Everyday Habits That Shorten Your Life, According to Science
No one likes being told what not to do. But some rules, when followed, aren't restrictions at all—they are, in fact, easy and effective ways to stay free. Free from COVID-19. Free from pain. Free from debilitating anxiety, hearing loss, a brain injury or worse. Sometimes you have to stop doing things in order to do the things you want to do. With that in mind, we asked the country's top doctors and specialists to name the #1 things you should never do for your health. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID..
You Wake Up Late
"Waking up in the morning allows us to be more productive. Our cortisol levels naturally peak around 7 to 8 am, so we can accomplish more things at this time, and it's better for our health," says Bilal Farooqi, an oncologist with Comprehensive Hematology Oncology in Florida. "People who wake up late are not going to be as productive, even if they are awake the same number of hours in the day. Cortisol levels tend to taper off in the evening and hit their low at night time, like 11 pm to midnight."
You Ignore COVID-19 Symptoms, Thinking the Pandemic is "Over"
"People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported—ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness," says the CDC, which added some new symptoms last month. "Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
You Don't Wear a Face Mask if Not Vaccinated
If not vaccinated, the CDC strongly recommends you wear a cloth face-covering in public settings where social distancing rules are hard to maintain. "Cloth face coverings," they advise, "should—
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape."
You Don't Take Self-Isolation Seriously—if You are Not Vaccinated
Even if your state is re-opening, it's important to follow its social distancing guidelines if you are not vaccinated. If you are feeling healthy, that's a blessing—but it doesn't mean you may not make someone else sick. "Limiting face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of coronavirus disease," says the CDC.
You Use Your Finger on "High Touch" Surfaces
Think about how many people press an elevator button or a pin-pad at the grocery store checkout aisle. Even before the coronavirus, these surfaces were crawling with germs. Be sure to wash your hands for 20 seconds after contact with things like a public restroom, a grocery cart or delivery food bags. And use your knuckle if you can.
You're Not Checking In On Family or Friends
If you're not feeling lonely during the pandemic, you likely know someone who is. Reach out to them using electronic communication. And if you are feeling lonely, don't be afraid to ask for help. Harvard Health reports a rise in mental health cases since the coronavirus. Many states are offering free helplines with emotional support and someone to talk to.
You're Breathing Through Your Mouth
"The nose is the best organ for breathing," says Dr. Sharona Dayan, a board certified periodontist and founder of Aurora Periodontal Care in Beverly Hills. "It warms and humidifies the air to prepare it for the lungs, while the cilia work to filter toxins from the air. It draws nitric oxide from the sinuses to disinfect the air. Nitric oxide also dilates the blood vessels for oxygen, so there is 60 percent more oxygen in the air from your nose."
As for the mouth, well: "The mouth, on the other hand, delivers cold, unfiltered, dirty air to the throat and lungs. Mouth breathing also results in 60 percent moisture loss from the mouth. The saliva contains immunoglobulins that fight germs, so a dry mouth from mouth breathing is more susceptible to infections."
You're Using Alcohol to Help You Fall Asleep
"While it's true that alcohol may help you to fall asleep faster, ultimately it interferes with your sleep cycle," says Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Director of Duke University's pediatric neurology sleep medicine program (and Mattress Firm's sleep health expert). "In otherwise healthy people, the initial induction of sleep by high doses of alcohol is followed later in the night by withdrawal, which causes frequent arousals and lighter sleep in the second half of the night and may result in an early morning awakening without sufficient rest. Second, alcohol can worsen existing sleep disorders and may even cause new disorders, such as sleep apnea."
You Chose the Wrong Shades
"The use of sunglasses protects the eyes and is likely to reduce the likelihood of cataracts, pterygia, pingeulae, and macular degeneration," says Dr. Ming Wang, MD, PhD, an ophthalmologist in Nashville. "The best sunglasses are those that wrap around the face, as this blocks light from all sides and provides the most protection versus flat-fronted sunglasses. Ideal specifications would be 100% blocking of UVA and UVB light. Sunglasses should be worn on any sunny day for eye protection. However, in partial sun or clouds UV rays still do penetrate through and sunglasses are important to wear."
You Ignore the Poor Air Quality In Your Bedroom
"Poor indoor air quality can be detrimental to health. High CO2 (carbon dioxide) and VOC (volatile organic compounds) levels in a bedroom can lead to sleep-disordered breathing," says sleep consultant Jane Wrigglesworth. "This disrupts a person's sleep pattern. Not only can that lead to exhaustion, it puts excessive strain on the nervous system and major organs. A constant lack of sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, low immunity and depression."
