Staying Healthy While Traveling

Traveling for fun, for work, or just out of necessity can be as exhausting as it can be exciting. With your normal routine disrupted and your body in an unfamiliar place, travel can take a toll on your health. Here are some things to keep in mind to stay healthy while traveling.

Broken Routine

Your routine consists of a thousand small actions every day, but here are key parts to consider so you can stay healthy while traveling.

  • Sleep schedule. When and how much you sleep dictates your whole day. Your sleep schedule is often interrupted while traveling: both in transit and due to jet lag. Even once you’ve gotten to your destination and are tired out, the unfamiliar environment can make it hard to sleep. Anticipate difficulty sleeping and consider bringing a few things to help: comfortable pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, melatonin, warm socks.
  • Hydration. You may forget to drink water amid the chaos of traveling. Dehydration can make you sick and susceptible to other diseases. Keep a reusable water bottle handy if you know the tap water will be good where you’re headed. That way you can hydrate anywhere. If you’re unsure, ask for bottled water instead.
  • Medication. A wonky schedule may make you forget to take important medication. Set reminders on your phone, make a note in your calendar, or put a sticky note inside your luggage to remind yourself to take your medication.
  • Dental care. Whether you’re on a cross-country road trip or a cross-global flight, pack your toothbrush in a hygienic case and don’t forget to use it. Even if you’ve crossed five time zones and don’t remember what day it is, it can’t hurt to give your teeth a brush every 12 hours at least. Bring your floss, too.
  • Exercise. While in transit, you’re likely not getting much exercise. Remember to get up and walk around whenever you can. Getting a little exercise will make your trip go by faster, and it’s safer and healthier, too. Whether you’re going backpacking through Southeast Asia or you’re going to your aunt’s for Thanksgiving will determine how much exercise you get while you’re away from home. If you are stuck in a house with relatives, a few laps around the block gets the blood flowing and even clears your head!

Unfamiliar Environment

You don’t have to travel to a strange country to be in an unfamiliar climate or physical environment. How you feel at sea level in Connecticut may be different from how you feel at 8,000 feet in Colorado. Traveling abroad may expose you to even more unfamiliar climates, weather, foods, and even some microscopic intruders that the locals are accustomed to. Here are some important factors to consider to stay healthy while traveling:

  • Reactions to weather or climate. Don’t underestimate how a particular climate might be a shock to your system. Whether you’re in a desert climate, a humid region, or high in the mountains, take it slow. Do not go on a long hike immediately; don’t go for a big run as soon as you get there. Your body may not have the stamina you’re used to in this new place. Take your time with eating and drinking, especially consuming alcoholic beverages – you don’t know your tolerance in this new environment.
  • Local diseases. While there are a variety of region-specific illnesses, you usually have to worry about new diseases in warmer climates, where mosquito-borne diseases are an issue for all, locals and visitors alike. If you are traveling to places where diseases like malaria, dengue fever, zika, or other diseases are transmitted, follow steps to reduce your chances of getting bitten or getting infected. Remember, even in the U.S., mosquitoes can carry disease.
  • Reactions to food. If you’re in a new place and unfamiliar with the cuisine, you may have an adverse reaction to it. This could be for a couple of reasons. The first is that your body is just experiencing something new. Make sure you know your food allergies before traveling. Research the cuisine beforehand and see if you can try some out before you leave as a test. Once you’ve arrived, do your best to discern the ingredients. The second reason is you also might’ve run into some bad food. Improper preparation of food, whether hot or cold, can also lead to bacteria building up. If you’re eating out, whether at home or abroad, do your best to make sure food is properly cooked or properly refrigerated.
  • Reactions to water. Microorganisms in the water can make you sick if you’re in a new place. Your symptom is usually diarrhea. While millions of locals could be drinking the water and have no issues, you may get sick after a few gulps if your body is not accustomed to those microorganisms. When in doubt, use bottled water.

Travel Smart

We don’t want to scare you away from taking a trip, especially if it’s a fun one that might enrich your life. But the key is to travel smart. Do your research. Staying healthy while traveling doesn’t need to be difficult. Remember that taking care of yourself is just as important as anything else on your trip.

How to Pay Off Debt and Free Your Finances

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, chances are you have some debt holding you back. Have you ever wished you could get rid of the debt once and for all?

