There are a number of little things you can fix right now to keep your body healthy and happy in the long run.

MISTAKE 1: Dropping pounds with diet drinks.

One study found that people who sipped one diet soda a day for seven years were 41 percent more likely to be overweight than non-soda drinkers. The reason: Diet drinks often lead to overeating as people “spend” the calories they just saved on a second slice of pizza or a cookie. Some evidence shows that artificial sweeteners may whet your appetite for more sweets.

THE SOLUTION: Sip water, coffee, or unsweetened tea. If you crave a sweet taste, add a half teaspoon of sugar (just 7 calories) or natural agave syrup (10 calories) to coffee or tea. If plain water is too bland for you, try a flavored unsweetened water.

MISTAKE 2: Skipping the second opinion on a major condition.

It could alert you to alternatives your first doctor never mentioned, or even correct a dangerous misdiagnosis. The best plan is to find an experienced doctor affiliated with a different hospital or practice.

THE SOLUTION: Sign up for an online consultation service. And don’t think we in Dominica are excluded from this facility. Computers make the world so much smaller. Try the Cleveland Clinic’s My Consult (eclevelandclinic.org) or John Hopkins University’s Remote Medical Second Opinion (jhintl.org/for-patients).

MISTAKE 3: Quitting antidepressants cold turkey (too quickly).

You may be feeling good again, but abruptly abandoning them could saddle you with flu-like symptoms, insomnia, nausea, and a blue mood for at least a week – a problem called “discontinuation syndrome.”

THE SOLUTION: Don’t give up. If you’re feeling better, it means your antidepressant is working. If you must stop, alert your doc and taper off slowly (e.g. reduce your dose by a quarter every two weeks). And if depression creeps back at any point, resume your full medication.

MISTAKE 4: Foregoing a follow-up.

Fear and inconvenience prevent 30 to 50 percent of women from getting additional checks if a PAP test reveals suspicious looking cells. But catching cervical cancer in its earliest stages boosts your odds for survival to 92 percent; allowing cancer to spread drops your chances to 39 percent or lower.

THE SOLUTION: Check in with your doc right away. If your PAP smear revealed only slightly unusual cells, you may just need another visit in four to six months to test for cancer-causing strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV). If the follow-up results are negative, resume with your regular annual routine.
MISTAKE 5: Popping extra Paracetamol.

The label says “1000 milligrams ever four to six hours,” so wouldn’t a little more kick the pain faster? Paracetamol  is misused because it’s considered safe and mild. Exceeding the recommended dosage can lead to liver damage or even liver failure and kills about 100 people each year, (in the U.S.).

THE SOLUTION: Stick with the advised dose. And don’t mix Paracetamol with other drugstore remedies. Many over-the-counter cold, flu, sinus and allergy remedies also contain paracetamol, as do some menstrual cramp formulas, and even some prescription painkillers. If you’re not sure, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

MISTAKE 6: Getting too tipsy

Yes, a drink a day helps keep your heart healthy. But downing your week’s quota on the weekend is a bad plan. Getting tipsy just once a month triples heart-disease risk. Alcohol is especially toxic for women because they’re generally smaller, have more body fat (which processes alcohol more quickly than muscle), and they have lower levels of stomach enzymes that metabolizes alcohol than men do.

THE SOLUTION: Start off the evening with club soda. And save the wine for dinner. That way, the food in your stomach slows the absorption of alcohol. You can also stretch your drinks: befriend the bartender and ask for one serving of gin in three separate glasses with tonic over the course of the night. That’s three drinks – but only an ounce of alcohol. Wine spritzers also do the trick.

But you know what? Why don’t you avoid the alcohol altogether and adopt other ways of keeping your heart healthy?

See you next week.