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5 Ways You're Wrecking Your Body Without Knowing it

These habits are a lot worse than you might think.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

We know that when it comes to health, prevention is better than cure—but what if you're undermining your wellbeing without knowing it? "I often see patients who feel they are doing everything right. They are eating nutrient-dense foods, getting adequate sleep, going to the gym…but they just don't feel good," says Mark Hyman, MD. Here are five ways you might be seriously harming 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

Too Much Sugar

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Studies show that excessive sugar intake is linked to heart disease. "Excess sugar's impact on obesity and diabetes is well documented, but one area that may surprise many men is how their taste for sugar can have a serious impact on their heart health," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "Basically, the higher the intake of added sugar, the higher the risk for heart disease. The effects of added sugar intake — higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease — are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke."

2

Ignoring Belly Fat

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If your waistline has been slowly expanding over the years, it's time to do something about it. "Prior research has shown that abdominal obesity is more strongly associated than overall obesity with cardiovascular risk factors such as increased blood pressure, elevated blood triglyceride levels, and type 2 diabetes," says Chika Anekwe, MD, MPH. "Studies have shown it's even linked to dementia, asthma, and some cancers. Fat located around the abdomen, particularly visceral fat surrounding the liver and internal organs, is highly inflammatory and metabolically disruptive: it releases inflammatory molecules that contribute to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and ultimately cardiovascular disease."

3

Binge Drinking

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Even one session of binge drinking can quickly affect your immune system, research shows. "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."

4

Sitting All Day Long

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A sedentary lifestyle is terrible for your health, even if you work out regularly. Studies show sitting too much is linked to serious health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. "The more you sit, the more your large muscles are not using glucose, the body's main energy source. Uninterrupted sitting can cause blood sugar levels to rise, triggering the release of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar," says Dr. Hicham Skali, a cardiologist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

5

Taking Toxic Supplements

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Over-the-counter supplements are one of the leading causes of liver damage in the US, so always speak to your doctor before taking any (especially if you are on prescription medications). "It's really the Wild West," says Herbert L. Bonkovsky, MD. "When people buy these dietary supplements, it's anybody's guess as to what they're getting."

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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