The Rx: "We need to ventilate our rooms," says Wrigglesworth. "Opening the window is an easy solution, though if you have allergies, this might not be a good idea. If that's the case, keep your bedroom door open for air circulation. VOCs can be reduced with a HEPA air filter, and are excellent for allergy sufferers."
You Take Any Old Multivitamin
"Too many people either overdose on supplements, which can be harmful, or they do not take any vitamins," says endocrinologist Romy Block, co-author of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion about Vitamins and Your Health. "Vitamin deficiencies can mimic serious health conditions like hypothyroidism."
The Rx: Ask your doctor which is the right multivitamin for your needs.
You Crash Diet
"Many people are turning to 30-day fitness and diet programs, enabling them to lose large amounts of weight within short periods of time. These types of diets do not work since they are not sustainable, and typically the weight gained back is more than the patient's original weight," says Daljeet Samra, MD, a board-certified physician in obesity medicine. "Patients need to aim for weight loss which is more conservative and over longer periods of time. I typically recommend a 1 lb per week target."
RELATED: Everyday Habits That Lead to Aging
You Avoid Your Doctor
"I see patients daily that don't or have never seen a healthcare provider in their adult life. By the time they get to me, they need open heart surgery," says Jacob DeLaRosa, MD, chief of cardiac and endovascular surgery at Portneuf Medical Center at Idaho State University. "I also find myself diagnosing diabetes, peripheral vascular disease and malignancies."
The Rx: See your general practitioner at least once a year for an annual physical. These days, doctors can schedule some visits via telemedicine.
You Overtrack Your Meals
"I think that one of the worst mistakes people make is becoming obsessed with their health-using technology to monitor their physiology and micromanaging their food," says Dr. Ceppie Merry, Ph.D., FRCP. "Too many people are becoming orthorexic, a new medical diagnosis which refers to becoming obsessed with foods and avoiding certain foods. Stressing over health is counterproductive, as it releases stress hormones which increases our risk of a host of medical conditions. We need to have a healthy balance in our approach to health and wellness."
You Overmedicate UTIs
"Many women have a bad habit of calling their doctor and getting antibiotics before they even know they have a UTI," says Sophie A. Fletcher, MD, of the Sutter Health Group in Santa Rosa, California, an expert in female urology. "Frequent use of antibiotics causes bacterial resistance, and kills off the 'good' bacteria in the body that helps prevent UTIs."
The Rx: "The best prevention is proactive management," she says. "Taking a daily supplement, like ellura, with 36 mg of proanthocyanidins (PAC), prevents bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall."
You Don't Read Your Breakfast Label
Two major breakfast mistakes: "Eating light yogurt that is full of chemicals and sugars and thinking that is healthy," says Jaime Harper, MD, an obesity medicine specialist in Avon, Indiana. "And assuming because a processed boxed product is endorsed by the American Heart Association it is good for you."
The Rx: Instead, read the ingredients. If you can't pronounce them, avoid them.
You Eat High-Glycemic Carbs, Not Fiber
"Most people don't get enough fiber, which has multiple anti-inflammatory mechanisms," says Dr. Gerald Davies. Women should get 25 grams per day and men 38 grams. Meanwhile, avoid any high-glycemic white carbs that have more sugar than fiber.
You Skimp on Water
"Whether you are an elite athlete or a beginner, dehydration can lead to muscle cramps," says Dr. Allen Conrad, BS,DC,CSCS, team chiropractor for Blackthorn Rugby. "Dehydration can lead to shortening of the muscles, which can lead to injuries." Muscles and organs need water to function correctly, and drinking plenty of water can promote weight loss as well. Try and drink 8 glasses of water per day, and more if you eat salty or processed foods.
"Do not run dry. Most people do not drink enough water. It causes blood to thicken, which may increase the risk for heart and kidney diseases," says Dr. Thomas L. Horowitz, a family medicine specialist at CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. That said….
You Drink Too Much Water
"I would say the worst health mistake you're making is drinking too much fluids," says Dr. Rena Malik, director of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Many people in my practice come to see me for urinary frequency. When I ask them how much they're drinking, some are drinking upwards of 100 ounces a day."