While that may sound like a lofty goal, maybe near impossible, with the right mindset and plan you can set yourself up to get rid of your debt.

Invest in Yourself First

You might have heard personal financial experts quote this as advice and wondered what they were talking about. They’re saying that you should make sure some of your money goes to you. But sometimes that’s harder than it sounds. If you’ve ever vowed to put extra money aside at the end of the month only to find no extra money when the time comes, you know the feeling.

Instead, the idea is to set money aside before you pay any bills. Because bills are necessary, chances are you’ll find the money to pay them no matter what.

Now, we’re not saying you should under-prioritize your bills. We’re just suggesting a slight reordering of priorities. Often, if you don’t set aside money for yourself first, you probably won’t do it at all. So, setting money aside first is a way to make sure you do it at all. If you want to make sure you don’t put aside too much, we suggest creating a monthly budget to track your income and expenses.

Once you’ve set that money aside, you can use it toward your financial goals. For the purpose of this article, that means putting it toward debt, but it could just as easily go toward emergency savings, or a vacation or retirement fund.

Start Small

Living paycheck to paycheck often means you don’t have much wiggle room in your budget. However, once you start thinking of paying off debt, it’s easy to get swept up into grand schemes of paying off large chunks of debt at a time. While that would be ideal, you shouldn’t aim for that if you can’t regularly afford to do that.

Instead, start small. Set aside a small amount, whether that’s $10, $50, or $100 a month, and put that toward your debt. Even small amounts every month have the power to shorten your payment term and help you on the road to becoming debt free.

Pay with Purpose

However much you decide to put toward your debt each month, make sure to do so with purpose. Make a plan and stick to it. That’s the best way to gain headway and see progress.

There are two major strategies for paying off debt. They both target specific debt accounts while you continue to make minimum payments on your other accounts. When you pay off one account completely, take the amount you were paying on that and apply it to the next one, on top of the minimum payments you were already making on that one.

The snowball method targets your debt account with the smallest balance. Putting your extra money toward that account will get you a quick win and help you gain momentum to keep it going. Next, you’d target the account with the new lowest balance.

The avalanche method targets your debt account with the highest interest. Paying down that account first will minimize the amount you pay in interest and score you a big win. When one account is paid off, focus on the one with the next highest interest rate.

Based on numbers alone, the avalanche might look like the best payoff strategy because you’ll pay less on your debts overall. However, many people run out of steam before they finish paying their first debt that way, which is often not the lowest. Instead, experts are increasingly suggesting the snowball method to get that quick win and keep you motivated. Once you know what it feels like to pay off a debt, you’re more likely to continue the crusade.

Find What Works

However you attack your debt, what’s most important is to find what works. Mix and match strategies to fit your lifestyle. For example, put aside money with each paycheck or line it up with a time of the month; target the smallest debt for a quick win, but then move on to the highest interest debt for a big win.

It’s your debt, so it’s ultimately up to you to decide how to tackle it. But, make sure to go at it with a plan that makes sense for you. You’ll soon find yourself on your way to financial freedom.

Are Detoxes and Cleanses Actually Healthy?

With plastic in the drinking water and pollution in the air, you might worry about what’s building up in your body. Perhaps you’re not very happy with how you’ve been eating. So, you research detoxes and cleanses. They are all the rage. People say a good detox makes them feel more energetic, focused, and healthier. But doubts about them are also strong.

Demystifying Detox

What is a detox or a cleanse? Depends on who you ask. It usually means a purification process that might involve getting rid of a toxic substance that has built up in your body. It usually lasts for a limited amount of time, like a week or two. Often it means a super-restricted diet where only approved substances like a lemon juice drink, for example, a smoothie, or certain soups, are consumed. Some take a looser approach and include a wider variety of foods deemed healthy.

Arguments Against

So, is there any merit to the idea of a dietary detox? Some experts call it bunk. They say the liver and the kidneys do the work of detoxifying your body every day and there is no substance that can cleanse your system like your own organs can. These experts do say that excess of certain foods and drink, especially alcohol, can put a heavier burden on your liver and compromise its natural processes. But in the end, they say no niche diet of lemon water or anything else is going to do something special. In fact, too narrow a diet — even one that lasts such a brief time like a cleanse — may hurt you by not providing essential nutrients.

