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5 Ways You're Secretly Harming Your Body, Doctors Say

These everyday habits might not even be on your radar. But they can be seriously hazardous to your health.

If you're reading this, chances are you're pretty invested in staying healthy. You're minding your diet, trying to move more, and keeping up with routine screenings. That well-known advice can go a long way. But experts have recently discovered that some common routines—everyday habits we deprioritize or don't even think about—can seriously harm your body. They deserve your attention too. 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're Spending Too Much Time on Social Media

Becca Tapert / Unsplash

According to a study published in the January issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, people who use social media excessively have higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a biological marker of chronic inflammation that can predict serious illnesses like heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes. Researchers recruited 251 college students and tracked their blood levels of CRP along with their social media usage. 

"We were able to establish a correlation between the amount of social media use and these physical health indicators," said lead study author David Lee, PhD, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Buffalo. "The more participants used social media, the more somatic symptoms they experienced and visits to the doctor they reported. They also showed higher levels of chronic inflammation."

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You're Ruining Your Brain By Skipping This Nutrient

According to a new study published in Nutritional Neuroscience, consuming more fiber may reduce your risk of dementia. Researchers tracked the dietary habits of 3,500 Japanese adults for more than 30 years; they found that the participants who consumed diets higher in fiber had a lower risk of developing dementia. Soluble fiber—the kind found in foods like oats, beans, apples and citrus fruits—seemed to be particularly beneficial.

"The mechanisms are currently unknown but might involve the interactions that take place between the gut and the brain," said Kazumasa Yamagishi, MD, PhD, a lead author of the study. "One possibility is that soluble fiber regulates the composition of gut bacteria. This composition may affect neuroinflammation, which plays a role in the onset of dementia. It's also possible that dietary fiber may reduce other risk factors for dementia, such as body weight, blood pressure, lipids and glucose levels."

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You're Worrying Too Much

Mature businessman experiencing a headache while working at his desk

Last month, a study from the American Heart Association found that men who worry more seem to have a higher risk for developing cardiometabolic disorders like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes as they age. That's because worrying is stressful, and stress takes a toll on vital organs. A recent Yale University study found that chronic stress can actually increase your rate of biological aging. It may also slow your metabolism, raising your chance of obesity-related disorders which tax the heart.

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You're Eating By Yourself

Elderly woman eats her vegetable salad sitting on the sofa at home.

A study published last November found that older women who eat alone have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. People who eat alone are more likely to eat faster and consume less healthy foods. Several studies have also associated loneliness with an increased risk of many serious illnesses. The reason? Loneliness is a form of stress, which—just like worrying—wears on the body.

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You're Settling For Poor Sleep

Couple In Bed With Wife Suffering From Insomnia

As we get older, it may seem more difficult to get a good night's sleep. It's not just your imagination—it really does get harder to sleep as we age. But that doesn't mean it's something you should just learn to live with. Not getting enough sleep has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia, obesity and type 2 diabetes. And it often has a cause that can be addressed, such as chronic pain, anxiety, or a reaction to medication. Experts such recommend that adults of every age get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. If you're not, ask your doctor how you can get there. And to ensure your health don't miss these 101 Health Habits You Didn't Know Were Deadly.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael