The Worst Places for Your Health

Location, location, location: Store owners aren't the only ones concerned with finding the perfect spot in which to situate their stuff.

Researchers in a wide variety of fields know that how you organize your environment -- from where you stand in fitness class to the place you choose to store your meds -- has a surprising effect on everything from your weight to your chances of staying well. In other words, when it comes to how you feel, it's not just what you do, it's where you do it.

Here, surprisingly bad locales for your health -- and the best places to optimize your location.

The Worst Place for Your Toothbrush: On the bathroom sink

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There's nothing wrong with the sink itself - -but it's awfully chummy with the toilet.

There are 3.2 million microbes per square inch in the average toilet bowl, according to germ expert Chuck Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona. When you flush, aerosolized toilet funk is propelled as far as six feet, settling on the floor, the sink, and your toothbrush.

"Unless you like rinsing with toilet water, keep your toothbrush behind closed doors - -in the medicine cabinet or a nearby cupboard," Gerba says.

The Worst Place for Your Sneakers and Flip-Flops: In the bedroom closet

Walking through your house in shoes you wear outside is a great way to track in allergens and contaminants. A 1999 study found that lawn chemicals were tracked inside the house for a full week after application, concentrated along the traffic route from the entryway. Shoes also carry in pollen and other allergens.

Reduce exposure by slipping off rough-and-tumble shoes by the door; store them in a basket or under an entryway bench. If your pumps stay off the lawn, they can make the trip to the bedroom -- otherwise, carry them.

The Worst Place to Try to Fall Asleep: Under piles of blankets

Being overheated can keep you from nodding off, researchers say: A natural nighttime drop in your core temperature triggers your body to get drowsy.

To ease your way to sleep, help your body radiate heat from your hands and feet, says Helen Burgess, PhD, assistant director of the Biological Rhythms Research Laboratory at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Don socks to dilate the blood vessels in the extremities -- then take the socks off and let a foot stick out from under the blankets.

The Worst Place to Cool Leftovers: In the refrigerator

Placing a big pot of hot edibles directly into the fridge is a recipe for uneven cooling and possibly food poisoning, says O. Peter Snyder Jr., PhD, president of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul, MN. The reason: It can take a long time for the temperature in the middle of a big container to drop, creating a cozy environment for bacteria.

You can safely leave food to cool on the counter for up to an hour after cooking, Snyder says. Or divvy up hot food into smaller containers and then refrigerate -- it'll cool faster.

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More from Prevention:

100 Ways to Turn Back the Clock

Trim Your Tummy

The Smartest Diet Tips Ever!

100 Ways to Cut 100 Calories

The Worst Place for a Workout Reminder: Stuck on your post-it laden fridge

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