Category: Lifestyle

Personal Hygiene

By Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

One should practice basic hygiene not just as a courtesy to others, but also for themselves. Personal hygiene is much more than just showering and using deodorant, although those are very important. In fact, personal hygiene is just another term for healthy lifestyle. Below is an elementary personal hygiene checklist. See what areas you are already doing well, what areas you could modify, and what other aspects of your life could use some personal hygiene. Remember personal hygiene is not about egoism, it is about ridding your body, mind, and life of harmful toxins. As the stressful holidays approach, this will be even more important. Although it is a time of giving, don’t forget to make time for yourself.

  1. Clean your ears. Excess ear wax can build up in your ear canal and diminish hearing. Use a ear cleaning solution to remove earwax, not a cotton swab.
  2. Brush & floss. Poor oral health can lead to cavities, bad breath, and in the worst cases cause sepsis and death. Brush twice a day, floss daily, rinse your mouth after meals, get a new toothbrush every 3-4 months, visit your dentist twice a year, and avoid high fat or acidic foods/drinks. Remember to scrub your tongue too.
  3. Shower. Sweat, dead skin, microorganisms, dirt, and odors build up on your skin throughout the day. Shower daily with soap and water. Remember to wash your entire body: face, feet, and genitals too! Also, wash or change your towel once or twice a week.
  4. Wash your hands. Our hands are the dirtiest part of our bodies because we are constantly touching things—door knobs, money, cellphones, etc. Always wash your hands before and after using the restroom, eating, and touching animals. Regularly disinfecting commonly used object such as cellphones and keyboards is good hygienic practice as well.
  5. Trim your nails. Unclipped fingernails collect dirt and can be just as harmful as not washing your hands. Clip nails as needed and clean them with a brush whenever you wash your hands. However, avoid biting your nails.
  6. Wash your hair. Unwashed hair can be smelly and cause itchy scalps. Depending on the length and dryness/oiliness, as well as your activity level, you may wash your hair daily or just once or twice a week. Limit the use of hair dryers, flat irons, dyes, and other chemicals to maintain strong, healthy hair.
  7. Do your laundry. Keep your clothes clean and change our basics daily (underwear, bras, undershirts, socks, etc).
  8. Don’t “just do it.” Know who you are having sex with and use condoms and other contraceptives. Sexual monogamy is the healthiest, but if you do engage in casual sex always use condoms, disinfect your genitals with antiseptics to help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), get tested for STIs regularly, and get the HPV vaccine.
  9. Be active. Regular physical activity promotes immunity, rids the body of toxins, and clears pores. The recommended amount of activity is 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes per day.
  10. Sleep. Not enough or too much sleep can cause a wealth of problems. Establish a regular bedtime routine and aim for 6-8 hours of sleep per night. Also, make sure to wash or change your sheets weekly to prevent body acne and bad odors.
  11. Eat clean. Good nutrition makes you look and feel healthier inside and out. Drinking more water will also cleanse the body. Remember to clean out your refrigerator periodically and remove expired or spoiled foods.
  12. Keep it tidy. Disinfect surface areas regularly, especially in the kitchen and bathroom to prevent harmful microbial buildup. Ventilate your home with outside air and let natural light in when possible; this will naturally reduce the number of microbes and bacteria. Also, declutter your environment; it helps with reducing stress and anxiety.

More resources for personal hygiene tips: Personal Hygiene ChecklistFeminine HygieneTips for Guide to Good Hygiene


New Marshmallow Helmets

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

Stanford University’s David Camarillo is a bioengineer researching ways to reduce head injury and concussions with new bicycle helmet designs. Camarillo and his team compared an airbag helmet to a traditional foam helmet and found promising results. This type of helmet is a pouch worn around the neck and inflates upon impact by chemical catalysts exactly like a car airbag. They were developed to help forego the excuse that a traditional helmet is dorky and as a direct result, decrease bike rider head injury.

Camarillo conducted drop tests with a dummy that suggested airbag helmets may reduce impact by as much as six-fold as compared to foam helmets. However, the drop tests were done with optimal pre-inflated airbag helmets and real life scenarios don’t guarantee maximum air pressure 100% of the time. In addition, more tests need to be conducted on rotational movements and impacts that are often associated with concussions. Camarillo is optimistic for the use of this technology in the future, but feels that more research, testing, and product innovation is still needed. Developers are working on developing a smarter helmet by embedding sensors that detect the severity of an impact and compensate accordingly and increasing the reliability and efficiency of inflation.

Currently the airbag helmets are only available in some European countries and not yet marketed to US consumers. But keep an eye out for these airbag helmets, or marshmallow helmets, because they will likely be in the future of bike safety and injury prevention.

