1. Check shingles for signs of wear and look for water damage in your attic. Water leaking through the roof can cause serious mould infestations.
2. Homes built before 1960 were often painted with lead paint, which is found in household dust. Remove a paint chip to have it tested. If you have lead, keep your home dust-free to protect against lead poisoning and hire an experienced contractor to sand or remove wall and ceiling materials contaminated with lead.
3. Replace blinds with washable drapes and you'll have a window covering that's friendlier to those with dust allergies.
4. Air out your dry cleaning or choose a company that doesn't use perchloroethylene, or "perc," a dry-cleaning solvent that's a probable carcinogen. 5. Use an exhaust fan to expel moisture and gases from cooking that can build up and support mould growth, causing or irritating allergies and respiratory conditions. 6. Brush pets outdoors often, wash their bedding and vacuum your home regularly to control hair.
7. Soil in urban areas can be contaminated with lead from emissions of leaded gasoline. Have your soil tested, and replaced, if necessary. 8. Keep your basement dry and mould-free by ensuring gutters and downspouts aren't blocked, and that they direct water away from the home. 9. Use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter to pick up fine particles that could irritate asthma and other respiratory ailments. 10. Mount carbon monoxide detectors at knee height to detect leaks from your gas or oil furnace or ill-maintained appliances. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage or death. 11. Use dehumidifiers in summer to prevent mould and mildew growth in fabrics and furnishings.
12. Formaldehyde, a carcinogen, is found in many products including the adhesives used in plywood manufacturing. Avoid it by buying furniture made of low-emission or solid wood materials.
13. Choose natural materials, such as solid wood, bamboo or cork for flooring; where flooring is adhered to the subfloor, choose low-emission adhesives. Avoid vinyl floor and wall coverings – these products, and the adhesives used with them, can emit carcinogens such as vinyl chloride and polyvinyl chloride. 14. Wear a dust mask and use a dust collection system, including an ambient air filter, in your workshop. Some sawdust is carcinogenic and can irritate respiratory conditions.
15. Cover the soil in an unfinished, dirt-floor basement with six-mil polyethylene to prevent moisture from seeping into the house. 16. Install a 0.3 micron or smaller air filter in your forced air system to stop the circulation of dust and other particles through your home.
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover more easy ways to improve the air quality in your home (and live greener!) on page 2
17. Check your plumbing for lead pipes or soldering. If it's lead, get your tap water tested for lead content; you may have to replace some of your plumbing.
18. Air fresheners simply mask odours, and some contain pollutants such as formaldehyde. Deal with the source of the odour or use natural materials, such as cedar balls.
19. Remove carpet from bathrooms and basements – mould often grows in high-humidity areas.
20. Use a cedar chest and lavender paper to deter moths from devouring off-season clothes. Moth balls contain naphthalene, a harmful toxin that may cause cataracts and cancer.
21. Dust mites and their droppings are a common allergen. Thwart them by keeping humidity below 45 per cent. Use pillow cases and mattress covers and wash bedding and pillows regularly in hot water and dry on high heat. Avoid decorating your bed with throw pillows.
22. To keep humidity down, turn on the bathroom fan when you turn on the shower and leave it running for 10 to 15 minutes afterward.
23. Smoking indoors is harmful to everyone's health; smoke can trigger or aggravate asthma, and smoke and tar linger on surfaces. 24. Use mild cleaners, as those containing harsh chemicals can trigger asthma attacks.
25. Install a motion-sensor faucet in your bathroom to curtail germ transmission and conserve water.
26. Clean or replace filters in portable air conditioners and humidifiers regularly to prevent mould growth.
27. Check electrical outlets: low-level outlets should have safety plugs installed to protect children; power outdoors and in washrooms should come from ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, which protect you from electric shock.
28. Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, can seep into your home from sediment, rock or water. It can cause lung cancer, so have a home inspector periodically test for radon.
