No, you’re no supermodel, but you’re still reasonably healthy. Despite your harried schedule, you brush your teeth twice a day, eat quinoa and kale — but you also indulge in too much pizza now and then. You don’t get to the gym every day — who has time for that? — but when you do, you slog through an hour-long jog on the treadmill.
So what if you have a late-night snack of hot chocolate and cookies? You’re a busy, full-time professional and parent of non-stop kids. You deserve that break.
Turns out some of these small, seemingly harmless habits may be hurting you more than you realize. Here are the 10 most common health errors we're making — and here is why we shouldn't, according to the experts.
1.) We snack late at night.
Getting ready to hit the sack? Then forget snacking, period. “When you go to sleep, the oral glands produce less saliva,” according to Dr. Eugene Gamble, a periodontal surgeon in London, England. “Saliva has a buffer action that neutralizes bacteria acids. If you snack late at night, you don’t have enough saliva over the night to counter the bacteria induced acid attacks on your teeth. It is very common to see babies and toddlers with cavities in every tooth because the parent puts fruit juice into the nighttime bottle for the child. The teeth don’t stand a chance.”
2.) We think juice cleanses will get rid of toxins.
Juice doesn’t get rid of toxins; the kidneys and liver do. You’ll quickly gain back whatever weight you lose by voiding all the stool in your intestines during a cleanse. Juice cleanses and other fads are “gimmicks that have not been proven to be of any long-term benefit and can often be associated with various side effects. It’s better to make healthy lifestyle changes that you can sustain on a long-term basis,” said Dr. Anthony Wong, internist at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California. Plus, “fruits also contain acids like citric acid seen in lemons, limes, and oranges. Over-consumption of these fruits can lead to erosion of the teeth similar to that [of] soda drinks,” Gamble added.
3.) We forget to floss — or skip it 'just because.'
It takes roughly two minutes a day, and it could mean the difference between healthier teeth for a lot longer. As much as 40 percent of the tooth surface area lies in the space between the teeth, said Gamble. “[Dentists] now recommend brushes designed to go between teeth,” he told LifeZette.
4.) We scrimp on sleep.
The average American gets 40 percent less than the seven to nine hours of sleep recommended for optimal health, according to a recent Gallup poll. People who skip sleep are more likely to report poor health, low life satisfaction, and high stress. And the quality of sleep matters as well, said James White, director of Taunton Health in Somerset, England. “When the evening starts to come along, cortisol [the stress hormone] starts to lower, and melatonin [the sleep hormone] starts to rise,” he told LifeZette. “Being stressed before you go to bed can affect your sleep quality.” He recommends moving electronics away from the bed, since computer screens and TV screens keep cortisol levels high. He also recommends using thick curtains so that light from outside doesn’t disturb sleep cycles, and reading a relaxing book at bedtime.
“Fat is good for you and necessary for your health. Foods that have fat in them are high in vitamin D,” said a personal trainer.
5.) We think only 'big' fitness goals will get us in shape.
If you don’t have any habit of working out, setting a goal to work out for an hour six times a week isn’t a good place to start. It’s not sustainable. “If someone has a low fitness level, then going hard for 20 or 30 minutes three times a week is better than an hour,” said James White, who also works as an osteopath and personal trainer. “Focus on strength training. You can get a good cardio workout by doing things like supersets — back-to-back exercises with no rest in-between. Supersets have benefits for your metabolism, increase your strength, increase bone density, and rebalance your hormones — they boost your testosterone and reduce cortisol.”
6.) We avoid all fats at all costs.
Some fats are good for you. The trans fats that often accompany highly processed foods are terrible — but the saturated fats in avocado, eggs, and coconut oil aren’t bad in small quantities. “Fat is good for you and necessary for your health. Foods that have fat in them are high in vitamin D,” White said. More than 75 percent of American adults and teens have a vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to soft, weak bones.
7.) We forget that good posture matters.
If you forget to keep good posture, your spinal column could misalign in what’s called a subluxation of the spine. “Subluxation in the spine robs the nerves of their ability to function at an optimal level,” White said. People can reduce the chance of nerve damage by incorporating more stable, strong movement into their daily routine.
8.) We neglect our bones.
Calcium supplements haven’t proven effective in building up bone density. But other foods have proven effective, such as milk, yogurt, and leafy greens. The bones you have at the end of puberty will be your bones for the rest of your life, and more than half of all Caucasian women over 50 in the United States have low bone mass. Resistance training with weights will help strengthen bones to prevent this from happening.
9. We think over-the-counter medications have no side effects.
Ibuprofen, nasal spray, Benadryl, decongestants — many people believe they can use them as often as they need. But an increasing amount of research has shown that long-term use of many of these popular medicines can lead to serious problems. Benadryl has been linked to dementia later in life, decongestants raise your heart rate and can cause arrhythmias, and Ibuprofen has been linked to kidney failure. “I would say the number one [health] mistake is taking too many pharmaceuticals,” said Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams, family practitioner in Santa Cruz, California, and author of "BodyWise: Discovering Your Body’s Intelligence for Lifelong Health and Healing."
10. We skip our annual checkup.
If you haven’t had a physical in awhile, now’s the time to get it, said Dr. Wong, the internist from California. “Your primary care doctor can assess your baseline health and … help you adjust your diet, exercise regularly, avoid alcohol and tobacco and caffeine, control your stress level, drink more water, and get more sleep,” he said. Although these sound simple, they’re hard to implement — and it can help to be accountable to someone. In addition, getting an annual skin checkup if you get a lot of sun can literally save your skin — and in some cases, your life.