Health mistakes everyone makes

2013-10-09
PUNCH Newspaper

Driving with the windows down

We feel pretty content cruising up the motorway with the wind blowing through our hair on a warm day, but we never spare a thought for our poor lungs as we breathe in the harmful pollutants emitted by cars.

A study from the University of Southern California has found that spending a mere six per cent of our day driving in the car with the windows down exposes us to around 45 per cent of the pollutants that we encounter in 24 hours — that’s a lot of pollutants to come into contact with in such a short amount of time.

In cities, driving with the windows down poses an even higher threat to your health. Instead of winding the windows down during a traffic-ridden commute, try letting some fresh air in before you start your journey and save having the wind blowing through your hair for your voyage through the countryside.

Carrying heavy handbag

You’ve packed your makeup, baby wipes, phone, purse and keys. And your camera too (were you planning on taking pictures of anything interesting during your trip to the chemist?) Oh, good to see you brought the old batteries from the remote — never know when you might need them. Those broken headphones could come in handy — thank goodness they found their way in there too. Er, ladies (and gentlemen, if you’re quite partial to carrying a ‘manbag’) do you really need all this stuff? Surely, these ‘essentials’ could be cut down a bit? Lugging a heavy load around can really take its toll on your health by causing back spasms, disc degeneration, neck problems, arthritis, and poor posture. Spring clean your handbags and manbags, and possibly consider trading them in for a smaller version.

Spending too long exercising

It’s pretty common to think that the more time we spend on the exercise bike, the better. The truth is, too much of a good thing can be counter-productive; and that goes for exercise too. Working your body too hard can lead to abnormal hormonal changes (which can trigger weight gain), a weaker immune system, muscle damage, shin splints, and knee, foot, or back problems. While it’s important to reap the benefits of exercise for a healthy lifestyle, don’t go overboard.

Scrimping on sleep

You’ve crammed everything you can possibly fit into 24 hours and more, when, suddenly, you look at the clock and it’s way past the time you hoped to go to bed and closer to the time you need to get up for work.

Scientific research has proved that we look less attractive when we’ve had little sleep. But droopy eyelids and pasty skin are the least of our worries when it comes to our habit of scrimping on sleep. No matter how healthy you are, how much you exercise, or how much you weigh, getting too little shut-eye can seriously affect your health.

Scientists studied 5,600 people of a healthy weight and size for three years and found those who skipped sleep quadrupled their risk of stroke and heart disease. Fix a specific time to go to bed and stick to it.

Avoiding the scales

In many households across the world, the scales are the one piece of equipment gathering more dust than the treadmill. A common way to gloss over our weight problems is to avoid going on the scales altogether. If you feel like you’ve gained weight, it’s best to face the facts to see how much you’ve gained so you can do something about it before it gets out of hand.

Everyone’s weight naturally fluctuates, so don’t panic if you’ve gained a couple of pounds here and there. But if you gain more than five pounds, you should probably rein in your eating habits. Checking your weight on a regular basis allows you to nip it in the bud if you discover a weight problem — losing the odd few pounds is much easier than trying to shed a stone.

Silent worrying

You worry about the meeting at work, you worry about putting the bins out … and it’s really getting you down. While stress can be positive in helping to keep you alert and avoid danger, too much of it can be detrimental to your health. Endless worrying eventually leads to distress, which causes headaches, high blood pressure, an upset stomach, chest pain, and sleep deprivation.

While it’s natural to worry when you have a deadline looming, panicking too much about petty things needs to be sorted. When you’re worrying, ask yourself a few simple questions and answer them as honestly as you can. Will you still be worrying about this in a couple of weeks’ time? Can this problem be easily resolved? If you can’t let it go, tackle the problem head on until it is resolved. If you can learn how to control your worrying, you’re well on your way to a happier, healthier lifestyle.

Stopping medicines suddenly

Most of us are guilty of this one; we’re feeling much better and stop taking our medication, but suddenly end up feeling a whole lot worse. How often do you consider the health risks of this? Depending on the medicine you are taking, going ‘cold turkey’ can cause all sorts of health risks, which range from mild, to moderate, or serious.

Discontinuing your medicine suddenly can cause mild headaches, rapid return of the illness that you were treating, and seizures, to name only a few. Abruptly stopping certain medications can be life-threatening, so keep taking it until your doctor tells you to stop. And when you do get the ‘all clear,’ take medical advice when you’re discontinuing them.

Forgetting to floss

Flossing is a key component when it comes to oral hygiene, but it’s a step that many of us skip because we don’t feel much different whether we floss or not. It’s worth changing your routine though, because plaque between the teeth can be more serious than you may think. If the bacterium finds its way into the blood stream, it can cause chronic inflammation and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and premature birth.

The cosmetic implications of not flossing are another obvious concern. Unless you would like to lose all your teeth in favour of some rapper-style gold ones, it’s recommended that you floss at least once a day to stop your pearly whites from being weakened by plaque and eventually falling out. It looks like we need to start brushing up (get it?) on our dental hygiene routines for the good of our health.

Skipping breakfast

Skipping your breakfast and then continuing with your day is like trying to drive your car with a very low tank of fuel — it will feel fine to start with, but eventually slow down and cut out. Not only will you feel less active and sluggish, skipping breakfast — whether it is due to lack of time or fear of putting on weight — is linked with a higher risk of diabetes and can lead to obesity as your body stores up more fat to use as fuel throughout the rest of the day. Eat breakfast to feel happier, more functional and, most of all, healthy.

Drinking water from the warm tap

Scientists suggest that drinking water from the warm tap could cause lead poisoning. Lead can enter some water systems from corroded plumbing work, but drinking high levels of it can have potential health risks, particularly in children where it can lead to brain damage.

Although scientists emphasise that the risks of lead poisoning are small, it’s recommended that you use the cold tap for preparing baby formula, drinking, and cooking.

 

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