Small things to do for you

The moment I sat down at my computer to write this column, an email popped onto my screen from WebMD. I subscribe to dozens of health-related websites and often see health-protection and prevention-oriented messages. Truth be told, I sometimes don't even open them. But this one spoke to me, literally: WebMD has an audio feature.

The article started with "small changes can have significant health payoffs." There were supposedly "10 little things" that would make a really big difference.

Flossing was at the top of the list.

"A small piece of nylon string can have dramatic effects on women's health." Men's health, too, I assume, but this particular article focused on women. Eliminating plaque and bacteria is obvious, but I had not seen research before indicating oral bacteria exacerbated diabetes and hypertension. It was a small epiphany, and I continued reading.

The next suggestion was "Eat every two to three hours — three meals and at least two snacks a day keep your metabolism moving and reduce the possibility of binge eating."

I particularly like that idea; it means I don't have to apologize for having two breakfasts most mornings. Oatmeal was strongly encouraged as a food item to be included at one of those breakfasts.

Other simple-to-execute, health-related suggestions met the test of common sense. If you have them in play already, hallelujah for you. They were things such as making coffee at home and not indulging in a drive-through. A grande Starbuck's iced soy vanilla latte has 190 calories and 34 grams of carbs. The tall salted (did you know they even did that?) caramel mocha has 330 calories and a whopping 51 carbs. I think I saw someone who looked a lot like you ordering one the other day.

By the way, you will find nutritional information of this nature on any coffee beverage and, in fact, any food you might be tempted to eat, at

Moving on down the list, wearing a pedometer was touted as "the most effective fitness tool known to man, or woman."

I suspect that's especially true if you just had that earlier-mentioned latte or mocha.

An idea that really caught my attention was to "sleep in your exercise clothes (comfortable ones)."

Wear loose-fitting gym clothes to bed and rise from sleep with an in-built incentive to walk, run or work out.

Or here's another suggestion: Play classical music at dinner time. It apparently slows down eating and helps people eat less, prompting them to chew foods more thoroughly and digest them better, too.

For women, there was a reminder to regularly do kegel (pelvic-strengthening) exercises, and have vitamin D levels checked. Low levels of vitamin D are correlated with everything from reduced energy to dementia and some cancers.

The suggestion I liked best was "give yourself a compliment."

The message was "focus on what your body can do other than how it looks."

To that final suggestion, more than any of the others, I would add, "Just do it."

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at 541-261-2037 or

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