There is a lot of truth in the saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Yet taking precautions may look like another list of things to do. However, the actions on that list require less energy and expense than treating a condition you could have prevented.

Taking simple steps now can change your qua lity of life for years. Read on to learn about four health precautions you shouldn’t ignore.1. Practice Safe Sex

The topic of sexual health can feel uncomfortable, so it is often not addressed. That ’s a problem, as t he consequences of not taking precautions in this part of your life can impact it forever. If you are sexually active, there are several basic ways to maintain both your health and chosen life path.

A common pre ventive measure for many women is using some form of birth control . Starting a family is one of the biggest decisions in life, and taking this precaution allows you to shape your future. Fortunately, there are multiple options available, including the pill, vaginal ring, shot, and patch. Most forms are easily accessible and, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, may even be free.

The other aspect of safe sex, of course, involves avoiding sexually transmitted infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are millions of new cases of STIs every year. To avoid becoming one of them, you can use a male or female condom. The barrier created by this method helps prevent both pregnancy and the spread of disease. Selecting a method of protection and talking with your partner before having sex can save you from a lifetime of health problems.

2. Get a Physical Every Year

One of the most important precautions you can take for your overall health is getting an annual physical. It ’s the “annual” part of that recommendation that is the key to preventing and treating chronic medical issues.

A physical usually includes assessing your cholesterol, blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and weight. If you are putting off accessing preventive care because of cost concerns, check your insurance policy. Most private and all government-run plans cover 100% of the costs related to an annual physical, including the cost of r outine tests .

Understanding your results is just as important as getting the exam on a regular basis. Your doctor will break down what various numbers mean and make recommendations for improvement when necessary. Comparing your results year over year will identif y both new health concerns and areas where you have made progress. Just this one doctor visit a year may be the difference between living longer and no longer living.

3. Wash Your Hands

Chances are, you’ve been told to wash your hands for as long as you can remember. There are even signs in most public bathrooms reminding you to do it. This precaution is one of the simplest things you can do to protect your and other people’s health. Unfortunately, it may also be one of the most overlooked preventative actions.

The CDC has reported that only 31% of men wash their hands after using public restrooms. The report also showed just 65% of women comply with the guideline. That’s not just gross, it’s risky. Approximately 80% of communicable diseases can be shared through touch, so handwashing is key to not getting sick.

To increase the germ-removing effectiveness of your hand washing, follow these basic recommendations. Begin by scrubbing your palms, fingers, the backs of your hands, and underneath your fingernails for at least 20 seconds. Unless you are in a healthcare setting, you don’t need to use antibacterial soap ; plain soap works just as well. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

4. Take Good Care of Your Mouth

The importance of oral care goes beyond ensuring a pearly white smile. Failing to take care of your mouth can contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes, and pregnancy complications. Poor oral health has also been linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a 2020 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, just 63% of Americans visit the dentist annually. The number of dental visits you require each year may vary, but you should plan to go at least once. The good news is that regular cleanings and annual X-rays are typically covered by most dental insurance plans. The rest of the year, you can — literally — take oral care into your own hands.

The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day, for two minutes each time with a soft-bristled brush. Keeping your gums healthy is also important in preventing plaque buildup and gum disease. Remember to clean between your teeth at least once a day with string floss, a dental pick, or a water pick. Another step to a healthy mouth is to cut back on foods and drinks with high amounts of sugar. Consuming fewer sodas and candy bars will benefit your overall health as well.

Of all the to-do lists you make every day or week, consider making one that prioritizes your physical well-being. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You can prevent or control many chronic conditions with hygiene habits like washing your hands and brushing your teeth. Getting a check-up every year and practicing safe sex are two checklist items that will pay off today and in the future. When you take pre cautionary measures, you can nip many health issues in the bud.