29. Choose low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint. These potentially carcinogenic and neurotoxic chemicals are also released by adhesives, paint thinners, nail polish and other materials. 30. Take expired compact fluorescent lightbulbs to a recycling facility or drop-off. These should not be put in the trash since they contain small amounts of mercury. Also consider buying high-efficiency LED bulbs for accent lighting.
31. Have your chimneys inspected every fall and cleaned as necessary to remove combustible debris and creosote buildup from wood-burning stove and fireplace pipes and chimneys. 32. Use a sharp tool such as an awl to check your deck for rot, particularly where wood supports meet underlying structures, where the ledger board fastens to your home's exterior wall and where deck boards meet supporting stringers. Rot can harbour mould and compromise your deck’s strength.
33. Avoid products that use antibacterial chemicals such as triclosan: these can create antibiotic-resistant bacteria and do not protect against viruses. Health Canada recommends regular soap and water as the best way to clean.
34. Avoid burning incense and candles indoors; the byproducts of combustion include carbon monoxide, VOCs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and soot, all of which can irritate or even cause respiratory conditions.
35. Prevent mildew and dust buildup in your bathroom vents by cleaning them regularly. A few quick strokes with a Q-Tip soaked in rubbing alcohol can easily wipe away residue and potential germs, and keep the air flowing.
This story was originally titled "35 Tips for a Healthier Home" in the March 2008 issue.
Here are some scary truths: 70 percent of new Alzheimer's patients in Canada will be women, and we're diagnosed with depression and dementia at twice the rate of men. But new research says there are three simple lifestyle changes we can make right now to keep our brains healthy as we age.
You brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay and check your blood pressure to monitor for signs of heart problems. But are you doing anything to keep your brain in tip-top shape? Because you should be. Brain health, which experts define as a combination of cognitive (memory, attention, thinking) and mental (emotional well-being) fitness, is a major, albeit under-the- radar, health issue for Canadian women.
It's major because as we age, so do our brains. Vascular changes can decrease blood flow; we can lose volume in key areas, including the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, the regions responsible for learning and memory. Myelin, a fatty material that makes up the protective coating around nerve fibres, starts to deteriorate, causing the brain to slow down. And nerve cells can develop plaques and tangles— structures caused by the buildup of proteins called beta-amyloids that can disrupt the brain's normal function. In some people, these and other signs of normal aging can cause mental health problems, strokes and brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's, and increase the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Brain health is an under-the-radar issue because, though women are more likely to experience cognitive decline (thanks to dementia or Alzheimer's) and to suffer from depression, most of the research on these conditions still focuses on men.
Thankfully, studies are showing that straightforward lifestyle changes—exercising regularly and not smoking are at the top of the list—help shore up what researchers call "cognitive reserve," a buffer that "delays the changes or makes your body better equipped to handle those changes," says Lauren Drogos, a brain researcher at the University of Calgary.
In fact, Drogos says there's evidence to show that, in some people, even serious symptoms do not necessarily develop into cognitive impairment. She points to the Nun Study, a famous long-running research project on aging and Alzheimer's that has been tracking 678 nuns from convents across the United States since the mid-1980s. One of the nuns, Sister Mary, died at the age of 101 showing no outward signs of cognitive decline—but when researchers examined her brain, they were shocked to find she had "abundant neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, the classic lesions of Alzheimer's disease." Scientists don't know exactly why some people can have severe symptoms, such as plaques and tangles, without experiencing cognitive decline, but, happily, cases like Sister Mary do show that dementia isn't an inevitable part of aging.
And since women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with many of these problems, the more we consider brain health when making our day-to-day lifestyle decisions, the better. (Bonus: These changes also benefit your heart and help prevent other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cancer.) So here's what you can do to take care of your brain.
This is your brain on exercise If you had to pick just one lifestyle change to make in the name of brain health, experts agree exercise tops the list—especially for women.
We consider neuroplasticity, the brain's capacity to form new neural connections, an exciting part of a child's development, but we now know our brains can continue to grow, repair and improve as adults, too. Physical activity is a well-researched trigger. Not only can working out bolster our day-to-day functioning and alertness but it also appears to help us repair brain damage. Plus, it slows down aging and the onset of age-related brain diseases.
