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13 Everyday Habits That Are Secretly Killing You

Not sleeping enough? Eat the wrong foods? Not taking your medicine? 
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
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Everyone knows that bad habits aren't good for your health. However, some of your lifestyle habits are worse than others. Some of them might even be secretly killing you. From what you are eating and drinking to health issues you might not be staying on top of, knowing the most detrimental health habits could save your life. Read on to learn about everyday health habits that are secretly killing you according to experts—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.

1

Avoiding the Doctor

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Failing to see a primary care doctor or have medical screening is one of the most dangerous moves to make regarding your health. "Failing to screen for breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer can result in missed opportunities to treat early stage cancer successfully, resulting in presentations late in the course of disease," explains Darren P. Mareiniss, MD, FACEP, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine Sidney Kimmel Medical College – Thomas Jefferson University. For example, a cancer that could have been treated early could become metastatic and essentially incurable.  "Also, failing to report symptoms or see your primary can allow significant medical problems to go undiagnosed, untreated and ultimately result in bad outcomes."

2

Living a Sedentary Lifestyle, or Risking Obesity

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Obesity and maintaining a sedentary lifestyle are also extremely hazardous to your health. "Obesity is a risk for developing hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, arthritis, sleep apnea and atherosclerosis," explains Dr. Mareiness. "Weight loss can significantly mitigate this risk and may actually effectively reverse these illnesses." Sedentary lifestyles contribute to obesity and may allow for continued calcium loss in older age. "Isometric exercises can improve bone strength," he adds.  

3

Maintaining Poor Sleep Habits

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Poor sleep habits can result in serious accidents and daytime drowsiness, explains Dr. Mareiniss. "Chronic poor sleep may increase chances of heart attack, obesity, diabetes, and endocrine disorders." Furthermore, undiagnosed sleep apnea can result in right side heart failure/pulmonary hypertension. "Patients with sleep apnea often snore and have episodes of apnea (not breathing)," he continues. "Patients who snore with daytime drowsiness should have a sleep study." 

4

Not Taking Care of Your Teeth

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Dental care should always be a priority. "Poor dental care can result in not just poor aesthetics, but also bad breath and dental pain," says Dr. Mareiniss. "It can also be a source for significant head/neck infections and systemic infections as well."

5

Not Taking Your Medications

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Noncompliance with medications is one of the most dangerous things you can do. "Depending on the disease and the medication, noncompliance can result in a wide range of emergency conditions," Dr. Mareiniss states. For example, noncompliance with insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents in a diabetic patient can result in life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) or hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS). Also, a patient with heart failure can have an acute exacerbation if they fail to take diuretics, a patient with a history of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis can have a life-threatening pulmonary emboli if they are noncompliant with anticoagulation, a patient with atrial fibrillation can have strokes if they are noncompliant with anticoagulation, dialysis-dependent kidney failure patients who are noncompliant with hemodialysis can experience life-threatening elevated potassium, respiratory distress or fluid overload, and patients with coronary artery disease can have a heart attack if they are noncompliant with antiplatelet regimens.  

6

Not Following a Recommended Diet

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If your doctor recommends a specific diet, follow it. "For heart failure patients, failure to adhere to a low sodium diet can result in exacerbations and admission to the hospital. Similarly, for patients with diabetes mellitus, failure to restrict sugar/carbohydrate intake can result in hyperglycemia, DKA or HHS," explains Dr. Mareiniss.   

7

Not Keeping Up with Vaccines

Nurse with face mask sitting at home with senior woman and injecting covid 19 vaccine.
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Always stay on your vaccine schedule. "Failing to pursue vaccination puts you at risk for many diseases," explains Dr. Mareiniss. With respect to children, without vaccination, patients are at risk of serious bacterial infections that can be life-threatening as well as viral infections. "For example, cases of epiglottitis (life threatening infection of the epiglottis) have been significantly reduced by vaccination efforts. In general, unvaccinated children are at significantly more risk for life-threatening serious bacterial infections."

8

Refusing the COVID-19 Vaccine

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Failure to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine is a significant risk Dr. Mareiniss warns. "All eligible individuals should pursue vaccination. The Delta variant is both more infectious and deadly than prior variants."  

9

Spending Too Much Time in the Sun

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Failing to use sunblock can result in burns and increased risk of skin cancers such as melanoma, reminds Dr. Mareiniss. "Particularly for fair-skinned individuals and patients with family histories of skin cancer, sunblock should be used to avoid burns and cancer risk."  

10

Skipping Breakfast

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Although many people either do not have enough time in the morning to eat or aren't hungry when they wake up, skipping breakfast can lead to harmful long-term consequences. "According to a study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, skipping breakfast is linked with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, ranked as the number one cause of death in America," says Niket Sonpal, MD, NYC Internist and Gastroenterologist. "The most straightforward reason for this association is because you are more likely to overeat throughout the day if you avoid breakfast. Overeating can lead to hypertension and clogged arteries. It's essential to not only eat breakfast every day but also make sure it's nutritious." 

11

Exercising in the Heat

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Exercising in heat can lead to heatstroke warns Jennifer Conroyd Certified Fitness Trainer and Founder of Fluid Running. "During the summer, people enjoy taking advantage of the nice weather by bringing their workouts outside. Although the change of scenery can be nice, exercising in the heat can cause serious health risks such as heat stroke," she explains. "When your body's internal temperature increases, more blood circulates through the skin, also known as sweating. In turn, less blood is available for the muscles, which causes your heart rate to increase. Trying to be tough and pushing through warning signs of heat-related illnesses can lead to heatstroke, which occurs when your body's temperature reaches anything over 104 degrees. Heat Stroke can be a deadly condition if the body is not cooled down immediately. When working out in hot weather, it is imperative to stay hydrated, take breaks, and pay attention to changes in your body."

12

Eating a Large Dinner

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Avoid eating your biggest meal at night. "Eat like a queen for breakfast, princess for lunch and bird for dinner," says John Morton, MD, MPH, chief of bariatric surgery at Yale Medicine and professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. Why? "Metabolism slows at night," he says. 

RELATED: 5 Ways to Prevent Dementia, Says Dr. Sanjay Gupta

13

Smoking

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Smoking because it is just about the worst thing patients can do to themselves, explains Dr. Mareiniss. "Not only is it a risk for essentially every type of cancer, but it increases the likelihood of coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, renal injury, hypertension, and strokes. It also directly causes Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, lung cancer and emphysema." Another unexpected way that smoking can seriously damage your health? Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, NYC Spinal and Orthopedic Surgeon reveals it is detrimental to spine health. "Consistent smoking can cause a decrease in bone density and increases the risk of osteoporosis, which is a condition that causes bones to become weak. Weak bones can cause spinal fractures from simple activities such as a fall and, in severe cases, even a sneeze," he says. Smoking also disrupts blood flow, which deprives the spinal tissues of necessary nutrients, specifically oxygen. "The presence of nicotine in the bloodstream can decrease not only the healing but the regeneration of the cells within the disk of the spine." And to get through life at your healthiest, don't miss these 7 Signs You've Got a "Deadly" Blood Clot Inside You.