The Rx: "The recommendation for kidney health is to drink 64 ounces a day," she says. "This includes what you're drinking at breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as the fluids you get foods like soups, fruits and vegetables."
You Skip the Stretch
"Regular stretching can help prevent degenerative conditions including tendon injuries," says Conrad. "When a muscle or tendon loses flexibility, it is more likely to become injured during exercise, and regular stretching can help prevent conditions such as tendonitis from forming. Try and make stretching part of your daily routine to help prevent injuries."
You Skip Your Annual Mammogram Screening
"Breast cancer will affect 1 in 8 women over the course of their lifetime. Early detection helps reduce the risk of complications and of breast cancer-related deaths, with studies showing that annual mammograms decreased the risk of breast cancer-related deaths by 40 percent," says Anjali Mali, a breast imaging radiologist in Washington, DC.
The Rx: "With the exam taking only a few minutes and no referral needed in most states, there's no reason for an average-risk woman over the age of 40 not to be getting her mammogram," says Dr. Mali.
You Extract Teeth for Orthodontic Work
"With the recent advances in orthodontics to expand the jaws, there is no need to remove teeth to make space for straightening teeth," says Dayan. "Expansion of the teeth in a forward and outward direction also helps to develop more beautiful cheekbones, fuller lips, and opens the space for the tongue to promote better breathing and sleep."
You Use Hair Products That Strip Natural Oils
"The worst health mistake you can make for your hair is using hair products that strip the natural oils and dry it out," says Dr. Baiju Gohil, a board-certified surgeon and fellow of the American College of Surgeons. "Read the labels for your shampoo and styling products and avoid anything that contains alcohol or polyethylene glycol, which can dry out your hair; sodium chloride, which can make the scalp dry and itchy; and sodium lauryl sulfate, a very common shampoo ingredient that removes natural oils your hair needs to be healthy."
You're Don't Ask the Right Qs
"The worst health mistake is not being literate on medical matters or asking enough questions," says Ariel Grobman, MD, an ear, nose and throat specialist in South Florida. "Putting your faith in the wrong medical practitioner or in Dr. Google, and not being a watchdog for yourself and your family members when they're undergoing medical care, can overlook horrible mistakes. Recent studies of medical errors have estimated errors may account for as many as 251,000 deaths annually in the United States, making medical errors the third leading cause of death."
The Rx: "Read up on your conditions, ask the risks and benefits of treatments for you and family members and ask questions," says Grobman. "Don't assume just because someone has a white coat or a degree that they have the entire situation under control at all times and have not overlooked anything."
You Avoid That Colonoscopy
Screenings now start at age 45. "The most common symptoms for colon cancer include change in bowel habits, such as thin stools," says Seth A. Gross, MD, associate professor of medicine and chief of gastroenterology at Tisch-Kimmel Hospital. "Other symptoms to look out for include rectal bleeding and abdominal pain."
The Rx: "If you have any of the above, you should speak with your doctor to discuss the role of colonoscopy," says Dr. Gross.
You Block Out the Sunscreen
"One of the greatest regrets your 60-year-old self might have is not wearing sunscreen in your 20s," says Jeffrey Fromowitz, MD, a dermatologist in Boca Raton, Florida. (So he would know!) "But even if you have been wearing sunscreen, here are some other avoidable mistakes:
- You religiously apply sunscreen but not enough. To cover your whole body, will you need one ounce of sunscreen which is the size of a golf ball or enough to fill a shot glass;
- You use enough sunscreen but forgot to apply sunscreen to your lips, tips of your ears, back of your knees and your scalp;
- You apply your sunscreen religiously when going outside. But you should be applying it daily, no matter where you will be spending the day, even if are inside;
- You apply sunscreen when outside but not on a cloudy day."
The Rx: "Bottom line: Daily sunscreen use is critical; it needs to be as integral a part of your routine as brushing your teeth," says Fromowitz.
You Don't Care About Your Family's Health History
"It's surprising how little most people know about their family's health history. Yet the cancer history of a family is vital to understanding an individual's personal cancer risk," says Dennis R. Holmes, MD, FACS, medical director of the breast cancer program at Adventist Health in Glendale, California.
"Unfortunately, most people learn their family's cancer history only after they or another close relative has been diagnosed with cancer. To see if you should consider genetic testing, begin by talking to your close relatives to find out which cancers have appeared in your family. If you find cancer patterns that suggest a genetic tendency to develop breast cancer, contact your doctor to request genetic counseling and testing."
