35 Health secrets every woman should know


1. Avoid energy slumps with a late night snack

Instead of going to bed feeling stuffed every night, eat a light dinner and have a small snack before you turn in to maintain your blood sugar levels throughout the night. In tests, banana muffins with a glass of milk before bed had the most calming effect. Mmm!

2. There are 54 different contraceptives 

In other words, the one you’re currently using may not be your best option. All forms of contraceptives are constantly being developed to make them safer and user-friendlier, so chat to your gynae about your options:

  • The implant: A small, flexible rod that is inserted into your arm. It lasts for three years and is 99 percent effective.
  • The IUD: A non-hormonal device, which is placed in the uterus and suits those with busy lifestyles who worry they’ll forget to take the pill.
  • Natural family planning: Observing your body’s natural fertility indicators can, with the right instruction, be over 98 percent effective.

3. Sleep helps control hunger 

Getting too little, or even too much sleep (yes, we know –chance would be a fine thing!) on a regular basis can increase your chances of becoming obese by a quarter, as it affects hormone levels linked to appetite, Canadian scientists have found.

4. Scrunching your toes strengthens your feet

Every night, scrunch your feet up in the same way as you’d make a fist with your hands, and walk around for 10 minutes, balancing on the outer edges of the feet. It might be tricky at first, but it’s great for strengthening the arches and ankles, and makes up for the lack of support you get from wearing heels or flat soles all day.

5. Your desk has 400 times more germs than a toilet seat 

Arizona researchers say the dirtiest place at work is your phone handset, with 25 127 microbes per square inch, followed by your desk itself, with just over 20 000. In comparison, the average loo seat has just 49 germs per square inch. Clean up with some disinfectant wipes.

6. Pineapple is a super-fruit

Why? It contains bromelain, an enzyme that can help to increase the effectiveness of many antibiotics. To reap the health benefits, simply eat a couple of chunks before meals and you may not have to endure as many hours of daytime TV and reruns before you can head back to work after an illness.

7. The average woman has 25 moles 

Yet only a third of us follow the recommendations about checking them once a month. Just can’t be bothered? Remember this: South Africa has the second-highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia.

8. Don't take backache to bed 

Research shows that people who get horizontal every time they’re in pain take longest to recover, while those who tend to avoid bed rest and continue normal activities as much as possible feel better quicker and return to work faster.

9. TV is the number one sex thief 

More than 55 percent of women blame the box for not getting enough nookie, says research by The Kinsey Institute in the United States. 

10. Having a laugh is fab for every little bit of your body

When we chuckle, the level of the antibody immunoglobulin A in our bodies is increased, which helps us fight off infections, says research by The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor in America. Scientists at Stanford University also found that laughing 100 times a day has the same aerobic effect on the heart and lungs as 10 minutes of rowing or jogging. But that’s not all; other studies have shown laughing can also lower blood pressure, reduce the symptoms of depression and even help ease chronic illnesses such as arthritis.

11. Get yourself checked for Chlamydia 

No, it’s not something only teens need to worry about. Chlamydia is now the most widespread STI and up to five percent of us have it – often without realising, because it can have no symptoms. See your gynae for advice.

12. Bad breath could indicate you have gum disease 

Ninety eight percent of us suffer from smelly breath at some point, caused by sulphur compounds. Check yours by licking your wrist. Start from the back of your tongue and move forward. Leave the saliva to dry for 10 seconds then sniff for any foul odour. Get sweeter breath by drinking two litres of water a day, avoiding coffee and flossing every night without fail.

13. Go for a late morning latté

Drinking a latté a day can reduce your risk of osteoporosis - 500ml contains 41 percent of your RDA of calcium. 

14. Walnuts are best

These little gems contain the highest levels of heart-healthy Omega 3 oils of any nut, with the lowest overall fat content. Research shows that regularly eating them can even add five to 10 years to your life.

15. Use your hand to work out portion size 

One serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, one serving of green vegetables or salad about the bulk of two fists, while starchy foods like potatoes or pasta should be the size of a tightly clenched fist. These portions may seem small at first, but remember that your stomach’s only about the size of two loosely fisted hands held together.

16. Stretch your legs to slash that stress 

Researchers at America’s Duke University found that a daily half-hour stroll could be more powerful than the antidepressant Prozac and can cut stress levels by a third. “It boosts the analgesic properties of endorphins released by the body, an effect which lasts for up to eight hours,” explains study author John Bartholomew.

