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Worst Habits That Will "Make You Sicker," Doctor Says

Five habits that are terrible for your health, experts say.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

We all want to be healthy and happy, but certain lifestyle factors can seriously undermine even the best of your healthy-living intentions. "Focusing on what you can control, regardless of circumstances, can be empowering," says Bethany Agusala, M.D. "And small changes can make a big difference. For example, I've helped patients learn how to fit healthy food choices into a tight budget, plan healthy meals that can be made quickly, and practice mindfulness techniques to lower anxiety levels caused by a stressful job they can't afford to lose." Here are five habits doctors want you to avoid, for the sake of your health. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Poor Sleep

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Lack of sleep is terrible for your immune system, and can interfere with optimum immune response when you get sick. "Another serious physical side effect of too little sleep is decreased efficiency of our body's ability to fight infection," says Carl E. Rosenberg, MD. "The immune system is the body's main defense against illnesses and studies have shown that it requires rest. People who do not get enough quality sleep at night tend to get sick more often. They are more likely to contract common viruses, like the cold and flu, as well as more serious infectious diseases… In fact, some research in the field has shown that sleep deprivation can ruin the protective effect of the flu vaccine. This means that the immune system is ineffective at fighting off the common virus even after receiving a vaccination. Plus, a weakened immune system makes it more difficult to recover from illnesses when they are contracted."

2

Drinking Too Much Alcohol

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Studies show that even one session of binge-drinking alcohol can seriously undermine your immune system for days afterwards. "The idea that one single episode of binge drinking can cause such a significant disruption—it's something we can take to the public and show them that there are harms even for those who don't consider themselves problem drinkers," says Majid Afshar, MD, MSCR. "We need to do a better job on educating the public about the harmful effects of heavy drinking in people who otherwise consider themselves healthy."

3

Eating Unhealthy Food

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According to the Cleveland Clinic, a 2017 study showed that unhealthy dietary habits contributed to almost half of over 700,000 deaths caused by heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. "A way of looking at it is thinking about food as medicine," says Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CCSD, LD. "The right food can really improve your health and decrease your risk of developing these chronic diseases."

4

Sitting All Day

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Studies show that sitting all day is making us sicker. "Even when adults meet physical activity guidelines, sitting for prolonged periods can compromise metabolic health," reads a study published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. "TV time and objective-measurement studies show deleterious associations, and breaking up sedentary time is beneficial. Sitting time, TV time, and time sitting in automobiles increase premature mortality risk."

5

Smoking

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Research shows that smokers have a more extreme response to viral infections compared to non-smokers. "If the exaggerated responses are verified in human studies, it will be the first explanation for why viral infections are more serious in smokers," says Jack A. Elias, M.D. from the Yale School of Medicine. "Once verified, we can find ways to prevent the destruction of lung tissue and the higher illness and death among smokers."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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