29 Questions (and Answers) That Can Save Your Life

Test Your Health Smarts

You know you need to get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet and drink lots of water. But do your health smarts stop there? “When it comes to their well-being, many women look at the big picture without stopping to think about the individual facts and figures that can help them live longer, healthier lives,” says Holly Thacker, M.D., director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio. Are you one of these in-the-dark individuals? Take this quiz to test your health knowledge -- and learn the numbers every woman should know.

How much time should you spend washing your hands?

1.) 10 seconds
2.) 15 seconds
3.) 20 seconds

Answer: 20 seconds

That’s how long it takes to effectively zap dirt and bacteria, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic. And don’t bother with anti-bacterial cleaners: several studies show that working up a lather with good old soap and water remains the safest and best way to ward off the microbes.

How much sunscreen should you slather on each morning?

1.) 1 tablespoon
2.) 2 tablespoons
3.) 4 tablespoons

Answer: 2 tablespoons

Experts recommend using at least this amount of sunscreen on your face and body before you head outside daily, and reapplying every two hours. “Many women buy very high SPFs, like 50, but then don’t use enough of the product to fully cover themselves,” says Dr. Thacker. Her advice: “The SPF you select isn’t as important as the amount and type of sunscreen you use. So, look for products containing a solid sun-blocking ingredient like mexoryl with full-spectrum coverage. That means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays, making it more effective for preventing both skin damage and skin cancer.”

What’s the maximum amount of processed sugar a person should eat daily?

1.) 6 teaspoons
2.) 8 teaspoons
3.) 10 teaspoons

Answer: 6 teaspoons

Individuals should consume no more than six teaspoons (or about 25 grams) of sugar daily in addition to the sugar that occurs naturally in the foods they eat, according to the American Heart Association. Why? Numerous studies have tied an excess sugar intake with obesity and countless health problems like heart disease and diabetes. To slash your intake: "Carefully check all food labels for sugar grams before you dig in,” advises Marcelle Pick, an ob-gyn nurse practitioner and author of The Core Balance Diet.

When wearing headphones, how long can you listen to music at full blast without damaging your hearing?

1.) 5 minutes
2.) 10 minutes
3.) 25 minutes

Answer: 5 minutes

This is the maximum amount of time a person’s ears can healthfully handle a full blast of music from headphones, according to a new study from University of Colorado. To avoid hearing damage, dial the volume down to 70 percent. One way to tell you’re at the right level: Study authors say you should be able to clearly hear someone next to you call your name.

What’s the minimum amount of sleep you need for good health?

1.) 4 hours
2.) 5 hours
3.) 6 and a half hours

Answer: 6 and a half hours

This is the lowest you should go, says Susan Zafarlotfi, Ph.D., director of the Sleep/ Wake Disorders Clinic at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Less than that and you increase your risk of health problems: A recent study of 68,000 middle age women from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland found that those who slept five or less hours were 32 percent more likely to experience major weight gain than those who slept at least seven hours. Other studies have shown that less than six hours of shut eye is also associated with depression and decreased immunity.

The healthiest body mass index (BMI) is one that’s below:

1.) 23
2.) 25
3.) 28

Answer: 25

“Women worry about their weight, but because it uses both height and weight, BMI is a better predictor of overall health,” says Dr. Thacker. A healthy BMI is between 19 and 24.9, for both men and women; unless you’re an athlete with a high muscle mass, a higher number shows that you have excess body fat that can increase your risk of countless chronic diseases.

What’s the cutoff for healthy blood pressure?

1.) 120 over 80
2.) 140 over 80
3.) 150 over 90

Answer: 120 over 80

“If you’re above 120 over 80, you’re at risk for heart disease and stroke,” says Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director of New York University’s Women’s Heart Program. But what do these numbers mean? The first number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts, while the second shows the number when your heart is relaxing, she explains. Have high numbers? Exercising more (at least half an hour of cardio a day) and avoiding excess sodium (aim for no more than a teaspoon of added sodium daily) can help bring your blood pressure down to a healthy range, says Dr. Goldberg.