Rx: The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends genetic counseling and testing of healthy individuals if there is a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree family history of any of the following:
- Two or more breast cancers from the same side of the family (maternal or paternal), including one at age 50 or younger
- One or more ovarian cancers
- A combination of breast cancer with one or more of the following cancers: thyroid, melanoma, sarcoma, endometrial, pancreatic, or stomach cancer
- Two separate breast cancers in the same individual
- Ashkenazi Jewish descent with breast cancer at any age
- A close male relative with breast cancer
You Might Consume Too Much Protein
"Protein supplements have increased exponentially in popularity over the past couple decades. However, people consume extra protein without understanding the correct amount to take or the damaging effects that an excess amount can cause," says Anthony Kouri, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Toledo Medical Center. "Risks of protein powder supplementation are not trivial. Extra protein is not used efficiently by the body and may impose a metabolic burden on the bones, kidneys, and liver," leading to insufficiency fractures, kidney stones and liver-function disorders, even precipitating the progression of coronary artery disease.
The Rx: "It is very important to consider your normal dietary intake of protein prior to consuming protein powder," says Kouri. "If you're not an avid weightlifter, and you consume meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs, you are unlikely to require protein supplementation in your diet. The recommended daily dose for adults is generally 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men, but that can vary depending on each individual's health."
You Assume You Get Enough Vitamin D
"Vitamin D deficiency has reached pandemic proportions in modern society," says Kouri. "Studies demonstrate that it may be found in 50 percent of young adults and apparently healthy children and 25 to 57 percent of adults. As many as 80 percent of adult hip fractures are associated with vitamin D deficiency, and it has been shown to be associated with diseases such as prostate, colon and breast cancer; diabetes mellitus types 1 and 2; multiple sclerosis; hypertension; cardiovascular disease, worsening renal failure, chronic vascular inflammation, and schizophrenia."
The Rx: "The U.S. government's current recommendation of 230 IU vitamin D intake for the average adult severely underestimate the actual required needs of our population," says Kouri. "The actual required intake for most people should be 800 to 2,000 IU daily. This is difficult to achieve without supplementation, especially in higher latitudes and winter climates." Get some sun, too—wearing your sunscreen.
You Down Sugary Drinks
"Over the past 30 years, soda and energy drink consumption has increased exponentially," says Kouri. "Several studies have linked sugar-sweetened drinks with weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, gout, and coronary artery disease. In addition, recent evidence suggests that increased intake of sugar-sweetened and low-calorie sodas is associated with a higher risk of stroke."
The Rx: Drink spa water or a no-added-sugar drink like Spindrift instead.
You Use Q-Tips In Your Ears
"The worst health mistake you can make is using Q-tips to clean out ear wax," says Grobman. "The ear produces wax to protect against infection and it causes water to drain out. It's a natural drying agent. Q-tips only push the wax in further and can injure the skin leading to infection and even perforation."
You Eat So Much Processed Food
"Food is medicine, or food is toxic," says Dr. Martha E. Rivera of Adventist Health White Memorial in Los Angeles. "If we eat clean, less processed foods, more foods from nature and more plant-based foods, we'll be able to digest this food, leading to less inflammation. Inflammation is a main driver of diseases: Diabetes, cancer, arthritis, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, depression, obesity and Alzheimer's, to name a few."
You Diet to Lose Weight
"Given the obesity crisis, too many people are trying to lose weight, by eating less and exercising more," says Dr. Vera Tarman, a food addiction expert and author of Food Junkies.
"This is the worst thing you can do. Why? Diets work in the short term but do not last. Diets provoke a deprived mentality—just wait for the binge to follow! They actually create weight gain —you can diet yourself into obesity, because our body wants to hold on to our weight. And they can promote an eating disorder, such as binge eating or night eating."
The Rx: Instead, eat balanced meals, like those found at eatthis.com.
You Work Out Before Bed
"Our bodies like to be cool when we transition from an awake state to a sleep state. Vigorous exercise can raise the body temperature long after you've finished working out, so it's best to avoid excessive physical activity before bed," says Dr. Kansagra.
The Rx: Science says the best time to workout is in the morning, before you eat.
You Watch TV…in Bed
"The bed should be reserved for only two activities: sleep and intimacy," says Kansagra. "All other activities should be performed outside your bed, and ideally, outside your room. You want to condition your mind to think about sleep when you walk into your bedroom, not about the latest assignment from work."
