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Everyday Habits That Wreck Your Body, According to Science

Pull yourself out of these traps, before it's too late.

"Self-care"—the idea that it's important to reserve some time for relaxation and indulgence amid the stresses of everyday life—has become highly popular over the last few years. But during the pandemic, that concept became a bit distorted. Disruptions to routine caused many of us to seek comfort in habits that aren't exactly healthy—and, in fact, can be seriously dangerous if carried on too long. But now is a great time to reassess our patterns with an eye toward lasting health, and to make course corrections if necessary. These are some of the most common everyday habits that wreck your body, according to science. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Everyday Habits That Might Lead to Dementia.


Eating Too Much Sugar


If someone told you that sugar makes you fat, sick, and old-looking, would you still crave it? Unfortunately, that home truth is backed by science: Studies have found that consuming too much added sugar increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain; hobbles the immune system by increasing inflammation; and damages collagen and elastin, the compounds in skin that keep it looking young. The American Heart Association recommends that men eat no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar per day and that women have no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams). The average American consumes about 15 teaspoons every day. 

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Eating Too Much Salt

salting popcorn

The Standard American Diet—apt acronym SAD—is loaded with processed food, which in turn is packed with things that can wreck our bodies. Besides added sugar, that includes salt (sodium). Studies show that most Americans consume about 3,400mg of sodium daily, well above the expert-recommended 2,300mg (about one teaspoon of salt). High salt intake is a major risk factor for high blood pressure, which skyrockets your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Check out Nutrition Facts labels to see the sodium content of foods you consume regularly—the amount you're unwittingly consuming may shock you—and choose foods with as little sodium as possible.

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Not Getting Enough Sleep


When we sleep, major organs and body systems repair themselves. When you're not getting adequate rest, your heart, brain, and immune system can transition from a rebound state to a pattern of decline. Poor sleep has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Experts such as the National Sleep Foundation recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.

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Not Moving Enough

shop from the couch

Even before the COVID pandemic, only 20 percent of Americans were getting what the American Heart Association says is the amount of exercise necessary to prevent heart disease: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking) per week. Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle can impair your heart, brain, and immune system, raising your risk of a variety of illnesses, heart disease, and dementia. 

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Drinking Too Much Alcohol

woman sitting on couch having raised glass with red wine in hand

Fears over COVID-19 are fading thanks to the vaccine rollout, but experts worry that Americans face another reckoning about how we've spent the last 14 months—on a constant booze binge. A study published last fall by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that alcohol consumption increased by double digits versus the year before. One eyebrow-raising stat: The number of women who were binge drinking (defined as drinking four or more drinks within a few hours) increased 41 percent. Heavy drinking (more than two drinks a day for men, and one a day for women) is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and more than 10 types of cancer. And to get through life at your healthiest, Don't Take This Supplement, Which Can Raise Your Cancer Risk.

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