Working up a sweat and pumping up your heart rate can lead to a healthier vascular system in the brain, which decreases blood pressure and oxidative stress (when your body's antioxidants can't fight off free radicals), and increases antioxidant activity, according to Marc Poulin, an Alzheimer's researcher and professor of physiology at the University of Calgary. Vigorous exercise also floods the bloodstream with a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which readies the body for repair and heightens the brain's ability to learn and form new memories. Plus, hitting the gym helps the brain repair myelin; a lack of the nerve fibre–protecting substance is a factor in developing multiple sclerosis.
Exercising can also restore crucial brain volume. Research has shown that the hippocampus— home to memory, learning and emotion—starts shrinking after age 55 by about one to two percent a year, but just one year of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise done three days a week can increase its size by two percent.
And while most of the research is about the benefits of getting in your cardio, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, says strength training is also effective, as it can enhance brain performance and function by 11 to 17 percent. "Women live longer [than men], and age itself is the greatest risk factor for dementia," she says. "But the good news is when we look at the benefit of aerobic exercise on cognition in older adults, women seem to benefit more."
The takeaway: You can reap the rewards from even a 15-minute walk. Of course, the longer you exercise, the better, especially if you get your sweat on and your heart rate up. If you want to tick a few other brain health tips off your list, consider joining a team sport. It blends physical, social and cognitive skills, and "can also add pleasure and meaning to our lives," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.
If you have an office job and find you're sedentary most of the day, take a few minutes every hour or so to get up and move around. Research also suggests switching to a standup desk may improve your brain function.
Did you know? Taking care of a loved one—most often a spouse in your later years—can be a risk factor for developing depression and, eventually, dementia . But research out of the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto found, for the first time, that cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of talk therapy, can improve both mood and cognition.
This is your brain on sleep After a good night's sleep, you feel alert and ready to tackle the day. But that's not just because your brain has been resting. It has also been busy filing away memories and taking out the trash, so to speak, thanks to the glymphatic system, which washes the brain of waste materials. For example, a protein called betaamyloid, which is known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, acts as a neurotoxin when it builds up, killing neural cells in the brain. But a good sleep removes excess beta-amyloid and other waste materials, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
Because one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer's is disrupted sleep, it's unclear whether a lack of shut-eye should be considered part of the progression of the disease or a risk factor on its own, due to the buildup of beta-amyloids.
Nevertheless, poor sleep hastens your brain's aging process—much like sitting in the sun sans SPF speeds up your skin's aging process. And disturbed sleeping has been linked to all aspects of brain health, including an increased risk of depression and a decline in cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning. In one U.K. study out of University College London Medical School, middle-aged women who reported a drop in the average number of hours they slept had lower scores on cognitive tests involving reasoning and vocabulary.
What's more, our central clocks—a.k.a. our circadian rhythms—can drift from the patterns of our childhood, making it hard to get that much-needed rest. "As we age, our central clock is less sensitive to stimuli like light, food and physical activity," says Dr. Liu-Ambrose; this change makes it harder to fall, and stay, asleep. We can also become more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, which further disrupt those rhythms.
One way to combat these fluctuations is to try what seasoned travellers do for jet-lag recovery: Get exposure to real daylight and eat your meals on time to nudge your brain into a routine. And don't use bright screens at night, especially before bed, because they mimic sunlight and tell our circadian system that it's day, not night—and, therefore, not time to sleep. Those who need more help might consider light therapies that have been developed to treat seasonal affective disorder, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
The takeaway: Many researchers consider six to eight hours of sleep a night to be the standard sweet spot, though this can vary by individual. If you're routinely getting less than that and waking often in the night, not feeling refreshed in the morning and experiencing bouts of sleepiness during the day, talk to your doctor about sleep strategies—especially if you're experiencing anxiety or depression. In the short term, napping can reverse some of the effects of poor sleep, including memory loss and increased stress. And you only need a 30-minute catnap to feel the results.