You Eat Your Greens But Not Your Blues (and Purples)
"Research has shown that foods that are blue or purple in color can help reduce inflammation," says Conrad.
The Rx: "The active ingredient called anthrocyans can reduce the inflammatory process naturally, and are commonly found in foods such as blueberries or eggplant." Enjoy also plums, red cabbage, cherries and blackberries.
You Replace Sleep with Coffee
"If you drink to stave off the effects of a poor night's rest with lots of caffeine spread throughout the day, you are doomed to have a poor night of sleep again, followed by a similar feeling of fatigue the next day," says Kansagra. "This can be a difficult cycle to break and eventually, once the caffeine is out of your body, the sleepiness will return."
You Think You Don't Need Much Sleep
"Unfortunately, there is no such thing as getting used to less sleep," adds Kansagra. "When you are chronically sleep-deprived, the feeling of sleepiness becomes the new normal, so people who are used to sleep deprivation often report that they feel fine. However, when sleep-deprived adults perform tasks that test certain brain capabilities, their performance continues to decline the longer they are sleep-deprived. So although you may feel like you've gotten accustomed to sleeping less, your brain is not necessarily performing at its best."
You Blindly Count Calories
"Most people make a mistake by blindly counting calories instead of paying attention to the quality of the food, and how it contributes to, or how it damages our health," says Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD a Kansas City-based dermatologist. "One calorie from highly processed food cannot be the same as one calorie from fruit, for example."
You Blindly Take Medicines
"Many people would take and keep taking medicine prescribed by their healthcare provider without knowing what it's for and what possible side effects it could have," says Tonkovic-Capin.
The Rx: Ask your doctor what the medication does exactly, what side effects you may feel, what happens if you miss a dose and how soon you'll feel the positive effects.
You Smoke And Vape (Still!?!)
"Smoking and the use of nicotine products are very harmful to skin, lungs, wound healing abilities, and all sorts of other important factors," says Inessa Fishman, MD, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon with Aviva Plastic Surgery & Aesthetics in Atlanta. " I see some younger patients in my practice who think vaping is harmless, when in reality they are exposing themselves to large doses of nicotine and likely many other harmful chemicals. Big no-no!" Being a smoker also puts you at "severe risk" for complications from COVID-19.
You Don't Magnify Your Magnesium
"Lack of sleep puts stress on the body and depletes the body of the anti-stress mood mineral magnesium as well as other mood enhancing nutrients such as B1," says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of 365 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power. "This may result in mood swings, grumpiness, lack of energy, fatigue, depression, anxiety, lack of focus and decreased cognitive ability."
The Rx: "Not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed by the body," says Dean. "That is why I recommend a liquid picometer form of magnesium."
You Run Towards Sport Drinks
"Let thirst be your guide—drink water," says Morton Tavel, MD, clinical professor emeritus of Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and author of Snake Oil is Alive and Well. The Clash between Myths and Reality. "One concern with sports drinks is that they deliver lots of calories. Some contain 150 calories, the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar, which can be helpful to a distance runner or equivalent. But the rest of us, and especially children, definitely don't need sports drinks, for that runs the risk of adding to the burgeoning rate of obesity. Unless someone is exercising or competing in a sporting event for longer than 90 minutes, there is no reason to drink something with excess sugar and electrolytes."
The Rx: "In fact, even if you are an athlete and regularly exercise, I still would not recommend sports drinks at any time other than when you are actually in the middle of exercising," says Tavel. "This is the only time where a sugar and salt hit will not necessarily be bad for you. All in all, I would still go for just water and maybe a quick, bite-sized snack like fruit or nuts."
You Add—Don't Subtract—Added Sugars
"I think the biggest health mistake people make at this time is ignoring the amount of sugar they put into their bodies," says Ziv M. Peled, MD, of Peled Plastic Surgery. "The scientific literature is now replete with data that suggests increased sugar intake result in greater insulin levels which in turn results in greater amounts of overall inflammation and fat deposition/storage. More specifically, people don't realize where that sugar comes from—like ketchup and dairy. While being mindful of this intake may take a bit of work in the short term, over time it is a habit that can easily be incorporated into a more healthy lifestyle and is worth its weight in years and months of greater health and vitality."
The Rx: A book like Zero Sugar Diet identifies those added sugars—and helps you eliminate them.
