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Health Risks: Exploring the Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices that Increase the Likelihood of Illness

By George Anorue

Highlights:

  • Unhealthy lifestyle choices raise the risk of getting certain illnesses.

  • Dehydration leads to fatigue, mental fogginess, stroke risk, binge eating, a slowed metabolism, headaches, and weight gain.

  • Eating late at night can lead to Night Eating Syndrome

  • Packaged foods are made to have long lifespan but then they decrease ours

  • Living a sedentary lifestyle and not exercising regularly can lead to a wide range of diseases

  • Using phones at night induce a shift in the circadian cycle

Introduction

Health risks may be found in every corner of our lives. The risk of developing diabetes is increased by obesity. Also, if your cholesterol levels are too high, your risk of developing a heart disease increases. Again, your chances of developing a wide variety of malignancies are increased by smoking. Although there are instances when health risks might be difficult to recognize, it is essential that you do so. While certain risk factors, like genetics, are out of your control, others, like your lifestyle, are within your purview. To that end, let's examine a few bad lifestyle choices that raise the risk of getting certain illnesses.

Nutritional Habits


Here, we examine the links between certain common dietary habits and the health problems they may cause.


Not drinking enough water

It should come as no surprise that water, which makes up around 80% of the human body, is beneficial to overall health. This is because it is essential for the normal functioning of all of the body's organs, cells, and tissues, so making sure you get enough of it is crucial (Jéquier and Constant, 2010; Pittman, 2011). In fact, Braverman (2013) asserts that maintaining a healthy level of hydration helps to preserve mental acuity, as well as emotional steadiness and focus. It also keeps your skin soft and supple, enables your body to more effectively cool itself as the temperature rises, improves the function of your muscles and joints, and assists your kidneys in eliminating waste products from your system (Balch, 2010; Laskey, 2015; McIntosh, 2018).


To that end, how much water should you be consuming daily? According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, adult males need around 15.5 cups of fluid per day, while women only need about 11.5 (Mayo Clinic, 2020). The meal you eat or fruits (especially tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, and bell peppers with high water content) supplies you with around 2.5 more glasses of liquids. However, since everyone is different, the easiest method to tell whether you're getting enough fluids is to check your urine color; if it's a pale yellow, like lemonade, you're good to go.


What, therefore, happens to your body if you don't drink enough water? Mayo Clinic researchers (2018) found that a lack of water consumption was associated with fatigue, mental fogginess, stroke risk, binge eating, a slowed metabolism, headaches, and weight gain. This was further emphasized by a slew of studies that looked specifically at how dehydration impacts mental performance (Tomporowski et al., 2007; Grandjean and Grandjean, 2007; Pross, 2017), muscular strength and endurance (Greiwe et al., 1998; Jones et al., 2008), and skill-based performance.


Eating late at night

Every single one of us has given in to the temptation of eating late at night at least once in our lives. While it's not necessarily harmful to indulge in a midnight snack every once in a while, making it a regular occurrence might have devastating effects on your health and well-being in the long run. A more serious problem than simply a bad habit, night-time snacking has been linked to addiction and the onset of a condition known as Night Eating Syndrome (O’Reardon, Peshek and Allison, 2005; Vander Wal, 2012), which manifests as compulsive eating at inappropriate times. For this reason, it is recommended that we eat the majority of our daily foods throughout the day, when our bodies are at their most active and can effectively convert food into energy.


There are a number of additional strong reasons to think about moving dinner early in the day. In particular, it's recommended that supper be eaten no later than 7 o'clock. Eating supper earlier in the day while keeping it light not only helps you sleep better, but it also improves digestion, revs up your metabolism, and lowers blood pressure, all of which contribute to your overall health (Kinsey and Ormsbee, 2015; Manoogian, Chaix and Panda, 2019; Pharm Easy, 2022). In addition, researchers think that the body can make better use of the food it consumes if it has more time to digest between meals. Moreover, the National Institutes of Health reports that eating late at night might lead to indigestion, which can keep you up at night and even give you bizarre dreams. As a matter of fact, late-night snacking has been linked to poor mental health and mood swings (Colles, Dixon and O’Brien, 2007). Thus, it is suggested that you have dinner as early as possible.


Lack of vegetables in your diet

Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to increase your intake of many healthy nutrients and other components of food, such as phytochemicals and fibre. Supplements may replace some of the nutrients you'd receive from fruits and vegetables, but they can't replace everything, especially because no supplement can replicate the complex web of nutritional interactions in whole meals. The health risks associated with excluding these items from a healthy diet are significant. These includes

  • Nutrient deficiencies: A lack of certain nutrients (Vit. A, B, C, K, calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium) can lead to further health complications like scurvy, anaemia, osteoporosis, Haemorrhage etc. Fruits, being so nutrient-dense, may help prevent all this from happening.

  • Digestive Issues: Diarrhoea is characterized by loose, watery stools and happens when undigested food travels through the digestive tract at an extremely rapid rate, preventing the intestines from having enough time to absorb water. Fruits and vegetables provide fiber, which aids in digestion and makes bowel movements more consistent by absorbing water (Rana et al., 2011). Furthermore, the large intestines are afforded a greater window of opportunity for water absorption due to fiber's ability to reduce transit time.

