Health & Wellness

From sugar to skin checks: 6 numbers you need to know for your health

Between finances, caring for our kids and maintaining the house, we all have enough on our plates —without trying to decipher nutritional labels. Knowing a few key numbers can help you keep your health on track. Women's Health magazine contributor Dr. Keri Peterson reveals the digits you need to know. 


That's the maximum number of added sugars we should have a day. That's about six teaspoons, less than typically found in a can of regular soda, which contains about 40 grams of sugar. 

A report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database show the average American adults gets about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, or about 355 calories. Even scarier, on average, we consume about 3 pounds of sugar each week. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed several changes to the nutrition labels you see on packaged food and beverages. The proposed labels would also note how much added sugar is in a product. Right now, it's hard to know what is naturally occurring sugar and what has been added by the manufacturer. 

To find the amount of calories from sugar in a product, multiply the grams by 4. For example, a product containing 15 grams of sugar has 60 calories from sugar per serving, according to the American Heart Association.

A tip: You can either have 1/2 can of soda per day. Or you can eat all this: 

1/2 medium banana (7 grams of sugar), 1 cup of coffee (0 g); 1-ounce low-fat milk (2 g of sugar); 1 teaspoon of sugar (4 g); 1/2 cup cooked instant oatmeal (1 g). Total: 14 grams

2 slices deli turkey (1 g); 2 slices cheddar cheese (4 g); 3 lettuce leaves (0 g); 1 tablespoon light mayo (0 g); 2 slices whole wheat bread (2 g). Total: 8 grams  

Small baked potato (1 g); grilled chicken breast (0 g); 1/2 cup canned green beans (2 g). Total: 3 grams

Grand total: 25 grams

That's the maximum number of months you should keep your toothbrush. People tend to use them much longer, but if you look at the bristles, they tend to get very worn and frayed and cleaning effectiveness will decrease. Kids tend to press a little harder on the bristles, so they should change them every three months. 

The number of inches of dental floss you should use each day. Brush first and then floss and see what you've missed. You'll be a convert.  

Wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand, the rest around the other middle finger. Grasp the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers and use a gentle shoeshine motion to guide it between the teeth. When the floss reaches the gum line, form a C shape to follow the contours of the teeth. Hold the floss firmly against the tooth and move the floss gently up and down. Repeat with the other tooth, and then repeat the entire process with the rest, unspooling fresh sections of floss as you go along. 

That's how many minutes of moderate aerobic activity an adult should get each week. That sounds like a lot of time, but that 2-1/2 hours, about the same amount of time to watch a movie. You don't have to do it all at once, you can spread out the activity during the week. Break it up into smaller chunks of time— at least 10 minutes at a time. Make it work for you. 

Want to amp it up? 

Go for 300 minutes per week. You'll gain even more health benefits. 

Monthly skin exam. The Skin Cancer Foundation strongly recommends you check your body once a month for any news or unusual spots or marks. 

The age you should start getting your thyroid levels checked via a blood test. Have them re-tested every five years after that. 

If you're feeling fatigued, foggy and fat and you can't figure out why, you may have a hidden hormone problem. The thyroid, a small gland in the neck, helps your body balance hormone production and is largely responsible for regulating your metabolism.