You Avoid Deep And Meaningful Connections
"There are many areas outside of better diet or a new workout program that may be impacting your health and happiness without you even realizing it," says Dr. Jane Frederick, a fertility reproductive endocrinologist in Orange County, California. "For example, avoiding deep and meaningful connections in life can impact your health. The human experience is about connecting with other people, like marriage, close friendships, and staying in touch with family). People with strong social ties were found to be healthier and have a lower risk of death."
You Base Your Health Decisions on Anecdotes, Not Data
"Even at this data-driven age, we are still human beings and as such, find stories much more compelling than data," says Talya Miron-Shatz, Ph.D., a visiting researcher at Cambridge University and CEO of Buddy & Soul. "That neighbor who smoked when pregnant and has a gifted child does not mean smoking is good during pregnancy. It is not a good idea to base your decisions — whether to exercise, vaccinate, test for a condition, or treat it — on a story, even though we tend to assign stories greater significance than numbers."
The Rx: "Stories are compelling, but you have to stay on top of health information, the validated kind," says Miron-Shatz.
You Put Medications In Bottles Other Than The Ones The Pharmacy Provides
"As a pharmacist the worst mistakes I see include putting medications in bottles other than the ones the pharmacy provides," says Erin Pitkethly, a pharmacist and nutritionist at the Robinsong Health Low Carb Clinic. "Some people put them all in one bottle and then don't know what is what."
You Share a Spoonful of Medicine
"Another mistake is assuming what works for your neighbor/best friend/brother will work for you," says Pitkethly. "Patients will take their friend's prescription medication—not a great idea. It can be unsafe because of interactions and contraindications."
You Stop Taking Your Blood Meds
"One of the worst health mistakes I see in my practice is when patients stop their Plavix, aspirin or Effient or Brilinta," says South Florida Cardiologist Adam Splaver MD. "These medications are prescribed when you have had a stent. Stopping those meds prematurely without consulting a physician can cause you to have another heart attack or stroke."
You're Overweight and, From a Health Perspective, Cool With It
"Being overweight is associated with 90 percent of diabetes Type 2, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, depression, poor sleep and sleep apnea, many types of cancer, truncated immune reactions and poor response to chemotherapy, to name a few," says Fishman.
You Over-Rely On Over-the-Counter Medication
"Excess utilization of over-the-counter medication because masking pain can delay diagnosis of significant diseases," says Horowitz. "Acetaminophen can hurt the liver, and ibuprofen can affect the stomach and kidneys."
You Use the ER For Routine Care
If you are suffering from COVID-19 symptoms, call your medical provider, and seek emergency care if you experience the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
You Rack Up the Screen Time
"The use of computers, cellphones and televisions in the hours before bed can interfere with a proper sleep cycle," says Wang, an ophthalmologist in Memphis, Tennessee. "This occurs because light that leans toward the blue end of the spectrum is similar to the natural daylight that we'd see around midday. Because that's the time when we're supposed to be most productive, our bodies react to that light by not producing as much melatonin, causing us to be more alert. This can lead to disruption of sleep for many people."
To protect your eyes from the negative effects of cell phone/computer eye syndrome, we should follow the 20/20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes of close reading, take a break for 20 seconds, look at an object that is at least 20 feet away, and blink consciously at least 20 times.
The Rx: "People should consider using a setting on their device to limit blue light exposure at night," adds Wang. "Most modern devices offer this. On Apple devices, it's called Night Shift. Other options include blue-blocking filters to place over a computer monitor or blue-blocking glasses, which are available from many online retailers."
You Consume Artificial Sweeteners
"Ingesting artificial sweeteners is a huge mistake. Don't go near them," says Erika Schwartz, MD, an internist in New York City and author of Don't Let your Doctor Kill You. "For example, aspartame, when heated, turns to formaldehyde, which is used to preserve dead bodies. Table sugar is only 16 calories a teaspoon. It's a safer alternative. There is nothing real or good about fake sugar."
You Don't Save Your Salad
"First eat your salad, then eat your protein," says Schwartz. "Why? Salad increases digestive enzyme production, paving the way for faster and more efficient digestion of protein, which is otherwise more difficult to digest."
You Ignore Your Stress, and It's Hurting You
"The worst mistake you can make for your health is to ignore and not deal with mental stress," says Janet Prystowsky, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York. "If you do ignore it, it will likely cause all sorts of problems with eating, drinking, sleeping, social interactions, and physical condition."