  • Disease Risk: The digestive process of soluble fibre causes it to expand, which in turn inhibits the absorption of glucose and cholesterol. This may aid in maintaining healthy levels of these molecules in the blood, which in turn may reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes or high cholesterol. Plant-based compounds called phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their vibrant hues and may even have anti-inflammatory and tumor-preventing properties (Zimmerman, 2001; Jeyaprakash and Phil, 2018).

  • Bad Cardiovascular Health: Maintenance of healthy cardiovascular function requires a diet that strikes a healthy balance between potassium and salt. The Linus Pauling Institute reports that many Americans have an unhealthy ratio of salt to potassium in their diets. In order to re-establish this equilibrium, it is recommended to consume a diet high in potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Your risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease may rise if you avoid certain foods.

  • Weight Gain: The number of calories provided by fruits and vegetables is modest when compared to their weight. As a result, they provide bulk to your diet without overwhelming you with an excessive amount of calories. Additionally, the high water and fibre content of these foods makes you feel full longer and may keep you from eating more than you need to, which is especially beneficial if you are attempting to lose weight. If you're trying to keep your weight in check, but you've cut out healthful items like fruits and vegetables in favor of things like cheese and fatty meat, you could be setting yourself up for failure.

Eating on-the-go

Particularly among the working class, teenagers, and those with unconventional living arrangements (such as those in dorms, apartments with several occupants, or roommates), the popularity of ready-to-eat meals has skyrocketed. Some quick meals may be consumed right away or after being heated, thawed, or adding some water. Similarly, they mostly need a cooking time of less than 5 minutes. While packaged convenience meals may have the benefits of being low-cost, readily available, and high in flavour, they also pose health risks due to the high levels of sugar and fat used in their preparation. Corn syrup is often used for its low cost and its ability to mimic the taste of sugar, whereas trans fats are used since they don't degrade the meal. Likewise, salt is a cheap way to give dishes a great flavour boost. This, however, has certain drawbacks to consider. Fast food is notorious for its negative health effects, including but not limited to: increased risk of cancer and other diseases, weight gain owing to trans fats and sweets, mood disorders, and a general lack of transparency about the ingredients used (Ziauddeen et al., 2017; Fuhrman, 2018). You can't always be sure of the actual ingredients in convenience meals, and they're loaded with additives like flavour enhancers and preservatives that make them last longer but shorten yours. To that end, it's better to stay home and cook than to spend an hour in transit munching on fast food.


Physical Routine Activities


Here, we look at the possible health risks associated with some typical physical habits we may or may not engage in:


Living a sedentary lifestyle and not exercising regularly

People seem to agree that drinking while driving and smoking are extremely dangerous habits. Surprisingly, there are situations when doing absolutely nothing—not even moving a muscle—can be fatal. The lack of exercise or any kind of physical activity has been linked to an increased risk of mortality. Specifically, a research by Lee et al. (2012) found that inactivity and sedentary lifestyles account for more fatalities worldwide than either cigarette smoking or diabetes. According to a recent analysis of the research available on the topic, insufficient physical activity has been linked to a wide range of adverse health outcomes, including but not limited to: heart diseases (including coronary artery disease and heart attack); obesity; high cholesterol; high blood pressure; type 2 diabetes; metabolic syndrome; stroke; osteoporosis; increased melancholy and anxiety; and certain malignancies (including colon, breast, and uterine cancers) (Buttar, Li and Ravi, 2005; Park et al., 2020). This is more than enough proof that you should get up and engage in some kind of physical activity, preferably one that you like and suits your lifestyle.


Not getting enough sleep, primarily due to the habit of constantly pressing phones

Extensive empirical research demonstrates that sleep is a very important physiological condition that must be met for human life (Luce and Segal, 1966; Loft and Cameron, 2014; Vansteenkiste, Ryan and Soenens, 2020). Furthermore, a number of recent experimental investigations have focused on the question of how much sleep is necessary for an adult to function at their best and be safe (Watson et al., 2015; Chaput et al., 2020). However, if you're like the average person, your phone may be the last thing you see before you fall asleep and the first thing you notice when you wake up. In this case, there is some evidence that exposure to even minute quantities of artificial light, such as that emitted by screens, might induce a shift in the circadian cycle (Green et al., 2017; Blume, Garbazza and Spitschan, 2019; Tähkämö, Partonen and Pesonen, 2019). The repetitive nature of many of these actions—refreshing, checking, reacting, reading, scrolling, uploading, clicking, and playing, for example—may trigger a need to use phones incessantly. However, when people don't get enough sleep, their brains struggle to function at their best. This may lead to problems including attention lapses, delayed working memory, decreased cognitive processing, depression, and ruminative thinking (Banks and Dinges, 2007). Most importantly, it can lead to insomnia (Khan, Nock and Gooneratne, 2015; Tamura et al., 2017). So why not try sleeping without your phone? Before going to bed, do your best to keep it as far away from you as possible.


Conclusion


There's a common saying that it takes 21 days to establish a new routine. To that end, it's important to recognise unhealthy patterns since it’s the first step towards breaking them and making positive changes for a better life. From common nutritional habits to physical routine activities, we've developed a list of several unhealthy habits you're probably guilty of. These regular actions (or inactions) may be sabotaging your fitness and health efforts without you even realising it. Note the above unhealthy habits, and make it your mission to stop them at the core.


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