Most of us know to eat well and to exercise, but keeping up on your health requires paying attention to other less obvious details. You might be picking up on the right big habits, but there could be a number of little habits that are sabotaging your health, and you may not even realize their impact. Enjoying happy hour and eating a big piece of chocolate cake from time to time won't hurt you, but engaging in consistent bad habits, as harmless as they may seem, can have both short-term and long-term negative health effects.
"The problem with a few little bad habits is that they end up becoming a bad lifestyle overall," says Dr. Mary Wendt, MD over email. "By choosing take a car instead of walk or eating a cookie instead of an apple, a surprising amount of poor health can manifest over the years."
Pinpointing these habits can be difficult, but I consulted with a few doctors to help you figure out which habits should go. If you think your everyday habits can use a bit of an overhaul, consider paying attention to these 11 little habits that may be sabotaging your health, even if they seem innocent.
1. Skipping The Dentist
"It is easy to forget to floss and attend biannual dental visits," says Jared Heathman, MD over email. "While skipping a few days may be fine, repetitive neglect can result in various dental problems that can negatively impact the rest of the body." Your oral health can actually impact your overall health, as gum disease is linked to other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis, among others. Time to make that appointment!
2. Taking The Elevator
We've all been guilty of taking the elevator instead of opting for the stairs. "Technology has made it easy to neglect physical exercise," says Heathman. "Instead of taking the stairs to increase blood flow and burn calories, most people take the elevator. This passes up a great opportunity to boost energy and increase exercise on a daily basis."
3. Isolating Yourself
Interacting with people is important beyond improving your social life. "Although it's perfectly acceptable to close the door for privacy or to focus on a tight deadline, isolating yourself at work can lead to poor work satisfaction and low mood levels," says Heathman. "Socializing improves brain function and promotes a positive attitude."
4. Drinking Too Much Coffee
Caffeine is more than necessary on those days when we're running low on sleep, but rely on it too much, and it could mess with your natural energy levels. "Try to limit your intake to two cups per day," says Dr. Ehsan Ali over email. "The artificial energy can lead to dehydration and also a crash/caffeine withdrawal, causing you to feel more tired than before."
5. Staring At A Computer All Day
Spending all day in front of a computer can cause "Computer Vision Syndrome," which includes a whole range of eye strain and pain, according to WebMD. "Get a 'glare guard' to protect your vision and eyes from all the light," says Ali.
Most of us don't think about our posture much throughout the day, but not sitting up straight can lead to long-term health effects. "Poor posture at work can lead to chronic back pain," says Ali. It can also decrease your energy levels, negatively impact your mood, and affect your digestion, according to multiple studies.
7. Carrying A Heavy Bag
It's not uncommon to carry around a bag filled with all your daily needs, but if your purse is heavy, you'll likely suffer the consequences later. "Lugging a too-heavy satchel can lead to a host of health risks, including strained muscles, numbness, tingling in the arm from nerve trauma and unnecessary pressure on the spine or lower back pain," says Neel Anand, MD over email.
8. Unhealthy Snacking 24/7
Snacking on healthy foods can benefit you, but if you're constantly headed to the vending machine, you might want to think twice. "High fat, high-calorie snacks are going to keep your body in a setting of digestion rather than metabolism," says Wendt. Stick to natural snacks like fruits and vegetables if you're hungry throughout the day.
9. Not Drinking Enough Water
Drinking enough water is just as important as eating healthy. Even just mild dehydration can lead to moodiness, fatigue, and problems focusing, according to research from the Journal of Nutrition. "Focus on getting just six eight ounces glasses of fluid a day," says Wendt. "If it's tough to hydrate as much as you should, consider eating more soup."
10. Pressing The Snooze Button
You might think that hitting the snooze button will help you feel more rested in the morning, but it can actually leave you feeling more groggy and lower on energy. Once you drift back to sleep, your body starts your sleep cycle all over again, and waking up shortly after interrupts a deep part of your sleep, leaving you feeling worse off, according to ASAP Science.
11. Focusing On The Wrong Numbers
Instead of counting calories or paying attention to numbers on the scale, look to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables or other nutrients instead. "Focus on getting the highest quality antioxidants from a variety of sources, and getting a variety of colorful foods in your diet routinely," says Went. "Choose healthier proteins and the healthiest fats rather than a specific gram count each day."
The more you pay attention to the small details, the better your health will be overall.
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