Bad habits are a common thing in everyone’s daily lives but some can eventually take over our lives. From the common things like sitting down too long to health deteriorating habits such as smoking, we all have bad practises. It can be hard to stop these habits if we don’t know exactly what they are doing to our bodies. Here we talk about the risks and illnesses of common habits and tips on how to beat them once and for all!
Smoking is one of the worst habits to consume due to its capability to kill us through its contents of over 4000 harmful chemicals including carbon monoxide, ammonia and nitrites. In fact, 40,000 people die each year due to smoking, with each cigarette decreasing your life by 5 to 8 seconds. Cigarettes are made from the tobacco plant, which contains the drug nicotine and chemicals that form tar. Nicotine is a strong poison that can kill humans with a small amount. Tobacco contains very tiny amounts of nicotine that aren’t deadly but are still bad for our health. Tar is formed from the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, which give cigarettes their smell and colour. It sticks to our clothes, skin, and lungs, and even prevents the system disposing germs and dirt from our lungs resulting in diseases. Together, tar and smoke are the main cause of cancer due to their chemicals, whilst nicotine and tar cause lots of diseases such as throat, mouth, bladder and lung cancer, as well as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and heart disease. Smoking around others can cause them harm and result in ear infections, asthma, bronchitis and tonsillitis. Children who are exposed to smoke have undeveloped lungs and are likely to develop asthma. Find out more facts and statistics about the dangers of smoking.
To help you quit smoking you need to think positive and be prepared to manage your cravings.
- Once you’ve decided to stop smoking, you need to think ahead to times when you will most crave cigarettes like parties and you should plan routes to escape smoky areas.
- A study revealed that some foods, like meat, make cigarettes more satisfying whereas cheese, fruit and veg make them taste vile. Therefore, you could amend your diet to stop your desire for smoking.
- Similarly, changing what you drink could have the same effect on cigarette taste. Fizzy drinks, alcohol, coke, tea and coffee all make smoking taste better, whereas water and juices have the opposite effect.
- A study has shown that exercise reduces cravings. Whenever you get an urge for a cigarette, take a 5 minute walk to ease it.
Drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week can lead to several diseases and illnesses. It is recommended that men and women drink only 14 units a week, which is equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or low-strength wine. Although previous studies have shown that some level of alcohol is good for our bodies and hearts, it is still unsafe to drink any more than 14 units. Drinking can affect our health by increasing the risk of mouth, throat and breast cancer, strokes, heart and liver disease, brain damage and damage to the nervous system. Even drinking too much in one night can cause damage such as injuries, misjudging situations and losing self-control. Drinking heavily has been linked to other health issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as disturbing sleep patterns and aggressive behaviour. To help understand and limit how much you drink, use an alcohol unit calculator.
Cutting down on how much you drink can improve tiredness, skin, fitness and weight. To help limit how much you drink you should set a plan:
- On a night out you should limit how much you drink. Know how many drinks will make you reach your weekly allowance, drink them slowly and alternate them with water.
- Set a budget on how much to spend on alcohol both in a supermarket and on a night out.
- Try drinking a lower strength drink or drinking smaller sized drinks such as a bottled beer instead of a pint.
Sun exposure is the main cause of skin cancer with more than 8 in 10 cases of melanoma in the UK. Using tanning beds or forgetting to use sunscreen can increase the risk of damaging our skin and health. It’s the UV rays from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer. UVB is responsible for the outer layer of skin like the cause of sunburn, whilst UVA affects the deeper levels of the skin and causes aging. Sunburn is a sign that your skin has been damaged with studies to show that being sunburnt once every two years can triple your risk of skin cancer. Too much exposure to the sun can damage your skin cells and lead to cancer. Although our bodies have ways to reduce the damage, if we constantly expose ourselves to UV rays our cells cannot be repaired.
To enjoy the sun safely and avoid sunburn we need to use a combination of shade, clothing and sunscreen:
- Between the hours of 11am and 3pm we should spend time in the shade as this is when the sun is at its strongest.
- If you’re going to be spending long periods of time outside, for example if you work outside, you should cover up with a sunhat and sunglasses.
- Always use sunscreen no matter what the weather. We should always apply no less than a factor 15 on a regular basis.
It is recommended that we eat a balanced diet including high amounts fruit and vegetables, and starchy foods such as potatoes and cereals and lower amounts of dairy and sources of protein such as meat and fish. Whereas foods that are high in fat and sugar, like chocolate and crisps, should be digested in smaller quantities. Eating too much fast food, prepackaged food that’s high in cholesterol or sugar, or not eating enough of the recommended groups can lead to health problems such as coronary heart disease, low blood pressure, obesity, tooth decay and diabetes. It is also recommended that we drink at least two litres of water a day. We need to replace the water that we lose through sweat and urine to help us stay alive by pumping blood around the body. A lack of water can result in fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, low blood pressure, slow metabolism and even kidney failure and swelling of the brain.
To help stick to a healthy and balanced diet, and drink the recommended two litres of water a day, you need to stay motivated:
- Stick to healthy foods you enjoy eating. Don’t eat a salad because you think it’s the healthiest option. Create meals out of healthy but tasty ingredients.