17. Up to two thirds of headaches stem from bad posture 

We’re all guilty of it, but sitting slumped at your desk with your chin pointing down actually damages the joints and nerves in your upper neck. Curb this by touching your chest with your chin, pushing your ears down towards your shoulders, three times a day.

18. The average woman passes wind 15 times a day - and it's good thing!

Boys aren’t the only ones letting their bodily gases go, and they shouldn’t be! Farting and burping is actually a sign of health. They’re only really a problem if there are other symptoms that come with them, such as abdominal pain, loss of weight, constipation or blood in the faeces, in which case you should see your GP.

19. But if you don't want to

Drink plenty of water to flush out any lingering problems, take charcoal tablets or sip on some peppermint tea, which calms the digestive tract and promotes the flow of bile from the gall bladder to aid the digestion of fats.

20. Hugs can help your heart

Researchers from The University of North Carolina have found that squeezing someone for just 20 minutes every day can reduce your blood pressure by up to 10 percent in just two weeks, cutting your risk of heart disease. So make time to snuggle up with your hubby or kids often to harness the power of a good hug.

21. A chilly bed helps you sleep

For the perfect night’s kip, you should feel slightly chilly when naked in your bedroom: 10°C is claimed to be the optimum temperature, according to a study by the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Institute.

22. We all get a little sweaty sometimes 

Every person has an average of three to four million sweat glands and, even when you feel cool, you still lose about half a litre in sweat every day.

23. Thai Chi can help prevent sick days 

Practising this martial art just three times a week was shown by psycho-biologists at the University of California to raise protection against all common viruses by 50 percent. “It reduces levels of stress hormones, boosting your immune system,” says study author Dr Michael Irwin.

24. The healthiest tipple is a small glass of red 

Packed with polyphenols and ticker-boosting flavonoids, the advantages of a daily dose of Carbernet Sauvignon are well documented. For the healthiest hit, grab a French beaujolais, which typically contains one of the highest levels of heart-boosting resveratrol of any drop, according to University of Mississippi researchers.

25. Slower walks 

In a study at The Cooper Institute for aerobics research in California, dieters who walked 5km a day at a pace of about 7 minutes per kay lost more fat than those who hit a more speedy pace.

26. Don't rely on makeup with an SPF only 

It may not provide the right amount of protection against the harsh South African sun. Rather use a good sunscreen as a moisturiser and then apply your SPF-laden foundation.

27. Keep your water in the fridge 

Swap your recommended two litres of room-temperature water for ice-cold refreshment and you can burn an extra 100 calories a day. That works out to the equivalent of losing almost half a kilo a month. Your body burns energy to bring it back up to room temperature, plus it also makes your stomach contract, which alleviates hunger pangs (which means fewer trips to the vending machine).

28. Fad dieting can harm your health 

Researchers at the University of California have found that yo-yo dieting increases your risk of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes by up to a quarter.

29. Singing songs can make you happier 

Doing that Rihanna-on-helium impression in the bath is good for body and mind, Newcastle University researchers have found. One daily singalong improves breathing and muscle tone and helps build a stronger immune system, as well as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol by up to a third, they report. Tell that to your significant other if they complain about any impromptu performances.

30. You need to overeat by 3500 calories to put on even half a kilo

In other words, that one KitKat won’t make you fat – you’d need to eat more than 70 of the two-fingered tempters to gain one measly kilogram.

31. The healthiest dip?

Salsa wins this title. It contains a mere 18 calories per 50g serving, and it’s also full of vitamin C and the cancer fighting antioxidant lycopene.

32. You can eat bacon, but without the fat 

You'll save a significant 4g of fat when you eat trimmed bacon compared with streaky. 

33. Ask your mom about the family tree

Our genes are responsible for over half of the severe illnesses people contract, according to a study from the University of Michigan’s Center for Statistical Genetics, and knowing what problems family members had is your best bet for a longer life. Here’s what else genes account for:

  • A whopping 19 percent of your personality traits.
  • Approximately 51 percent of your height, weight and body shape (so lay off the guilt).
  • About 25 percent of cardiovascular function, like your heart and veins.
  • Roughly four percent of certain blood characteristics –sugar and cholesterol levels.

34. You don't always have to see your regular doctor

You may not be able to see another GP as quickly as your regular one so consider it. But if it makes the difference between you going or not, it's worth waiting. 

35. Making love can make you slim down

Having sex burn 85 calories in 30 minutes. So, hands up who fancies an early night?

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