Additional Bike Safety Tips:

  1. Wear reflective clothing, especially at night.
  2. Turn on front and back lights during dusk, evening, and nighttime hours.
  3. Always use arm signals when turning.
  4. Follow traffic signs and signals as a car would.
  5. Be aware of your surroundings: don’t wear earbuds or use your phone while riding.

For more tips go to

Kubota, T. (2016, Oct 4). Air bag bike helmet inflates to protect head. Futurity.

Kurt, M., Laksari, K., Kuo, C., Grant, G. A., & Camarillo, D. B. (2016). Modeling and optimization of airbag helmets for preventing head injuries in bicycling. Annals of Biomedical Engineering, doi:10.1007/s10439-016-1732-1 [doi]

Bluejay, M. (2013) How to not get hit by cars: Important lessons in bicycle safety.

You are what you Tweet?

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

Are you someone who puts your mood, food, or physical activity on social media? If so, you may be helping researchers develop and test new ways of tracking health behaviors.



It is known that the places where we live, work, play, and learn positively and negatively influence our health. But due to the time and other resources necessary to gather and update information about neighborhood characteristics, there is a lack of information to really understand how characteristics influence our health or why those effects might differ across town or the U.S.

As an alternative, a group of researchers explored the usefulness of using geotagged tweets to generate neighborhood level information to characterize happiness, food, and physical activity. By linking tweets to census tract level information, investigators found correlations (relationships) between happiness, food, and physical activity information and health behaviors, chronic diseases, death, and self-rated health.

And although this wasn’t the intention of the study, you might be interested to know the top 5 most tweeted about foods and forms of physical activity in the 1% random sample of publicly available tweets from April 2015 – March 2016:


  1. Coffee
  2. Beer
  3. Pizza
  4. Starbucks
  5. IPA (beer)

Physical Activity

  1. Walk/walking
  2. Dance/dancing
  3. Running
  4. Workout
  5. Golf

Any chance your tweets over the last year included one of those words?

This study, like all others, has limitations, and it is important to remember this is a first look at the usefulness of geocoded Twitter information. Having said that, these results show promise that Twitter or other social media data could be a useful and cheaper, more efficient way to create neighborhood profiles. More information about our neighborhoods could provide insight about important targets for change to improve the health of our communities. Now that is something to #tweet about!



Cara, E. Top 10 Food Tweets Reveal Diet and Physical Activity Patterns of Twitter Users. Medical Daily. October 16, 2016.

Nguyen QC, Li D, Meng HW, Kath S, Nsoesie E, Li F, Wen M. Building a National Neighborhood Dataset From Geotagged Twitter Data for Indicators of Happiness, Diet, and Physical Activity. JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2016;2(2):e158. DOI: 10.2196/publichealth.5869. PMID: 27751984

Tips for Healthier TV Binge Watching

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

It’s about to get colder out, and I plan to spend some time this fall and winter on my couch covered in blankets, especially when the new Gilmore Girls episodes premiere. Yet this year I plan to plan ahead to make my TV and Netflix binge watching healthier, especially after reports that binge-watching and prolonged sitting have negative effects on your health. Binge watching has most commonly been linked to weight gain and obesity as well as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While many experts recommend cutting TV viewing hours and limiting the number of hours you watch at once, sometimes there are rainy days or a new show that everyone will be talking about on Monday and you find yourself on your couch binge watching yet again.

Before you Netflix and chill, here are three tips to make your marathon a little bit healthier.

Choose Healthier Drinks and Snacks: Eat real meals with protein and vegetables to prevent too much snacking. For snacking, choose healthy options such as veggies and hummus, fruit, and nuts. Remember to stay hydrated, which will also get you up and moving!

Get Physical: Keep active while you are watching TV by doing stretches, yoga, or crunches. Also, instead of jumping right into the next episode, use the pause as an activity break and take a walk, complete a task in your house that requires movement, or try a two-minute workout like this. Keeping some exercise equipment or a yoga mat near your TV is a great reminder to stay active while watching your favorite show.

Set a Limit: We all know it can be extremely difficult to stop in the middle of a marathon (especially when the next episode auto plays!). Decide beforehand how long you will watch TV and set a timer, or set a bedtime for yourself if watching at night. Setting a timer will help the day from getting away from you without you realizing. Also, since screens can alter your production of melatonin, be sure to turn off the TV 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep.

Cars vs. Cows

There is a lot of talk about cars emitting pollution, but what about cows? Yes, the environmental sin you commit by using the drive thru is not the driving part, but rather that you are buying beef. Watch this video to learn about cow’s surprisingly large environmental impact.

