Anyone who’s successfully kicked their cigarette habit can tell you it’s no easy feat, even if someone’s willing to offer monetary compensation. But managing to escape the temptation to smoke is definitely worth the effort since cigarettes have been linked to everything from cancer to cardiovascular disease. One article published in The British Medical Journal even suggested every cigarette shortens a person’s life by 11 minutes.
Though leaving cigarettes behind is a step in the right direction, it’s not enough to guarantee you’ll live a long and healthy life. Many of us frequently make errors that are just as bad for our bodies as well as our minds. If you’re guilty of these six habits, you could be putting your health at risk.
1. Sitting all day
Slouching over your keyboard for eight or more hours each day is bad for more than just your morale. More and more research is showing our desk jobs are wreaking havoc on our bodies by increasing our risk of heart disease, contributing to weight gain, and destroying morale. It’s no wonder gym memberships are so popular.
Unfortunately, hitting the treadmill and weights every day isn’t enough to undo your desk’s damage. One review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found prolonged periods of sedentary time greatly increase an individual’s risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and death. While those who regularly exercise are a bit better off, they’re still in pretty bad shape.
Since you probably don’t have the option of turning your job into one that requires physical labor, it’s crucial to make conscious decisions to move more throughout your day. Standing desks are one option, but so is simply strolling around the office every so often. Studies show taking regular breaks boosts productivity, so you could improve your performance at work while boosting your health.
2. Unhealthy food choices
When a long day at work leaves you feeling too exhausted to cook, it’s hard to resist the appeal of packaged foods or takeout. You may be saving some time by going for these easy options, but you’re not doing your health any favors. Diets high in processed foods are partly to blame for our addiction to sugar as well as the reduced amount of quality time we spend with loved ones.
To take a look at how a western diet compares to ones containing less processed foods, researchers form the American University of Beirut conducted interviews with Lebanese adolescents. Their results found those who adhered to a western diet were more likely to be overweight. And lest you think other factors were at play, consider another recent study that found African-American women who ate diets high in whole grains and low in red meat enjoyed a reduced risk of mortality.
3. Skipping sunscreen
When you’re headed to the beach on a gloriously sunny day, forgetting to slather your skin in sunblock is all too easy. This minor mistake could spell trouble later on because every sunburn you get during your lifetimeincreases your likelihood of melanoma. And don’t think you’re in the clear if you have darker skin because it’sstill susceptible to the harmful rays, even if you don’t see the same red hue.
Now get ready for the real shocker: twice as many males die of melanoma each year than do females, according to the American Cancer Society. This doesn’t mean you have to stay inside forever, though. You just have to be more thoughtful about your choices. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends adding another layer of SPF 30every two hours and avoiding direct exposure as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most harmful.
4. Smoking hookah
The social aspect of smoking is one of the reasons many people get started in the first place. The same is true of smoking hookah, which many believe to be better for your body than cigarettes. Sadly, this method of inhaling tobacco is just as bad, maybe worse. One 2013 study revealed the water pipes actually expose users to higher levels of benzene, which has been linked to leukemia.
The takeaway here is to not switch one habit for the other. Even e-cigarettes probably aren’t a good idea. While there’s no conclusive evidence this replacement is all that bad, a recent review found e-cigarette users were actually less likely to quit smoking cigarettes.
5. Not getting enough sleep
Most of us have heard we need to get more sleep plenty of times, but it’s worth mentioning once more. Chronically cutting your sleep cycle short is bad news for your mood, your brain, and your heart. And it’s not the type of thing you can catch up on, either. One study showed even a solid 10-hour chunk of sleep isn’t enough to undo the damage from cutting it short earlier on.
As silly as it sounds, your best bet is to pick a bedtime and stick to it. Try to turn off your electronics at least 30 minutes before you hit the hay because those can also mess with your ability to fall and stay asleep.
6. Drinking too much
Many hardworking employees like to hit happy hour to unwind once they’re through for the day. A lot of folks even cite studies that have linked alcohol consumption to reduced risk of heart disease and certain types of cancers, but most of these studies have assumed relatively moderate consumption. If you find yourself knocking back more than three alcoholic beverages on a regular basis you could be in trouble. One recent study found high alcohol intake was linked to increased mortality.
Also consider how how many calories you’re consuming when you down so many drinks. If you’re going for glass after glass, you’re essentially drinking an entire meal. Repeat this several times a week and you’re likely to see the number on your scale start to climb. Certainly enjoy an occasional drink; just be smart about it.