigger, love to hang out in your bed. Zap 'em by laundering sheets and pillowcases every week in hot water. Also smart: Use mattress and duvet covers designed to keep mites out.

3. Flying? Turn on the air vent above your seat. "I fly a couple of times a week," says Dr. Travis Stork, an emergency medicine physician and co-host of "The Doctors."

Unhealthy sugary drinks
Frozen, fresh and canned veggies

"Part of the way I stay healthy is by being very conscientious about all of the germs that are on planes. I turn on the air vent and angle it so it blows air down in front of my face -- that's filtered air and it creates a little bit of a barrier to keep the germs going around the cabin from getting into my nose or mouth."

The not-so-healthy kids' meal

Health.com: Secrets of people who never get sick

4. Give this a shot. Get a yearly flu vaccine? Great. Now add a TDaP booster to your arsenal. TDaP stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis -- and that last disease, also known as whooping cough, is a particularly dangerous respiratory illness. In fact, cases of pertussis in the U.S. have risen about 137% since 2000.

"For most adults, that means a nasty cough; in children, it can be worse," says Dr. Ana Pantoja, staff physician for AltaMed in Boyle Heights, California. "So if you have kids or are around kids, it's essential to get vaccinated."

Even if you got the shot as a child, its effectiveness can wear off, so you still need one booster as a grown-up. (You'll also need a tetanus booster every 10 years.)

5. Drop your panties. Going commando once in a while (say, overnight) couldn't hurt, especially if you're prone to urinary tract infections.

"Wearing no undergarments -- or just cotton ones -- allows the external genitals to dry and reduces bacteria growth that could otherwise make its way into your urethra and cause a bladder infection," says Dr. Sherry Thomas, an OB-GYN and surgeon at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, California.

6. Keep this info handy. Put a card in your wallet that lists any allergies you have and medications you're taking, in case you end up in the ER and are unable to speak for yourself.

Says Dr. John M. Kennedy, co-author of "The 15-Minute Heart Cure," "It could just save your life."

7. Crank down the volume. MP3 players can create sound up to 120 decibels -- loud enough to cause hearing loss over time.

"Follow the 60/60 rule: Keep volume coming through your headphones to no more than 60% of the max, for no more than 60 minutes a day," says James Foy, an osteopathic physician in Vallejo, California.

Health.com: Is my iPod making me deaf?

5 days of healthier breakfasts

You already know it's important to start your day off right -- now it's time to kick it up a notch nutritionally with these easy ideas from Jackie Newgent, author of "1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes." Just add...

8. Flax. Sprinkle one tablespoon ground flaxseed in your bowl of oatmeal for brain-boosting omega-3 fats and two extra grams of fiber.

9. Pistachios. Spread toast with chocolate nut spread; add chopped pistachios for cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.

10. Berries. Top pancakes or waffles with ½ cup of mashed raspberries to get more than 20 percent of your daily vitamin C needs.

11. Turmeric. Toss a pinch of ground turmeric into beaten eggs to add earthiness and cancer-fighting antioxidants to a veggie omelet.

12. Hummus. Schmear half a toasted whole-grain bagel with 2 TBSP hummus for a creamy topping packed with fiber and filling protein.

Health.com: Best superfoods for weight loss

13. Nuke the dish sponge. "This is the germiest thing in your house," says germ guru Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "About 15% of sponges contain bacteria that can make you ill."

So toss them in the dishwasher once a week or microwave them damp on high for 30 seconds.

14. Check yourself out. "Do a full-body skin check once a month in a well-lit room," advises Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. "Grab a hand mirror if you have one. Ask a family member to check out your back if you can't see it. Look for new moles or old ones that have changed or grown (then have a dermatologist take a look).

"I also recommend a total-body check with a derm yearly -- twice a year if you have a personal or family history of funny moles. Early detection is key in treating skin cancer" -- the most common cancer in women.

15. Munch on carrots. The humble carrot never got much attention, but it's now a nutritionist favorite, thanks to its high vitamin A content -- just one half cup has almost double the amount you need for healthy eyes. They're hot with chefs, too, making it easier to get your good-vision fix.

Health.com: The best foods for every vitamin and mineral

16. Wear an activity tracker. Whether it's a Fitbit, a Nike FuelBand, or any old pedometer, studies show that people who wear a device that tracks the number of steps they've taken each day get moving more than those who don't.

17. Take a ticker test. You may not think about your cholesterol, but you should: Having high numbers is a major heart-disease risk factor that even slim women can have.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you may be able to score a screening without paying one cent for it if you have a family history or other risk factors, according to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For a list of more preventive screenings that now have no co-pay, go to Healthcare.gov.

18. Fight daylight savings blahs. When we "spring forward," the lost hour can have a bigger effect on our bodies than we might think.

"You might feel jetlagged, and it can take two to five days to adjust," says Dr. Meir Kryger, professor of medicine at Yale University. His fix: "Get some sunlight as soon as possible" -- by raising window shades or making a coffee run -- "to help re-synchronize your body clock. Luckily, the switch-over happens on a Sunday morning, so many of us don't have to go to work that first day!"

Health.com: How to get more energy, from morning to night

Shut-eye tips from the world's best sleepers

19. Get comfy. "At hotels, I keep lighting soft and bring lounging clothes and my Dream Sack, a thin, silk sleeping bag. On planes, I close the shades and wear an eye mask and noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs." -- Tracy Cristoph, flight attendant

20. Banish nerves. "When my mind starts racing in bed, I think about the next day's challenges. Then, I take long breaths, thinking, Breathe in, breathe out. It takes practice, but if you do it regularly, your body learns how to relax." -- Rebecca Soni, Olympic swimmer

21. Silence your phone! "I alerted friends and family to when I would be sleeping so I could minimize noisy calls and texts. Turning the phone off works, too!" -- Dr. Marni Hillinger, a medical resident in New York.

Health.com: 7 tips for the best sleep ever

4 ways to slash stress in 60 seconds or less

22. Do 25 jumping jacks. Move your body, no matter how briefly, to stop the stress response in its tracks and change the channel on your mood, says Lisa Oz, author of "US: Transforming Ourselves and the Relationships That Matter Most."

23. Press "play" for puppies. Pets are a proven stress-buster, but you knew that. Head to Wimp.com/littlepuppy stat to melt even the gnarliest of bad moods.

24. Make an instant hot cocoa. Research, including a study published in Appetite, shows that even a bit of chocolate can boost your mood almost immediately.

25. Go outside! "Fresh air is full of feel-good negative ions, which may boost oxygen flow to the brain," says Kathleen Hall, founder of the Stress Institute in Atlanta. "If you can, combine it with exercise, like a brisk walk -- activity boosts endorphins and energy."

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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