- Pack food with you wherever you go. Take healthy snacks with you or even a packed lunch to work to help you stay on track.
- Treat yourself to little treats every now and then- everything in moderation.
- Add fruit to your water to give it a more satisfying taste.
- Eat your water through fruit and vegetables that are high in water such as cucumber.
Sitting for long periods of time has become a common bad habit that is linked to health issues. We are told that we need to exercise for 10-30 minutes a day, but recent studies have shown that excessive sitting needs to be reduced too. It has been noted that adults spend more than seven hours a day sitting per day. This includes watching TV, using a computer or even driving a car. Sitting for too long has increased risk of being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and early death. It also slows down metabolism, which prevents the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down fat.
To prevent any health risks and get moving more you can:
- Break up sitting time by doing some kind of activity for two minutes every 30 minutes.
- For leisure activities limit time spent sitting, e.g. in front of the TV. Include other activities such as walking, cooking and other hobbies that involve you moving around.
- A study has proven that 60 minutes of exercise can offset the effects of sitting.
Posture is important for the alignment in our necks and backs, and keeping our spines straight and healthy. Good posture can even give you more energy, less stress and avoid fatigue. If you fail to obtain a good posture, it can affect you in later life. Sitting or standing with a curve in your spine can put a great deal of pressure on your spine by putting it in an unnatural position. This can cause pain and discomfort, as well as prevent your spine from absorbing shock and maintain a natural balance. Poor posture slows your digestive organs and prevents them from functioning the right way. It can also increase cardiovascular issues resulting in a shorter life expectancy and cause varicose veins as the body is not getting the necessary circulation it needs.
To correct your posture you should:
- Keep your shoulders back and relaxed
- Pull in your abdomen
- Keep your feet hip distance apart
- Balance your weight evenly on both feet
Sleep should be everyone’s number one priority, as without sleep, a healthy diet and regular exercise means nothing to our bodies. The National Sleep Foundation has reported that adults between 18-64 years of age need 7-9 hours of sleep per night in order to keep their bodies healthy. A lack of sleep, including anything under seven hours, can cause a lack of alertness, memory, stress, motivation and drowsiness. If you continue to sleep under seven hours for a long period of time, you may develop high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, heart failure or strokes. Sleep deprivation can even affect your appearance with premature wrinkling as it breaks down the collagen in the body.
To ensure you get a good night’s sleep you should:
- Set a daily bedtime so your body gets used to a consistent sleep pattern.
- Don’t sleep in too long as you can sleep too long and become more tired.
- Exercise during the day to make you feel tired and ready for bed at the end of the day.
- If you didn’t get between 7 and 9 hours sleep, take a power nap
Stress usually ignites physical changes in the body to help you calm down. However, when we become frequently stressed, it becomes too difficult to control and your body will stay in high alert and develop more long term problems such as anxiety and depression. When you become stressed your body goes into a “fight or flight” response to control the threat or difficulty you are experiencing. Your heart starts to pound, your breathing quickens and your muscles tense. Stress is mainly caused from work, family, housing or personal issues. Ongoing stress can change how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically. You can become overwhelmed, anxious and lack self-esteem. You can also develop headaches, dizziness, sleeping problems and begin eating too little or too much. It’s good to be aware of the signs of stress so you can tackle it before it causes any long term problems for you.
To reduce stress in your life you can:
- Get active! Exercise can reduce stress by clearing your thoughts and letting you deal with your problems more clearly.
- Take control of your problems by thinking you can tackle them! Stress is caused by feeling there is a loss of control and creates a lack of well being.
- Talk to someone about your problems to ease some of the stress. If you don’t feel like talking about your problems, just take some time to forget about them by relaxing with friends.
Working out can have massive benefits for your body, but leaving on those sweaty clothes after a workout can have nasty effects on your body. Leaving on sweaty clothes can irritate your skin and cause problems such as painful and itchy rashes. Bacteria and fungus from the air can become attached and trapped in sweat, and multiply onto your skin. The longer you stay in dirty gym clothes, the more likely you are to develop body acne as dirt and gunk sink into your pores and stick to your gym clothes. Bacteria can grow and develop in any area of your body leaving you with infections, including yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Athlete’s foot can develop from sweaty socks and shoes which will itch and burn.
To avoid any bacteria growth you should:
- Change and wash your gym clothes after each use
- Shower after each workout to rid your body of bacteria
Remembering to take your makeup off at night can become a chore, especially after a long night. Sleeping with your makeup on can cause many problems for your skin and features. Leaving on mascara and eyeliner can cause eye infections and irritations leaving your eyes feeling dry and causing redness; left-on mascara can also make your eyelashes brittle and break easily. Wrinkles are a common issue when you leave your makeup as it exposes your skin to free radicals leading to the breakdown of collagen. Forgetting to remove your foundation can clog your pores creating spots and pimples and letting your lipstick dry out overnight can reduce the moisture on your lips and lead to cracked lips.
To remember to take off your makeup you can:
- Leave sticky notes on your mirror to remind you how important it is to remove your makeup
- Have cleaning towels on your bedside table so you have no excuse not to remove your makeup on those lazy nights
- Invest in a cleansing tool to make removing makeup faster and easier