The Rx: "Figure out ways to deal with the stress, including talk therapy, physical activity, hobbies, and positive social interactions," she advises. "Your health will greatly improve, and you will be mentally and physically stronger. It will be easier to eat and drink wisely and enjoy exercise. You will be at peace with yourself and others."
You Think Falling Is A Normal Part Of Aging
"Falls are common in older adults over 65 and can have devastating consequences, but they can be prevented," says Lauren Peterson, PT, DPT, a physical therapist and clinical director of FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City. "When it comes to falls, there are three things that make up your balance system: your eyes, your inner ear, and your feet feeling the ground. Just like your muscles, these three systems need to continue to be challenged."
The Rx: "A physical therapist specializing in vestibular rehabilitation can develop a program to challenge your balance system and help keep you active," she says.
You Do Kegels Wrong
"When you grip your butt or thighs to perform pelvic floor muscle exercise—or Kegels—you are not properly doing a Kegel," says Peterson. "In addition, if you are not properly coordinating your breathing, then you are not getting the full benefit of a Kegel."
The Rx: "Proper Kegels require that you can perform 1) sustained Kegels: 10 Kegels held for 10 seconds, and 2) quick flicks: 10 cycles of contract-and-relax in 10 seconds," says Peterson. "Oftentimes people need biofeedback to learn what a proper Kegel should feel like and to get the full effect."
You Ignore Symptoms
"Denial, ignoring a symptom or growing lesion could lessen chances for a cure or corrective treatment, cancer, heart disease or infection," says Michael B. Prystowsky, MD, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Pathology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Same goes for your COVID-19 symptoms. If you experience any contact your medical professional.
You Listen To Loud Music
"Some people can have habits that they picked up from their childhood. These habits can cause health problems in the long run and can sometimes irreversible damage to our body," says Dr. Tatjana Lalic of Balans Medika. "Working out, cooking, cleaning the house, hanging out with your friends—there are some people who love to play a loud tune. But what we are not aware of is that we are putting our ears, and the delicate structures in them, at risk for permanent damage."
You Drinking Your Calories
"Most of us mindlessly sip our way up to weight gain," says Lalic. "Our morning coffee, frappucinos (with or without whipped cream), milk teas and fruit juices might seem like innocent drinks, but are actually culprits for an increase in blood sugar and empty calorie intake."
"Worry is inevitable in our life, but worrying too much and getting stressed afterwards is one thing we should not be doing to ourselves," says Lalic.
You Brush Your Teeth Right After Eating
"You just ate something garlicky, and you need to face people in five minutes — what to do? Brush your teeth. Although it might seem like a good idea, you are actually exposing your teeth enamel to damage," says Lalic. "Research says don't brush your teeth after eating or drinking acidic food. Better to brush your teeth before you eat, or wait 30 minutes after eating."
You Allow Your Kids Unrestricted Use of Digital Media
"One of the worst health mistakes parents can make when it comes to their children is to allow them unrestricted use of digital media including TV's, computers, smartphones and other gaming devices," says CharlRe' Slaughter-Atiemo, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician in Waldorf, Maryland. "Studies show that excessive screen use can increase the risk of obesity, negatively."
The Rx: Says Slaughter-Atiemo: "Monitor your child's media use and screen time, regardless of age." Even during these COVID-19 times, "Your child should associate their bed with sleep and not a place to play."
You Don't Exercise Your Mind
"The advice 'Exercise your mind as well as your body' cannot be overstated," says Manoj Mehta, MD. "Not just engaging in complex mental tasks as we age, but engaging in new tasks. Picking up a new musical instrument, taking an art class, or doing something else with hand eye coordination that has not been part of your usual routine is a great way to stimulate the mind. Studies have shown that this helps to maintain mental acuity as we age, and potentially slow the process of dementia."
You're Not Diversifying Your Diet
"Diversity in the diet potentially has a significant benefit in keeping our gut and body healthy," says Mehta. "Patients who consume a wide variety of antioxidant sources generally have fewer health problems as they age. The link between colorectal cancer and diversity in the diet is well-established. So don't just focus on the total amount of fiber that you need, but look at the sources of those fibers. You want a wide range of fruits, nuts and grains, vegetables, and other sources of fiber that have broad ranging antioxidant properties."
You're Exfoliating Your Skin Where You Have Active Acne
"There are several misconceptions about this condition," says Andrew Newman, MD.
