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10 Five-Minute Health Tips

10 Five-Minute Health Tips

Family Medicine, Primary Care

Investing some time in routine visits with your doctor, regular exercise and a balanced diet can have big payoffs for your health. But not everything that's good for you has to take a big bite out of your busy schedule. Here are 10 super beneficial things you can do to protect your health in five minutes or less.

1. Wash your hands. A quick but thorough hand washing helps to prevent the spread of respiratory and diarrheal illnesses and to keep you and your family healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds after lathering to remove microbes and germs. When soap and water aren't handy, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol is a good second choice.

2. Put on some sunscreen. Yes, even in Oregon, it's important to protect yourself and your children from the sun's harmful UV rays. Taking a minute or two every day to apply some sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer. Use a product with at least SPF 15. Reapply after swimming, sweating or spending more than two hours outside. And don't forget to check the expiration date.

3. Buckle up. If everyone took just a few seconds to buckle up before driving, we could reduce serious injuries and deaths from crashes by about 50 percent. Make sure your little ones are safely restrained, too. Oregon law states that children must use safety seats until they weigh 40 pounds or reach the upper weight limit for the car seat. Infants must ride rear-facing until they reach both one year of age and 20 pounds. Learn more at www.oregon.gov/ODOT.

4. Check yourself out. Even if you see your doctor for a yearly physical, it's important to be aware of your body and any changes that occur. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends practicing monthly skin checks to look for any new or changing moles or marks. Get a guide at skincancer.org. For women, breast awareness is important, too. While mammograms can detect most breast cancers, they don't detect them all. Visit breastcancer.org to learn how to do a breast self exam — it only takes a minute or two — and report any breast changes or concerns to your doctor.

5. Pack a lunch. When it comes to eating healthy, planning ahead is key. Take five minutes in the morning to pack a healthy lunch and some good-for-you snacks to arm yourself against fast-food temptation later in the day.

6. Write down what you ate. Take a minute after each meal to log what you ate. Keeping a food journal can help you stay on track with your goals, whether you want to lose weight or just to eat better. Go old school with pen and paper, or go high tech: Myfitnesspal.com is one of many free websites and smart phone apps you can use to log meals and exercise, count calories and track goals.

7. Take a stress break. Feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious? Take five minutes to stop what you're doing and clear your head. A quiet moment alone and several deep, relaxing breaths may help you avoid conflicts, outbursts and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking, drinking and binge eating. If stress is affecting your daily life, make an appointment to talk to your doctor.

8. Test your smoke alarms. Most fire-related deaths are preventable with working smoke alarms. Take a moment to test your smoke alarms monthly, and change the batteries in the spring and fall when you change your clocks.

9. Brush and floss. Protecting your oral health takes only a couple of minutes a day, and it's essential to preventing cavities, gum disease and infection. Brushing and flossing regularly are especially important for children, diabetics and pregnant women, who are more vulnerable to problems. Use a fluoride toothpaste to brush after meals, and floss at least once a day.

10. Drink a glass of water. Your body needs fluid to function properly, and all-natural, zero-calorie water, rather than high-calorie soda and juice, is your best bet. Drinking too little water can lead to dehydration, fatigue, dry skin, constipation and urinary tract infections. So how much is enough? While there's not a lot of scientific evidence behind the 8x8 rule (eight 8-ounce glasses a day), it's easy to remember and a good place to start. If you keep a food journal, be sure to log your water intake, too.