5 Bad Habits that Affect Your Health

May 27, 2013

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Scale We are creatures of habit, and chances are we’ve all picked up a bad one at some point. You may not notice it, but you pick things up from the people you surround yourself with—friends, family, co-workers. Ever caught yourself saying, “Wow, I’m really starting to sound like (insert name of co-worker who sits next to you),” after spending a few months working side by side? Unfortunately, you sometimes develop bad habits that aren’t just annoying but that also affect your health. If you’ve caught yourself doing the following one too many times, it may be time to kick it to the curb.

1. Smoking: You’ve heard it before, but new studies exposing additional health risks warrant a reminder. If cancer isn’t convincing enough (and it should be), smoking also puts your heart at risk. Don’t fall victim to believing cigarettes are keeping you thin, and the pounds you may put on if you try to quit are just as bad for your heart. It’s a myth. Research shows smoking cessation is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and weight gain that may occur after quitting does not affect the heart. There are plenty of healthy ways to slim down, and smoking does far more harm than good.

2. Drinking Alcohol Excessively: Liquid calories add up quickly—just one margarita can total 750 calories. But there are health reasons besides expanding your waistline to lay off the booze. Studies show there is an association between alcohol intake and breast cancer. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found women who consumed only moderate amounts of alcohol, either before or after diagnosis, had higher survival rates than those who drank excessively and nondrinkers. Keep in mind: One serving of beer is 12 ounces, wine is 5 ounces, and liquor (whiskey, vodka, gin) is 1.5 ounces.

3. Skimping on Sleep: Quality zzzs contribute to quality health. However, many Americans are not getting enough, and it’s affecting our waistlines. Sleeping for just 5.5 hours means you are 55 percent less likely to lose any weight stored from fat and a 60 percent more likely to lose muscle mass. Top that with additional cravings for higher-calorie foods and this bad habit spells dieting disaster. Aim to get seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night, although the healthy amount varies from person to person. To find out how much sleep you need, go to bed without setting an alarm on a night you aren’t abnormally exhausted. The time you wake up naturally is a good indication of the amount of sleep your body requires.

4. Watching TV: It’s OK to kick back, relax, and enjoy a few TV shows, but the average American overindulges in the form of five hours of television per day. Turn off the tube for a few hours, and naturally you’ll move more. Studies have also found those who watch less TV have a lower BMI. Stop living through someone else’s reality show—you have your own!

5. Procrastinating Doctor Visits: Doctor visits may seem like an annoyance, but your health could be at risk and you don’t even know it. According to a national survey by The Atlantic, nine in 10 Americans say they’re in good health. However, two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. The U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends all adults be screened for obesity. You owe it to yourself to have a screening—no needles required.

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