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Mistakes You Are Making That Harm Your Health

6 Surprising Health Mistakes Even Smart Women Make

We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!

When was the last time you got 8 hours of sleep or lifted weights at the gym? You're not alone if you can't remember: Even some of the most savvy women didn't get the memo about these health-wrecking habits. Find out if you're among them.
From the Editors of Prevention

You're supposed to watch saturated fat and eat lots of vegetables — that's why you usually pick up a salad for lunch and dinner (even when the kids get burgers). But you're not obsessed with the scale like some women you know. You brush your teeth twice a day, and you last flossed, oh, maybe two weeks ago. You exercise but avoid lifting so you don't bulk up. The tummy pains you got last week? Must have been gas — nothing serious. And hey, you'd like to get 8 hours of sleep, but the days are short, and it's hard to get everything done. Sound familiar? These so-called "good" habits may actually be derailing your health. Here, experts share the surprising things you're doing wrong — and how to recover.

1. You Always Order a Salad
Don't assume that bowl of lettuce is always the healthiest menu pick.

Truth is, a lot of take-out and restaurant salads are basically a burger in a bowl, says Brie Turner-McGrievy, RD, clinical research coordinator for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in Washington, DC. That's because add-ons like fried chicken, croutons, and full-fat dressing pack major calories, fat, sodium, and other unhealthy nutrients. One example: McDonald's Bacon Ranch Salad with Crispy Chicken and Newman's Own Ranch Dressing has 540 calories and 35 grams of fat; a Big Mac has 540 calories and 29 grams.

The fix: Don't scratch take-out salad off your menu; just use a few common sense rules before you order. Avoid high-fat add-ons such as sour cream, extra cheese, croutons, bacon bits, and creamy dressings like Caesar and ranch. Opt for salads that aren't just a fiber-free mound of iceberg lettuce dotted with a few carrot and red cabbage shavings. And plan ahead: Most fast-food chains supply nutritional info online so you can scout out the best options before you leave.

Avoid These Surprisingly Unhealthy Salads

2. You Rock Out While You Work Out
Do your ears ring after a long iPod-powered workout?

Check the volume on your iPod or MP3 player, advises Andrew Cheng, MD, an otolaryngologist at New York Medical College. The normal range of an MP3 player is 60 to 120 decibels; persistent exposures above 85 may cause hearing loss. If you're concerned, ask a friend to stand next to you while you listen: If she can hear your music, it's too loud.

Learn the fix and four more other common mistakes, when you read more.

The fix: To protect your ears, try to listen at 10 to 50 percent of the full volume. Some MP3 player models let you lock in a range. Or switch over to a pair of sound-isolating earphones; they drown out background noise so your music doesn't have to.

Dance Workouts You Don’t Need Your Own Music For

3. You Avoid the Scale
For some women, this is the only thing in the house gathering more dust than the treadmill.

Doctors call scale-phobia an avoidance behavior. The idea behind it: If I don't know for sure that I gained weight, maybe I didn't. You're most likely to duck the scale after a few days, weeks, or months of eating whatever you want. "For some people, getting back on the scale can be a help," says Kelly Brownell, PhD, director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders. "The trick is knowing whether or not it will motivate you." But if you're trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss, you may need the kind of feedback the scale provides, says Brownell. If you weigh yourself regularly, you can notice a gain when it's easier to shed — at three pounds, say, instead of 15. But it's important not to get so obsessed with the numbers that you're weighing yourself once or twice daily. Your weight can vary from day to day, even hour to hour.

The fix: If you're trying to lose weight, get on the scale monthly. Do it first thing in the morning, naked, after you use the bathroom, and at the same time in your menstrual cycle — not when you're likely to have water-weight gain. If you're maintaining weight you've recently lost, hop on at least once a week. That's how the biggest "losers" in the National Weight Control Registry — the largest study of people who've been successful at long-term weight loss — stay slim. Don't freak out over anything less than a 5-pound gain; that's a normal fluctuation. But if you find yourself drifting higher than that, it's time to rein yourself in.

5 Ways the Scale Can Become Your Best Friend

4. You Wear Contacts No Matter What
It's safer to switch to glasses when you're under the weather.

Fighting a cold? If you normally wear contacts, switch to eyeglasses. Your eyes don't work as well when you're sick, say researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry. A decline in tear production makes contact lens wearers more prone to conjunctivitis — aka. pinkeye. So can using antihistamine meds, which also dry out eyes.

The fix: Wear your specs until you're feeling better, experts advise, or switch to daily-wear disposable lenses to avoid infection.

5. Your Faucet's Always at the Same Temp
When you cook or drink, keep it cool. When you wash your hands, turn up the heat.

When you're soaping up after the bathroom, warm-to-hot water is necessary to kill germs. But when you're quenching your thirst or prepping a meal, make sure to draw water from the cold tap. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead, says the EPA, because it dissolves the toxic metal in plumbing more quickly than cold water does. About percent of our lead exposure in the United States comes from drinking water. High blood lead levels have been linked to a host of health problems. Just 4 ug/dl (micrograms per deciliter) can double your risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke, and similar levels may cause memory loss, says Eliseo Guallar, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins.

The fix: If you haven't turned on the faucet for 6 hours or more, let it run cold for a minute before using, the EPA advises — and use only water filters bearing a seal from NSF

6. You Drive With the Windows Down
Commuting may be hazardous to your lungs.

University of Southern California scientists studied urban commuters and found that though they spend only percent of their day in the car, during that time they're exposed to up to 45 percent of the air pollutants they encounter in a 24-hour period. That makes getting to work in car-centric cities the second biggest weekday health risk — topped only by smoking.

The fix: During a trafficky commute, driving with windows shut and air recirculating helps somewhat, say researchers; taking a train or biking on less busy roads can have an even healthier impact.

More Disastrous Health Decisions You're Making

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