Day 25: Clear Your Airways
To reduce symptoms—such as asthma, sneezing, itchy eyes, and headaches—triggered by indoor allergens, dust furniture and vacuum the floor regularly, change bed linens weekly, and replace mattresses that are more than 10 years old.
Day 26: Sport a Milk Mustache
A new study suggests that eating a calcium-rich diet is more effective than taking calcium supplements in building bone density to prevent osteoporosis (which affects an estimated eight million American women). Only about 35% of the calcium in most supplements ends up being absorbed by the body, says lead researcher Reina Armamento-Villareal, M.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, while 45% of the calcium in food is absorbed. Aim for 1,200 milligrams a day, which you can get from a cup of yogurt, a cup of milk, a cup of orange juice, and one ounce of cheese.
Day 27: Look out the Window
A quick glimpse of a tree, some falling rain, or snow flurries helps tame tension, say researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle. When study participants viewed the outdoors, their heart rates decreased by up to nine beats per minute—and their pulses fell twice as fast after a stressful situation—compared to those who looked at blank walls or digital images of nature scenes.
Day 28: Shun Secondhand Smoke
A recent study from China found that women who were exposed to cigarette smoke for just 15 minutes two or more days a week increased their risk of stroke by 56% and increased their risk of developing coronary heart disease by 69%. Encourage your loved ones not to smoke (especially if you live together) and avoid bars and restaurants that allow cigarettes. And always request a nonsmoking hotel room when you're traveling.
Day 29: Sanitize Your Purse
Your handbag goes everywhere with you—including restaurants, doctors' offices, and the bathroom stalls in public restrooms (where you've probably placed it on the floor). Then you plop that bag on your kitchen counter or the living room couch, giving those germs a new home. To avoid passing along bacteria and viruses to your family, clean the bottom of your purse daily with a disinfectant wipe, says Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona.
Day 30: Take Your Pulse
A racing heart—one that beats more than 80 times per minute—may put you at risk for cardiovascular disease. Find your pulse by pressing your forefinger and middle finger on the inside of your opposite wrist at a time when you feel relaxed, such as first thing in the morning or before going to sleep at night. Count the number of beats in 10 seconds, then multiply by six. Sixty to 80 beats per minute is ideal—anything higher means you should talk to your doctor.
Day 31: Change Your Toothbrush
Don't wait until the bristles are frayed to purchase another one. A new brush removes up to 30% more plaque than a three-month-old one, according to a study in the Journal of Dental Research. So change yours at least every season. The heads of electronic toothbrushes should be changed as often.
Originally published in the January 2009 issue of Family Circle magazine.