The Top Five Worst Lifestyle Choices

I guess I have lived long enough now to be able to have the education and experience in order to write this blog post ;). I know this post may offend some and that is truly not my intention. This post may also seen redundant and/or patronizing. Again, not my intention. As a health coach, my responsibility is to increase awareness, share, educate and guide individuals to better choices…diet/nutrition, physical activities, stress/mood management, spiritual wellness and lifestyle decisions. Most of my social media posts are related to nutrition, exercise and general health and fitness. Today I will focus on lifestyle decisions. This is a list of the top 5 worst choices one can make when it comes to health and wellness.

1. Smoking

This is perhaps the most obvious yet ironic lifestyle choice. According to the American Heart Association, of the estimated 48 million Americans who smoke cigarettes, most are either actively trying to quit or want to quit.

Most people are familiar with the related health effects associated with smoking. These include emphysema, cancer and heart disease. Smoking can also have negative effects on the eyes, the throat, the urinary tract, the digestive organs, the bones and joints, and the skin.

A 30-year-old smoker can expect to live about 35 more years, whereas a 30-year-old nonsmoker can expect to live 53 more years. The children of a parent or parents who smoke may be at risk from the genetic damage done to the parent before conception (because of their previous smoking) and the direct effects to them in the womb. Children are also at risk because of the passive smoke they are exposed to after they are born.

The amount of life expectancy lost for each pack of cigarettes smoked is 28 minutes, and the years of life expectancy a typical smoker loses is 25 years.
{“Dying to Quit,” 1998 book by Janet Brigham} 

Every cigarette an individual smokes reduces his life by 11 minutes. Each carton of cigarettes thus represents a day and a half of lost life. Every year an individual smokes a pack a day, he shortens his life by almost 2 months.
{University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, April 2000}

2. Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limits risks damaging your health. There is no guaranteed safe level of drinking, but if you drink less than the recommended daily limits, the risks of harming your health are low.

The hidden harms of alcohol use typically only emerge after a number of years. Unfortunately, by then serious health problems and/or risk for injury may have developed. These include:

  • Chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis (damage to liver cells); pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas); various cancers, including liver, mouth, throat, larynx (the voice box), and esophagus; high blood pressure; and psychological disorders.
  • Unintentional injuries, such as motor-vehicle traffic crashes, falls, drowning, burns and firearm injuries.
  • Violence, such as child maltreatment, homicide, and suicide.
  • Harm to a developing fetus if a woman drinks while pregnant, such as fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Alcohol abuse or dependence.

According to the CDC:

  • Men should not regularly drink more than 2 drinks a day.
  • Women should not regularly drink more than 1 drink a day.

Even drinking less than this is not advisable in some circumstances. Drinking any alcohol can still be too much if you’re going to drive, operate machinery, swim or do strenuous physical activity.

3. Overeating

Overeating is a huge problem, even for healthy individuals. The solution can be much more that just putting down the fork. The mechanisms that make us overeat are thought to be hard-wired. ASAP Science explains that when your stomach is empty a hunger-stimulating hormone (Ghrelin) is released and tells your brain to eat. When we are full, your body releases another hormone called Leptin, which kills your appetite. The theory is that high energy (fatty, sugary, carb-loaded) foods used to be scarce and our bodies are biologically wired to crave them when they’re available, overwhelming our body’s natural hungry/full response. Since we can get them all the time now, we want them all the time.

Take a look at the ASAP Science video that illustrates this theory and how to beat overeating:

 http://youtu.be/BwqAelWSgHk

4. Lack of Physical Activity

There is a growing body of research suggesting that long periods of physical inactivity raises your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. In January 2010, British experts linked prolonged periods of sitting to a greater likelihood of disease. And that same month, Australian researchers reported that each hour spent watching TV is linked to an 18% increase in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

We are meant to move. “Human beings evolved as a walking entity, exploring the world on our feet,” says James Levine, MD, author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot.

“The strangest thing in the world is that people spend all day scrunched in a chair. It’s a form of physical entrapment,” Levine, who strolled on a treadmill in his office at a 1 mile-per-hour pace while being interviewed for this article, says.

Levine’s advice: Fight sitting disease by taking steps to become more physically active.

5. Poor stress management

Stress is something we all experience. How we manage our stress is extremely important to our health. Persistent and severe stress is associated with a wide range of health problems both physical and psychological.

Here are some common responses to stress. Think about how stress affects you.

Aches and Pains

  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Neck ache
  • Stomach ache
  • Tight muscles
  • Clenched jaw

Energy and Sleep

  • Feeling tired without a good reason
  • Trouble sleeping

Feelings 

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Helplessness
  • Out of control
  • Tense

Other Emotional Signs

  • Easily irritated
  • Impatient
  • Forgetful

Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This may not be as easy as it sounds. Your true sources of stress may not always be obvious. We tend to overlook our own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines. But maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that leads to deadline stress.

To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:

  • Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
  • Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”).
  • Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?

Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.

What are some healthy ways to manage stress?

  • Physical activity – find an activity you love!
  • Meditation/Visualization – take a breath, close your eyes and imagine the most peaceful place on Earth (real or imagined)
  • Nurture your relationships – have coffee with a friend, meet your spouse for lunch, have a girls’ night out, play catch with your kiddos!
  • Eat well and eat clean – the better you fuel your body the more resilient it will be.
  • Sleep – strive for 7-8 hours of restorative sleep on a consistent basis
  • Time management and balance – don’t forget yourself in our crazy world. We all need time to honor our passions and take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others.
  • Learn to say “no” and ask for help.
  • Challenge negative thought patterns. We say horrible things to ourselves all day long. Stop this vicious cycle and create a positive, rational and effective cycle of thinking and perceiving.

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2 thoughts on “The Top Five Worst Lifestyle Choices

  1. The Practical Social Media University January 16, 2013 at 8:09 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing… will keep that in mind for healthy lifestyle..

  2. Crystal Bullerwell January 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm Reply

    Well written! I will also keep these tips in mind.

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