"People feel the need to exfoliate their skin where they have active acne. But this is a bad idea! Exfoliating active acne will likely cause more redness, more swelling, and raise the chances of forming a scar. So why do we obsess over exfoliating? Hollywood. Television shows and commercials will tell you this is what you need to do. So is exfoliating a bad thing in general? Not really. It can help maintain healthy skin when used on normal skin that does not have acne (or any other skin condition). For active acne, stay far away from the exfoliators, and that includes anything that is abrasive like washcloths and scrubs."
You Wash Your Face Too Often
"We should disregard the idea that acne is caused by having a dirty face. This is not the case," says Newman. "Acne is caused by hormones, inflammation, and bacteria on the skin. In fact, all of the medicines we use to treat acne will target one of these things. So there is no need to wash your face many times throughout the day. Excessive washing can dry the skin out, and we have recently found that dry skin causes significantly worse acne in acne-prone individuals."
You're Using Narcotic Prescription Drugs With Alcohol
"One of the most tragic, and far too common, health mistakes people can make is using narcotic prescription drugs with alcohol. While true that all prescriptions come with a clear warning not to drink alcohol while using the drug, many disregard that precaution and then experience serious, even fatal, consequences," says Dr. Priya Chaudri, CEO of Elevation Behavioral Health. "Do not succumb to this serious heath mistake. Warning labels on prescription medications are there for a reason."
You're Skipping Your Eye Exam
"A lot of people think that because they don't wear eyeglasses or notice any vision issues, a visit to the eye doctor isn't necessary. But a routine eye exam can shed light on your body's overall health," says Dr. Amanda Rights, O.D.. "In a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will check for vision problems and eye diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts. What you might not know is that your eye doctor can also discover signs of systemic diseases, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, high cholesterol, lupus, and multiple sclerosis (to name a few), through a comprehensive eye exam."
The Rx: As soon as your city's self-isolation restrictions allow it, see your eye doctor. "I recommend that people see their eye doctor annually, whether or not they are symptomatic. It's just like getting an annual physical — it's better to check in with your doctor even if nothing is physically wrong. If you have pre-existing eye health concerns, wear glasses or contacts, or have a family history of an eye condition, you'll definitely want to have your eyes checked regularly."
You're Not Paying Attention To Body Aches
"These are not just nuisances, they're signs that your body is trying to tell you something," says Dr. Erica Steele, DNM ND CFMP BCND. "Perhaps it is best to listen before it becomes a bigger issue later on. I often hear in my practice, 'This happened out of nowhere.' The body may be subtly telling you something, and you may be too busy to hear. "Some patients with COVID-19 have reported body aches.
You're Skipping Your Checkups
"Not going to your annual physical is a health risk, as you are not staying on top of your health," says Steele. "It may be difficult to fit it all in, but your health is your biggest priority."
You Don't Like Your Doctor
"Believe it or not you should not only respect your doctor, but you should kind of like them," says Steele. "This is a deeply trusting relationship, and if they get on your nerves, don't respect your views, or insult you, more than likely you will not go, which could jeopardize your health. So find a doctor you like and can work with as a team."
You Take Vitamins Or Supplements To Prevent Heart Disease
"A common mistake I see is when people take vitamins or supplements to prevent heart disease, sometimes even instead of physician-recommended medication," says Ann Marie Navar, MD, Ph.D., an assistant professor of cardiology at Duke Clinical Research Institute. "The truth is that supplements are regulated as 'food' by the FDA and don't have to prove that they work to prevent or treat disease."
The Rx: Her advice? "Stop wasting money on supplements that claim they promote 'heart health' like fish oil, and ask your doctor about proven therapies to lower risk of heart disease."
You Fail To Mention Your Work History
"A few mistakes I often spot when it comes to health and wellness: Failing to mentioning their work history or any history of asbestos exposure, which opens the door to misdiagnosis as doctors may inaccurately rule out asbestos as the cause of a patient's symptoms," says Snehal Smart, MD, of the Pleural Mesothelioma Center. "It's important that patients alert their doctor if they've come in contact with asbestos in order for a doctor to accurately diagnose any asbestos diseases. Also, assuming symptoms such as a chronic cough, shortness of breath and chest pain are related to less serious illnesses like bronchitis or pneumonia despite having a history of asbestos exposure."
The Rx: "Many early mesothelioma warning signs overlap with other diseases and cancers. It's important to monitor your health for any changes and share them with your doctor, so you can get proper testing." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.