Arguments For

Other experts like Ben Greenfield acknowledge the liver and kidneys do their jobs of detoxification naturally, but argue unhealthy substances like BPAs and heavy metals are known to build up in human tissue. And these could be eliminated by popular detox foods. Some do contain bacteria clinically proven to absorb and remove certain substances from the body.

However, Greenfield admits that a well-rounded healthy diet does a huge part in helping along the natural detox process. In the same way, abstaining from certain foods helps, too. Positive effects attributed to the detox or cleanse might just due to be the lack of unhealthy foods, not the presence of the “cleansing” food or substance.

No Quick Fix

While the jury is still out, we recommend a wholesome approach no matter what. If you decide to detox, consult a doctor or nutritionist before jumping in. And after your detox ends, don’t just drop back to your normal routine. While it can be hard to incorporate healthy eating and exercise into your busy daily routine, there are ways to do just that. Consistent healthy habits might also make you feel so good you won’t have to detox or cleanse at all.

Count This Not That; How to Measure Health

Most people cite the desire to lose weight when they decide to “go healthy.” They eat greens and keep their saturated fats low. They start an exercise routine and drink lots of water. Those are all the right steps, but if their weight doesn’t go down, they may consider it a failure and revert back to the old ways.

Building healthy habits is hard, especially if you can’t tell it’s working. It’s easy to turn to your scale for progress reports as you go. If you lose weight, that means it’s working, right? However, it isn’t always that simple.

There are so many reasons to not pay attention to your weight. For one, it fluctuates naturally. Even throughout a single day, your weight can go up or down several pounds. Secondly, working out does two things: burns calories, which reduces your weight, and builds muscle, which increases your weight. If your weight loss routine also builds muscle, you may get false negatives if you rely on the scale to show improvement.

Therefore, we encourage you to ditch your scale and pay attention to the following numbers instead.

Water Intake

Water is essential for your body to function normally. Even mild dehydration can affect your energy levels, productivity, and mood. While the advice used to be to drink eight 8-ounce cups of water a day, it’s more complicated than that. Some experts say to take your weight, divide that number by two, and drink that many ounces of water each day.

But even that might not be right for you, especially if you’re trying not to look at your weight. Instead, pay attention to your urine. If you’re drinking enough water, your urine should look only slightly yellow. If it’s very yellow, you should drink more water. Keeping track of what it takes to get an appropriate shade of yellow will tell you how much you should be drinking so you can have a daily water intake goal.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure means that your blood is having a hard time traveling through your body and your heart is working a lot harder. This can lead to heart disease and stroke. Keeping track of your blood pressure will give you a good idea whether you’re healthy or at risk of heart disease and other serious chronic conditions.

If your blood pressure is high, there are always things you can do to lower it.

Vegetable Servings

If you know anything about nutrition, you probably know that you should be eating a lot of vegetables every day. Specifically, you should consume multiple servings of fruits and vegetables a day. For many, that’s tough — you may be lucky to get a serving with dinner. But vegetables provide fiber and many other nutrients necessary for your health. Knowing how many veggies you eat daily can indicate how healthy you are.

If you need to add more veggies to your diet, try these tricks.

Cholesterol Levels

Good cholesterol cleans your arteries, while bad cholesterol clogs them, increasing your blood pressure and putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Therefore, knowing your cholesterol levels can tell you whether you’re healthy. It’s a good idea to have your doctor check your cholesterol levels every few years.

An easy way to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol is through nutrition. If you still struggle with it, talk to your doctor.

Activity

Some people track the steps they take in a day. Keeping tabs on that number may be enough to get some people up from their desk and out moving more. Even light exercise to break up your normally sedentary day is essential for good health.

However, it’s still recommended to get at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping exercise each week. You can split that up as much as you’d like to fit into your schedule. You can divide it into sessions as short as 10 minutes. Just make sure to track it so you know how much activity you’re getting. The more you get, the more health benefits you’ll experience.

Sleeping Hours

We’re not shy here to boast about the power of sleep. We’ve talked about why it’s important, how a consistent schedule is best, and the dangers of not getting enough of it. We hope you’ve taken all that to heart, and we’d like to add one thing: the value of tracking your sleep.