This is your brain on a healthy diet There's no perfect "brain food," but eating a nutritious diet (lots of veggies and fruit, lean meat, fish and healthy fats) is the smartest way to maintain long-term brain function and memory, and to slow the development of brain diseases.
Getting enough of specific nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids is important but not the holy grail. University of Pittsburgh researchers recently found that people who eat broiled or baked fish at least once a week have larger brain volumes in the areas used for memory and cognition, despite varying levels of omega-3 in the fish they ate. Senior researcher James Becker concluded that he and his colleagues were "tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health, of which diet is just one part."
In a 2015 study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers looked at the broad set of eating habits of more than 900 people over 4 1/2 years and found that those who adhered to a diet high in fish, vegetables, nuts and berries, and low in fat and sugar, slowed down their brains' aging by about 7 1/2 years when compared to those with less-healthy diets. The healthy eaters cut their risk of Alzheimer's by up to 53 percent. And even when those people only adhered to the diet part time, they saw some benefits— an effect that has not been found in other diets, says Drogos.
The researchers dubbed the most promising cluster of these eating habits the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which blends the longevity-boosting Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy low-fat DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that doctors recommend to patients at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. More studies need to be done on why it works, but in the meantime, there's no downside to eating healthier and ditching the junk.
The takeaway: Add more veggies to your diet. Research shows that older adults who report eating more of this food group perform better in mentally stimulating activities than those who don't.
Did you know? "Menopause brain" is a real thing. As with "pregnancy brain," its more famous counterpart, women approaching menopause really do experience memory problems and brain fog. Researchers think a drop in estrogen levels might be the cause.
Can you train your brain? Does firing up a brain-training app actually help improve your memory and ward off dementia? Sorry to disappoint, but right now, evidence for the benefits of computer-based brain games is weak, says Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal HealthResearch Institute. Brain games appear to help you learn to play them better, but research doesn't show that those tasks transfer to other aspects of brain performance. The same goes for crossword puzzles and sudoku, which help your vocabulary and math skills, but nothing more.
How to maintain your mental edge at any age
In your 30s: This is the time to make sure you establish healthy habits—such as getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and eating a good diet—that will affect your brain health throughout your adult years. "When it comes to maintaining brain health, the best time to start is yesterday," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto. If you feel you need a boost at work, consider old-fashioned writing instead of typing on your computer. A study in the journal Psychological Science found that university students who made handwritten notes were better equipped to recall conceptual ideas from their professors' lectures than those who had typed notes on their laptops.
In your 40s and 50s: People in this age group are part of the "sandwich generation," and often face caring for their aging parents on top of dealing with their other work, financial and parenting obligations. So, unsurprisingly, they're super stressed—and this can affect both mental health and day-to-day brain function. Dr. Khatri says it's essential to prioritize and edit out activities and commitments that increase stress without adding value to your productivity or happiness. That's because "maintaining mental health in early and mid life is key to safeguarding cognitive health later on," she says. "Untreated depression in midlife doubles your risk of developing dementia in later life."
In your 60s and beyond: In your senior years, socializing with friends and family, and picking up activities that allow you to connect, such as volunteering, are key to maintaining brain health. And sorry, keeping up with folks on Facebook isn't enough. "Ask yourself: Is social media rounding out my real-life social experiences?" suggests Dr. Khatri. What you need is face-to-face interaction.
Dainty and flavourful, everyone loves to indulge in tiny bites of traditional tea sandwiches. Though they appear finicky to make, these tea sandwiches are easy to assemble and entirely make-ahead.
Pinwheel Sandwiches Trim crusts from 5 slices white or whole wheat sandwich loaf, cut Pullman-style. (Ask bakery to cut sandwich loaf horizontally, or Pullman style.) Using rolling pin, flatten slices slightly. Spread with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, softened; spread with filling.
Place 1 asparagus spear (or 2 baby gherkins) along 1 short end of each. Starting at asparagus, roll up tightly without squeezing. Wrap each roll tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. With serrated knife, trim ends; cut each roll into 6 slices.