Video Source: Reveal (2012, Aug 1) The Hidden Costs of Hamburgers.

Are Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Correlated?

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

I recently went in for my annual physical at Campus Health Services. Just like any other doctor’s appointment, vitals were taken before seeing the physician. Because I’m a graduate student in public health, I am a little embarrassed to disclose that I have to look up my blood pressure readings every time. I can never remember the difference between systolic vs diastolic and normal heart rates. Thus for both my own and your benefit, I’ll recap the important points.

Blood Pressure (BP) is the force the heart exerts against the walls of the arteries as it pumps the blood out to the body (measured in millimeters of mercury or mm Hg). It is comprised of systolic pressure which is the pressure as the heart beats and forces blood into the arteries and diastolic pressure which is the pressure as the heart relaxes between beats. Note: Remember diastolic pressure is the bottom number because it starts with a “D” and is the denominator or down below. A normal BP reading is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Typically, more attention is paid to the top number because it is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, however this number tends to rise with age and small increases over time are not desirable, but also not alarming.

High Blood Pressure (HBP): If your BP is more than 120/80 mm Hg consistently over time, you have HBP or hypertension. This is fairly common as about a third of the U.S. adult population has HBP. There are eight main ways to combat HBP or prevent it:

  1. Eat a balanced diet, particularly reduce salt intake
  2. Participate in regular physical activity
  3. Maintain a healthy weight
  4. Manage stress
  5. Avoid tobacco smoke
  6. Comply with medication prescriptions, particularly BP medications
  7. Limit alcohol consumption
  8. Understand hot tub safety

Low Blood Pressure (LBP): Usually the lower your BP the better, but too low or sudden declines can be hazardous. While there is not a threshold for determining LBP, if you experience dizziness, fainting, difficulty concentrating, blurred vision, nausea, cold or clammy skin, rapid or shallow breathing, fatigue, or depression, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. LBP can be an indicator of other more serious health issues.

Heart Rate (HR) is the number of times your heart beats per minute (measured in BPM). Normal resting HR is between 60 and 100 bpm. However, many factors can influence HR, including activity and fitness level, air temperature, body position, emotions, body size, and medications. Extremely active or fit individuals typically have lower resting HR, but when exercising experience faster spikes in HR and quicker recovery to their resting heart rate afterwards. The heart is like any other muscle in the body and can be strengthened and become more efficient with training.

BP and HR are not necessarily correlated. Measuring HR does not predict BP or vice versa. For example, a doubling in HR while exercising does not mean BP doubles. However physical activity that results in increases in HR and BP can be dangerous for individuals with extremely high or extremely low BP. Thus if you are at one of these extremes, make sure you consult with a physician before starting an exercise routine and always exercise with a family member, friend, trainer, or under supervision.

Now the next time you visit your physician, you will be better educated about BP and HR. Hopefully you can understand what your numbers mean during the visit instead of nervously trying to remember them so that you can look them up later.

Resources & Links:

American Heart Association: Blood Pressure.

UNC Campus Health Services: Home.

Mayo Clinic: Heart Rate: What is Normal?.


Making Time for Self Care


By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

The weather is getting (a little bit) colder, and my to-do list is getting much longer. I’ve had several recent conversations with friends in passing about how busy and overwhelmed we are starring to feel as assignments and obligations start to pile up. And I’ve started to rationalize that if I skipped my planned exercise class or morning walk or cancelled plans, I would have more time to tackle all of the things that need to get done. However, even though it’s important to do well and succeed in school, it is also important to take care of yourself! Practicing Self are will help to prevent overload burnout, will reduce the negative effects of stress, and will also help you refocus.

Here are some tips for Self Care

  • Make time to eat well and exercise: No need to cook gourmet meals and workout for multiple hours per day, but it is important to remember to fill your body with good and nutrient dense food (with occasional treats!) and to take time to move your body every day.
  • Don’t overschedule: It may be tempting to fill your schedule up with extracurricular activities and social events on top of classes and homework, but everything starts to add up eventually. Set aside time each week for yourself even if it means saying no.
  • Get enough sleep: Make getting enough sleep a priority. I set an alarm on my phone every day 45 minutes before my ideal bedtime, which gives me enough time to get organized for the next day and to wind down any activity or assignment that I am working on, which has improved the amount of sleep that I get. It may also be helpful to set a caffeine cut off time each day and to limit screen time before bed.
  • Spend time each day NOT working: Even though there is always something productive that you could be doing, it is important to take a break each day. Take a study break by going on a short walk with a friend or take real break at lunchtime and don’t look at your computer. Make time for hobbies and activities that you enjoy like reading for pleasure, sports, and cooking.

Check out this list of TED Talks to learn more about self-care.