PHOTO Wavebreak Media Ltd
1 WEARING HIGH HEELS
Besides increasing your risk of hip, back and tendon problems, Dr Winnie Mui, a general practitioner at Dr Laura Bramley’s Clinic in Hong Kong, says wearing high heels even for an hour can cause foot soreness, pain, calluses, bunions, ingrown toenails, a sprained ankle, blisters, and bleeding from constant rubbing.
DO THIS: Choose a heel with a greater surface area (avoid stilettos), and stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendon by pulling your toes towards your shin, or standing flat and leaning forward. Wear your high heels only when necessary, like just before meeting a client. Wear commuter shoes at other times, say, when you’re walking from the MRT to your office.
2 BURNING SCENTED CANDLES
“Scented candles can emit toxins like soot, benzene and lead,” says Dr Mui. “Burning them, especially in an enclosed area, can increase your risk of cancer, and neurological and behavioural problems, and aggravate allergies and asthma.” The fragrance may also contain acetone, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, linalool, and methylene chloride – when inhaled, these chemicals can cause nausea, central nervous system disorders, irritation to the mouth, throat, eyes, skin and lungs, headaches, and respiratory failure. Dr Mui adds that burning incense sticks can have similar effects.
DO THIS: Organic soya-based candles scented with essential oils burn at a lower temperature and do not contain toxic paraffin wax like standard scented candles. Reed diffusers and electric essential oil burners are also safer.
3 KEEPING YOUR FACE TOWEL IN THE TOILET
Every time you flush the loo, germs rise into the air and land on towels, toothbrushes, etc. Dr Mui says everything in and around the toilet comes into contact with these germs, so when you wipe your face on your towel, they could be transferred onto your skin.
DO THIS: Dr Mui suggests putting down the toilet lid when you flush, and sterilising your toilet bowl and cleaning the bathroom regularly. Store your face towels in a drawer and cover items in your bathroom – don’t leave jars of moisturiser open or cotton wads exposed.
4 DRINKING FROM A CHIPPED MUG
That chipped, cracked ceramic mug you love so much? It could harbour bacteria that can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Cracks in the glaze can also expose the bare ceramic. And if the ceramic contains lead and other chemicals, these toxins could leach into your drink. Even a crack in a plastic mug can be harmful, because it can emit trace amounts of toxins from the plastic.
DO THIS: Throw out damaged mugs.
5 SLEEPING ON TOO FIRM A MATTRESS
Think the extra support is helping your back? Surprise, surprise – sleeping on a very firm mattress can cause or worsen back pain, says Dr David Wong, a specialist in orthopaedic surgery at Raffles Orthopaedic Centre. “Your spine has a natural curve. It is not supposed to be perfectly straight. A mattress that’s too firm doesn’t allow this and puts pressure on the heaviest parts of your body, like the upper back and the pelvis,” explains Dr Wong.
DO THIS: “A good mattress keeps the spine in proper alignment,” he says. “When you lie on your back, you should be able to slide your hand under your lower back fairly easily without a gap. If the mattress is too firm, there will be a gap between your hand, your back and the mattress.”
6 OVER-BRUSHING YOUR TEETH
We think that the harder and longer we brush, the more effective the cleaning action. But over time, “using hard force may hurt your gums and wear down your teeth,” says Dr Aaron Tan, dental surgeon from Raffles Dental.
DO THIS: To remove debris from your gum margins and between your teeth, Dr Tan suggests brushing at an angle: “Gently press the soft bristles between your gums and teeth. Then use a mild brushing action, making sure you don’t drag the brush across your teeth. Brush all areas – front, back, sides and the biting surfaces of your teeth.”
7 DRINKING TOO MUCH WATER
You can suffer from water intoxication if you drink too much of it, says Dr Soh Wah Ngee, a general practitioner at One Doctors Family Clinic. This condition is called hyponatremia, where excess water upsets the delicate water-sodium balance in your blood. Dr Soh says one to two litres a day is usually enough, although the appropriate amount depends on your weight, activity level and kidney health, and the climate. Water is found in soup, fruits and veggies, too, so don’t discount those. Nausea, confusion, headache, lethargy and restlessness are common signs of hyponatremia. Severe symptoms include seizures and decreased consciousness, which may result in coma or even death.
DO THIS: Don’t overdo fluid intake while exercising, advises Dr Soh. Consider electrolyte sports drinks rather than plain water, to replenish sodium lost through perspiration.
8 SKIMPING ON SLEEP
Getting less shut-eye gives you more time to get things done. But too little sleep can make you put on weight. Says Dr Sin Wen Yee, a family physician from Harmony Family Clinic: “The less you sleep, the more your body makes an appetite-inducing hormone called ghrelin. This increases hunger pangs and reduces the calories you burn when at rest.” What’s worse, she adds, too little sleep results in poor concentration, making accidents more likely. It can also weaken the immune system, leaving you more prone to infections.
DO THIS: Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. You’ve had enough if you feel refreshed when you wake up. If you feel tired or sleepy during the day, close your eyes for a few minutes and try to relax, or take a 20-minute power nap.
This article was originally published in Simply Her November 2012.