Makes 30 pieces. Pinwheel Sandwich recipe: Curried Egg Salad Triangle Sandwiches Spread 16 thin slices whole wheat or white sandwich bread with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, softened; spread filling evenly over 8 of the slices. Top with remaining slices, pressing lightly. Place on rimmed baking sheet and cover with damp tea towel; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Trim off crusts. Cut each sandwich into 4 pieces.
Makes 32 pieces. Triangle Sandwich recipe: Ham Pickle Spread Square Sandwiches Make sandwiches as in Triangle Sandwiches above except use 8 thin slices white and 8 thin slices whole wheat sandwich bread. Cut each sandwich into quarters.
Makes 32 pieces.Square Sandwich recipe: Pimiento Cheese Spread Finger Sandwiches Make sandwiches as in Triangle Sandwiches above. Cut each sandwich lengthwise into 4 fingers.
Makes 32 pieces. Finger Sandwich recipe: Tuna Olive Salad
Choose the best-quality bread. Never serve end slices. Freezing bread before cutting and then spreading makes for easier handling.
Bread should be lightly buttered no matter what the filling. Butter should be at room temperature before spreading. Sandwiches will not become limp and soggy as readily if you spread butter right to edge of bread.
Cut crusts off bread with long, sharp knife after (not before) assembling sandwiches. This keeps everything neater.
Since tea sandwiches should be delicate, cut each sandwich into thirds or quarters or in half diagonally. Or use cookie cutters to cut into decorative shapes.
Breathe new life into this wardrobe staple with a bit of style inspiration.
There's a reason why we love the white button-down. Whether it's oversized, fitted, short sleeve, cropped, silk or cotton, it's always a chic—but unfussy—way to embrace classic style. But, like even the most stylish women, we sometimes get stuck in a fashion rut. Which is why we pulled together some great white button-down shirt looks from some seriously stylish women. Discover new and fresh ways to wear a white button-down below.
There's nothing chicer than a casual white button-down shirt under a blazer. Keep the look modern with boyfriend jeans and patent brogues—extra points for embracing metallic.
You can make this borrowed-from-the-boys piece feminine in an old school way by pairing it with a pleated midi skirt and sharp kitten heels.
If you're worried about a white on white look, just remember to play with texture. The silk shirt paired with crisp denim and leather shoes makes this look a winner.
Embrace the menswear vibe of this piece by pairing it with a classic black blazer and trousers—though we might recommend ditching the tie to avoid any waiter confusion.
Keep this piece cozy by topping it with an oversized knit. We especially love the addition of a statement piece of jewellery.
Pair your button-down with tailored separated for the office. A pencil skirt (in a fun print or colour) plus chic heels is a no-brainer when it comes to professional dressing.
This look is for the bold. Pair statement pants and shoes with a white button-down and a classic blazer. Think of this as business on top and party on the bottom.
Put a little prep in your step with trousers, loafers and fun socks. For the extra preppy, add a fisherman knit and drape it over your shoulders. Very refined gentleman, no?
We're sharing a few simple (and manageable!) tips to make your kitchen feel clutter-free.
1. Keep tabs: Check your pantry for expired cans or jars and discard them. Then, combine any duplicates from what's left and store similar items together. This will help you have a better grasp of your kitchen inventory at a quick glance and make you less likely to purchase an item you actually already have on hand.
2. Find your match: Empty your tupperware drawer and match every container to its lid, getting rid of ones that don't have one. Most of us hold up hope that missing items will show up weeks after they've been lost, but when it comes to tupperware, that rarely seems to be the case! Taking a few minutes to edit your collection every month makes it easier to make the most of what you have available.
3. Know your favourites: Reevaluating your countertop real estate is primordial. Only the items that you use daily (or very often) deserve that prime spot. Items used less than once a week should be tucked into drawers and cupboards.
4. Be picky: Do you really use that egg slicer? Was that grapefruit spoon a useful buy? Take a few minutes to ask yourself whether you could part with those specialty gadget impulse buys. Give those items to a friend or relative who might enjoy them or donate them to a local charity.