By keeping track of how much sleep you get each night, you can start noticing trends. For example, you may determine what your ideal amount of sleep is, when your body prefers to sleep, or what habits help or hinder your sleep schedule. All information you get will help you improve your sleep and your health.

Waist Circumference

Waist circumference may be linked to weight, as all fat is, but the purpose of this measurement is not to simply trade in measuring pounds for measuring inches. Fat can accumulate anywhere in the body, but when it settles around the organs in the belly, it can lead to serious health issues, like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Tracking your waist circumference can be valuable in assessing your risk of those dangerous conditions.

Many of these things relate to the others. For example, adding veggies to your diet will also lower your levels of bad cholesterol, which will lower your blood pressure. Exercising, when paired with a healthy diet, will reduce your waist circumference. Drinking more water will help your blood pressure and everything else. The more you focus on these measurements, the more comprehensive your view on your health will be.

The next time you jump on that scale, remember that it may not be the most accurate indicator of health.

How to Fight Bad Air Quality

We all know bad air quality is unhealthy. In the short term, outside air quality can cause itchy eyes, coughing, wheezing, and even some difficulty breathing. In the long term, unhealthy air can lead to serious chronic respiratory illness like emphysema and decreased lung function overall.

But what can you do about it? Good or bad air quality may seem out of your hands, and that’s mostly true. Aside from protesting pollution or telling nature to quit it with the pollen, you’re not in control of what happens in the atmosphere. But there are steps you can take to reduce suffering from poor air quality.

Learn About Yourself and the Air Around You

Know your health status. It’s important to know first what you’re up against. While smoke, smog, or haze may be visible to the human eye, micro-particles that you breathe into your lungs and that enter your bloodstream are often the biggest risks for developing respiratory illnesses. With airborne allergens like pollen and spores, symptoms may be as mild as a runny nose or as serious as anaphylaxis. Either way, it’s good to ask your doctor what your risk of respiratory illness is.

If you think air allergens are making you sick, you might want to take allergy tests to know precisely what to avoid. Studies have also shown that your genetics may determine how well your body can fight off pollutants like ozone. (Ozone is the stuff that’s good for us above the stratosphere, but harmful at ground level.) Bad air quality affects everyone differently.

Keep up with the news. Even if you live in a place with good air quality most of the time, both natural and man-made disasters may suddenly change that. Wildfires can pour smoke into your area. Airborne pollutants from chemical plants can seep into the atmosphere if there’s an accident. This is not to alarm you, but to let you know the risks of unusual events. When you know about a disaster, you can take steps to protect yourself. If you have a disaster kit, take into account bad air quality when putting it together.

Check the air quality index, pollen forecast, and wind directions in your area. The air quality index reflects an analysis of several types of particles and chemical components in the air. This will give you an idea of how safe it is to breathe the air and what kind of outdoor or physical activity is healthy to engage in. Wind directions and usual wind patterns will help you predict the path of pollutants across regions. If you don’t know local wind patterns, search online or look out for weather reports.

What to Do if Air Quality is Poor

Stay inside. This one’s simple but important. Stay inside and keep doors and windows shut. While you can’t escape every micro-particle or allergen that floats into your home or workplace, the walls do make a difference. Sometimes leaving the house is unavoidable, but limit your activity outside.

Decide if an air purifier is right for you. This can be done even when the air quality outside is good! Not only should you account for outdoor air coming in, indoor air quality may be below par depending on dust, mold, smoke, or a variety of other factors. There are many different kinds of air purifiers on the market, so you will need to do research. In a twist of irony, some air purifiers are known to produce ozone as a by-product. Be sure to verify that whichever air purifier you purchase does not produce ozone, which can cause serious breathing problems.

If you do go outside, wear a mask the whole time. Respirator masks are your best bet. While simple medical masks may prevent you from breathing in some ash or pieces of pollen, respirators will filter out the finer, more insidious particles. Children, elders, and people with existing respiratory illnesses have a higher risk of negative impact from breathing bad air.

If you are coughing, congested, or feeling like you can’t breathe well, you might be a victim of poor air quality. You should always consult a doctor if you’re having trouble breathing.  But these are some preliminary steps to take to breathe a little easier.