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Got a minute?

Want to be healthier? Each of these tips requires only a minute or so of your time.

  1. Wash your hands. It’s the best way to reduce the risk of spreading or being exposed to germs. Scrub with soap and water for 20 seconds, or about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
  2. Pack safety gear. Summertime can mean injury time with the increase of outdoor activity. Depending on what you’re doing, you may need to pack elbow and knee pads, a helmet, a chest protector or a life jacket.
  3. Ease back pain. Help your back support your weight more easily by standing up straight with your weight balanced on your feet. And don’t forget: No slouching at your desk.
  4. Look for the VIPPS seal when purchasing medicine on the Web. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy developed the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program to help you find sites for reputable prescription-drug retailers. Those with the VIPPS seal meet strict medication-dispensing regulations and comply with patient privacy laws, quality assurance criteria and measures ensuring secure prescription orders.
  5. Disinfect your kitchen sponge. That innocent little sponge can be a big source of bacteria in your home. But studies have shown that microwaving a wet sponge (never a dry one, which can cause a fire!) for one minute can kill almost all bacteria on it—better than soaking it in bleach.
  6. Scrub those fruits and veggies with water. Even if you’re peeling them, you want to make sure you’ve removed any pesticide residue, dirt or bacteria. This goes for melons, too. The knife you cut them with can transfer bacteria from the rind to the inside of the fruit.
  7. Buckle up. Wearing a safety belt lowers your risk and your passengers’ risks of being seriously injured in an accident. Make sure children are put in car seats or other age-appropriate restraint systems. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips on car seats and installation at
  8. Test your smoke alarms every month. A good rule of thumb for remembering to change their batteries: Do it when you set your clocks ahead or back each spring and fall.
  9. Read food labels. Check out how much fat, cholesterol, sodium and carbohydrates are in what you’re about to eat and take special note of the serving size. An item that contains 150 calories may not seem so bad for you, but if the package contains two servings, you’re taking in 300 calories.
  10. Learn the signs of stroke. The key point to remember is that these symptoms come on suddenly: numbness or weakness (usually in the face, an arm or a leg and especially on one side of the body), confusion or trouble speaking, vision problems, trouble walking or loss of balance and severe headache. If any of these occur, get help immediately.
  11. Post the National Capital Poison Center number on all of your phones (1-800-222-1222). Sometimes we forget to stash harmful medicine, cleaning supplies and insect and rodent repellents out of small children’s reach. Unfortunately, they all have the potential to be poisonous if swallowed.
  12. Take a multivitamin, if needed. Most people don’t need a multivitamin because they get all the right nutrients from their food. But if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, are at risk for osteoporosis or are a vegetarian, you may need extra folic acid, calcium or vitamin B12. Always ask your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
  13. Turn down the volume. Prolonged exposure to noises at or above 85 decibels (the equivalent of heavy city traffic) can cause gradual hearing loss. An MP3 player turned all the way up emits up to 120 decibels, which is about 100 times more intense than 85 decibels. Hearing loss can’t be reversed, so keep the volume at about half of its maximum capacity and take breaks from the music. And consider switching from in-the-ear headphones (or “earbuds”) to the traditional earmuff style, which allows sounds to diffuse.
  14. Just floss! Flossing at least once a day can remove plaque and debris, helping to prevent gum disease. Here’s how to do it right: Break off about 18 inches of floss, wind most of it around the middle finger of one hand and the rest around the middle finger of your other hand. Leave about one inch to floss the first tooth. Using your thumbs and forefingers, bring the floss up and down several times between your teeth, forming a C shape around the tooth (be sure to go below the gumline). Unwind from your finger to get a fresh piece of floss as you move to the next tooth.
  15. Do a freezer check. Raw ground meats should be kept for no more than four months and cooked meats no more than two to three months—toss anything that’s older. (And make sure your freezer is set to 0° F or lower.)