How many servings of fruit and vegetables should you strive to eat daily?

1.) 3
2.) 5
3.) 8

Answer: 5

Experts at the American Cancer Society recommend eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day to help prevent cancer. That’s because they contain crucial disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. And because they’re low in calories, they help prevent weight gain, too. By 'serving' we mean one half cup of diced or sliced fruit or vegetable, one medium piece of fruit or six ounces of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice.

What’s a healthy thyroid level?

1.) 3 or lower
2.) 5 or lower
3.) 6 or lower

Answer: 3 or lower

The healthy function of the thyroid gland is monitored via a blood test that measures thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH. “You want to fall within the range of 0.4 to 3. Anything higher indicates that your thyroid is not working properly,” notes Dr. Thacker. A whopping one in eight women will experience thyroid problems this year, and unfortunately many of these issues will remain undetected because they’re often mistaken for other things, like perimenopause or menopause, she says. Her advice: Ask your doctor to check your levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) every few years, or any time you experience symptoms like depression, sluggishness, inexplicable weight gain, hair loss or irregular periods.

How many steps should you strive to take daily?

1.) 1,000
2.) 10,000
3.) 100,000

Answer: 10,000

“Research shows that this amount is enough physical activity to stave off weight gain,” says Dr. Thacker. Bonus: A study from the University of Georgia found that taking short walks -- even as little as 10 minutes in the course of a day -- is enough to boost energy, even in people with chronic diseases like arthritis. Not sure how many steps you take daily? Consider purchasing a pedometer to keep track.

You spot trans fats on a food’s label: What’s considered a safe amount to eat?

1.) 0 grams
2.) 3 grams
3.) 5 grams

Answer: No amount of trans fat is actually considered safe to eat.

Trans fats—a.k.a. trans-fatty acids—are made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. That combo helps food last longer, but “trans fats have been linked to serious health problems ranging from obesity to heart disease to diabetes, so you want to consume as little as possible,” notes Dr. Goldberg. To avoid this dietary landmine, steer clear of foods with “partially hydrogenated oil” in their ingredient list, choose freshly baked breads and desserts (as opposed to the type that sit on store shelves for long periods of time) and opt for broiled or baked food instead of fried, since many restaurants still fry in trans fat-filled oil.

What blood glucose (or blood sugar) level indicates you’re at risk for diabetes?

1.) 75
2.) 100
3.) 126

Answer: 100

“Blood sugar levels that are 100 or higher indicate that you have pre-diabetes, which means you’re at serious risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Goldberg. “By the time your sugar reaches 126, you have the disease.” To avoid problems, she suggests speaking with your doctor about having a fasting blood sugar test once every three years after you turn 40, or sooner if you’re overweight or have symptoms of diabetes like extreme fatigue, blurred vision or wounds that won’t heal.

How many calories do you have to burn to lose one pound of fat?

1.) 1,500
2.) 2,500
3.) 3,500

Answer: 3,500

Sound overwhelming? Think of it this way: Cut out 117 calories a day and you’ll lose one pound a month, points out Pick. And if you slash 250 calories from your daily diet and burn another 250 through exercise, you’ll speed up this process and shed about a pound a week, she says.

You can boost your health by doing:

1.) 17 minutes of exercise a day
2.) 22 minutes of exercise a day
3.) 30 minutes of exercise a day

Answer: 17 minutes of exercise a day

Many health organizations advise women to get a full hour of physical activity a day, but a recent study from Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston found that women who did just two hours of cardiovascular exercise a week -- that’s about 17 minutes daily -- reduced their risk of heart disease and stroke by 40 percent. “You don’t even have to exercise all at once. Breaking up physical activity into smaller, more manageable segments is just as effective for both health and weight loss,” says Pick.

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