Schedule your checkups
It's never too late to take control of your health, and that includes making sure you hit all your critical medical screenings and exams. "You don't have to wait until you're sick to see your doctor. I recommend preventative care visits with a primary care doctor each year, and it's important to schedule them out rather than waiting until the last minute," says Qandeel Soomro, MD, an internist at Medical Offices of Manhattan in New York City. Most health insurance companies should fully cover several preventative health services (meaning no out-of-pocket costs) that are critical to women's health and well being, including an annual physical, mammography, cervical cancer screening, contraception, testing for infections, breastfeeding services and supplies, and osteoporosis screening. To make the most of your time with your doctor, avoid these 10 things you should never do before your appointment.
Adopt a sleep ritual
Spring and summer's longer days are generally a plus, but they can make it harder to fall asleep, especially for those who have an earlier bedtime. If you have trouble unwinding, try diffusing a calming essential oil or dabbing a drop of a specially formulated sleep blend such as Ravenscroft Escentials Good Nite Aroma Body Drops under your nose just before bed. Studies show that the scent of lavender can decrease heart rate and blood pressure to put you in a more relaxed state and may even help you sleep deeper.
Give winter skin the brush off
Dry air and cold temperatures can turn skin into an itchy, flaky mess. Get it summer-ready by exfoliating. "Exfoliation is the first key step to rejuvenating your skin and achieving a satiny smooth look post-winter," says Andrew Ordon, MD, plastic surgeon and co-host of The Doctors. "I recommend taking a warm bath or shower and using a product like Crepe Erase Exfoliating Body Polish, which uses rice bran wax and lactic acid to gently buff away dead skin cells." Here are 9 more smart skin habits dermatologists start every spring.
Protect yourself from summer pests
The number of cases of vector-borne diseases—those spread by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas—more than tripled between 2004 and 2016, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keep skeeters at bay by wearing long sleeves and pants whenever possible or applying a repellent with DEET. If you prefer a more holistic approach, try simply swatting those buggers away: New research out of the University of Washington found that mosquitoes learn to associate a particular odor with an unpleasant sensation, like being swatted—as a result, they avoid that scent from thereon out, much like they do with the repellent DEET.
Practice mindful eating
Spruce up your eating habits by tackling one common bad habit: mindless eating. Studies suggest being mindful while you dine may help you eat less and even lose weight. "A lot of us are guilty of eating while we're at our desks, watching TV, or just bored, so we're not really paying attention to what we're putting in our bodies or how much we're consuming," says Joyce Faraj, PhD, RDN, a nutritionist at Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Connecticut. Try to only eat when you're hungry; focus on the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of what you're noshing on; and take a break when you feel satisfied—it takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to send the signal to your brain that you're full, she says.
Choose the right shoes
Summer footwear is among the worst for your feet, but many people are still likely to sacrifice comfort for fashion. Silvia Arroyo, DPM, a Kaiser Permanente foot and ankle specialist in Baldwin Park, California, says it's important to know which is the better of two evils. When choosing between loafers and flats, go with a rubber-soled loafer, which can provide some arch support and better absorb shock from walking on the pavement, preventing bunions, blisters, and pain. If you're torn between heels and wedges, go with a wider wedge that's not too tall; this reduces the pressure high heels put on your feet, back, and joints. And between slip on slides and flip-flops, flip-flops with a thicker sole are the winner—they'll provide a bit of arch support, which the flat-as-a-pancake varieties won't. Find out how to prevent and fix common summer foot problems.
Suds up your hands
There's nothing worse than getting that dreaded "changing of the seasons" cold. Protect yourself by being especially vigilant about hand washing—scrub all surfaces with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom or being in public. Avoid touching your face, especially the nose and mouth, as this provides germs easy access to get inside. And if using hand sanitizer, Charles "Dr. Germ" Gerba, MD, microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, recommends Zoono, which he says promises to protect your hands from germs for up to 24 hours after applying.
Power up your yoga routine
Boost your yoga time by incorporating a mind-clearing scent into the mix. "A blend of sandalwood, frankincense, and myrrh is used by yoga practitioners for quieting the mind chatter," says Ginger Ravenscroft, aromatherapy expert and founder of Ravenscroft Escentials in Grants Pass, Oregon. Yoga has been shown to reduce blood pressure and protect against or ease chronic pain, and a new study by University of Connecticut researchers suggests it may help post-menopausal women maintain muscle mass.
Evaluate your pantry
Many pantry staples such as bread, cereal, and condiments like ketchup and pre-made salad dressing can hide a sneaky load of sodium, sugar, and preservatives. Choose condiments that say "low sodium" or "no sugar added" on the label (even Heinz now offers a "no sugar added" ketchup) and make your own dressing by whisking together olive oil, vinegar, or lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Opt for a cleaner loaf of bread, such as those made by La Brea Bakery, which also offers gluten-free varieties. Don't miss these 15 other ways to spring clean your diet.
Refresh your workout
If you lapsed on your exercise routine for a few months, be sure to ease back in to avoid injuring yourself. "Warm up and don't go fast and furious right out of the gate," says Jimmy McKay, PT, DPT, a physical therapist and director of communications at FOX Rehabilitation in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. "Take the first ten minutes of any workout to start moderately, which means you're able to have a conversation while moving. Then, ramp up to a point where your breathing is labored and you can only get a few words out before taking another breath." Check out these 10 easy tricks to shed pounds this summer.