What happens when … ?

How much of a problem are those little health-related slip-ups?

By Barbara Pierce


No one follows the rules for healthy living all the time. So how much of a problem can these little slipups be?

What happens when … ?

— You scratch an itch? It stops itching for a while, but the itch will come back fiercely. Scratching triggers a small amount of pain that numbs the itch but causes the release of serotonin, which carries the “I itch” signal to the brain. So as the pain fades, the itch returns even stronger. Try rubbing the area with your palm instead.

— You hold your pee? You won’t stretch your bladder or weaken your pelvic floor. But you could increase your risk for developing a urinary tract infection. As urine sits in your bladder, it creates a welcoming environment for bacteria, say the experts.

For both men and women, the most important time to urinate is after sex because that’s when bacteria can migrate into your urethra. Peeing flushes everything out.

— You take a week or two off from physical activity? “Use it or lose it” is real, say experts. After a week of dialing down your routine, your metabolism can slow and your speed and endurance can decrease up to 30 percent. In just one week! But one to two weeks back at your routine will reverse any loss.

“Regular exercise is essential for optimal overall physical and mental health,” said registered dietitian Crystal Hein, owner and operator of Crystal Clear Nutrition in Herkimer.

“Physical inactivity can lead to multiple chronic diseases. It increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or having a stroke,” she said.

“Physical inactivity can lead to weight gain, especially as we age. It can also lead to weak bones, resulting in osteoporosis later in life. Being physically active has been shown to help prevent and manage diabetes,” Hein added.

Spending a lazy day on the sofa may help you get caught up on your favorite TV shows, but it is a set-up for lots of problems.

— You brush your teeth only once a day (maybe not even that)?

Don’t neglect teeth

“Brushing after every meal is extremely important,” said Charles Burns, a dentist in Utica. “Bacteria caused by the leftover food in your mouth causes cavities.”

Not brushing for prolonged periods of time causes periodontal disease and loss of teeth. As brushing after every meal is not always feasible in the real world, Burns suggests at least rinse with water if you can’t brush.

— You don’t floss?

“Flossing is extremely important,” said Burns.

“Bacteria can get wedged in between your teeth; most cavities start between the teeth. Keep the bacteria out and prevent periodontal disease and loss of your teeth,” he said.

Not flossing also can cause bad breath.

— You skip breakfast?

Skipping breakfast is a set-up for pigging out later. When you wake up, your body has gone as much as 12 hours without food. When you skip breakfast, you’ll be hungry later on, said Hein.

Your growling stomach may lead you to make poor food choices, choices that are probably high in calories and sugar and low in protein and fiber.

When you’re very hungry, you’ll be inclined to eat larger portions, she added. Most people more than compensate for the calories they miss at breakfast by overeating at lunch and dinner — especially foods high in saturated fat, the kind that plugs arteries.

— You grab a quick bowl of cereal like Fruity Pebbles, Frosted Flakes, or Lucky Charms.

Many of the popular breakfast cereals have more sugar than a couple doughnuts. They’re loaded with sugar, fat, and even salt. (i.e. Golden Grahams contains 21 percent of your daily salt allowance.) Even granola — sounds healthy but it isn’t, as it’s high in fat and sugar.

“You won’t feel full after eating these cereals,” said Hein, as they are low in fiber and protein, and high in sugar.

You know what that means: Your blood sugar spikes, then plummets, and you’re hungry soon after.

“These cereals are also lacking important nutrients to keep our bodies functioning at their best: vitamins, minerals and protein,” added Hein.

— Ignore the claims on the front of the box. Check out the ingredients: you want as much fiber as possible, and as little sugar as possible.

“Make sure to include protein and fiber at breakfast,” Hein said.

For protein, look to eggs, yogurt, or peanut butter. For fiber, fresh fruits and even vegetables with eggs, and high-fiber cereals and breads.

Look for whole-wheat breads, and higher fiber cereals like oatmeal or bran flakes. Make sure to include some fruit and protein-rich milk with these as well, Hein suggests.

— You don’t clean your contacts every day?

If your doctor has told you that you need to clean yours daily, this is what you must do, or bacteria or fungus can get into the contacts and cause a serious eye infection. Protein deposits can build up on the lens, which can irritate your eyes, scratch your cornea, and cause permanent damage.