Are you cheating yourself out of your best health ever?
In our time-strapped world, it’s easy to deprioritize or cut corners on anything that isn’t right in front of us at the moment—obligations to work, family, friends and Facebook seem to devour every minute in sight. And our health is one of the first things to get shifted to the back burner. What’s the big deal, putting off the dentist for another month? Or getting just six hours of sleep?
Well, it could be a matter of life or death.
Here are 50 things you’ve probably overlooked today, last week or in the last few months that experts say can have a serious impact on your health. The good news is that doing the right thing couldn’t be easier—for every potential pitfall, The Remedy has found an expert recommendation for how to avoid it.
Sawing logs could be cutting your life short. Yep, snoring—that common act that keeps marriage counselors and the earplug industry in business—can be a sign of a dangerous condition called sleep apnea. During sleep apnea, you can stop breathing for up to a minute before your brain wakes you up to start again. It’s been associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
The Remedy Rx: If your partner has told you that you snore, ask your doctor if further investigation or treatment is a good idea. It can’t hurt your health—or your relationship.
“One of the worst health mistakes one can make is to not have a routine eye exam by an eye care provider annually, especially as we get older,” warns Dr. Mesheca C. Bunyon, an optometrist in Camp Springs, Maryland. “There are certain eye conditions like glaucoma which are considered to be ‘silent killers’ of vision.”
Get screened, and you can prevent that condition, or slow it down.
“Additionally, an eye care provider can detect bleeding and swelling of the retina, the lining inside of the eye, as it relates to diabetes, hypertension and other systemic diseases,” says Bunyon. “Many patients come to see me after not having an eye exam for years, and I find problems with the retina that now warrant them to go see their primary care doctors, signs of systemic diseases that they would not have known had they never come in for a routine eye exam.”
The Remedy Rx: Book an annual eye exam with a licensed optometrist once a year.
A lack of sufficient shut-eye can cause all sorts of problems, from the next day (daytime distraction raises your risk of accidents) to the long term: Poor sleep has been connected to an increased risk of weight gain, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and depression.
The Remedy Rx: Experts including the National Sleep Foundation say that adults of every age need seven to nine hours of sleep a night—no more, no less.
This is one of the worst health mistakes you can make, says cardiologist Robert Rosenson, MD, director of the cardiometabolics unit at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Letting the Internet guide your decisions may delay a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Engaging your physician is essential to accurate diagnosis that may be life saving.”
For example, new symptoms may not be caused by a new medication, despite what you’ve read. “One of my patients who had coronary artery bypass surgery claimed that ezetimibe and then evolocumab were causing fever and palpitations,” recounts Rosenson. “Based on my experience, I stated that this was unlikely and that an infectious etiology was the probable cause. After he stopped the medications and the fevers worsened, he went to his primary physician and was found to have pneumonia and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.” Yeah, that’s as bad as it sounds.
The Remedy Rx: Do your research, but leave the diagnosing to the experts.
The risk of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, rises as we age, and early detection is key. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the five-year survival rate for melanoma detected early is about 98 percent. That falls to 64 percent when the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 23 percent when the disease metastasizes to distant organs. When’s the last time you had a skin exam?
The Remedy Rx: Talk to your primary-care doctor, who may provide a referral to a dermatologist for an all-over check. You should get one annually.
Getting too much saturated fat in your diet elevates your blood cholesterol level, which in turn puts you at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. What’s high in saturated fat? Red meat and vegetable oil—staples of All-American foods like burgers and fries. Red meat has also been correlated to colorectal cancer.
The Remedy Rx: Eat no more than three moderate servings of red meat each week. If you’re craving a burger, make one at home from grass-fed beef. If you’re craving fries, bake some in the oven instead of heading to the Golden Arches.
Experts’ weekly exercise guidelines—endorsed by groups like the American Heart Association —haven’t changed, even though only about 20 percent of us follow them: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, plus muscle-strengthening exercise two times a week.
The Remedy Rx: Some examples of moderate-intensity exercise are brisk walking, dancing or gardening; vigorous exercise is running, hiking or swimming. If you think you can’t make 150 minutes, get moving anyway. Any amount of exercise is better for your health than none.
“One of the worst health mistakes someone can make is not doing kegel exercise regularly,” says Jennifer Lane, a registered nurse and aromatherapist in California. “Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, especially for women. These muscles support the uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. The pelvic floor muscles can be weakened from pregnancy, childbirth, being overweight, aging, or even straining from constipation.”
When these muscles are weak, incontinence can occur. “Both men and women can benefit from doing pelvic floor exercises daily,” says Lane. “They will help improve bladder control and possibly improve sexual performance. Kegels can also help you avoid embarrassing accidents.”
The Remedy Rx: Think of kegels as a regular workout routine. Here’s information about how to perform them.
“Too many people suffer through aches, pains and discomforts—both minor and major—for fear of causing trouble or looking out of place,” says Amy Orr, author of Taming Chronic Pain.
The Remedy Rx: “The more that people are comfortable taking a cushion with them to the movies to help with back support, or asking restaurants to modify dishes, or stating they need more space, or whatever self-care looks like for you on any given day, then the more comfortable everyone will be,” adds Orr. “It’ll also mean that injuries and minor discomforts (which everyone suffers from occasionally) are easier to get through, that people with more severe issues are more empowered to speak up as they’ll not be making an exception of themselves, and that the transition through the aging process will be smoother.”
Your blood pressure might be higher than you think. In 2018, the American Heart Association lowered the guidelines for healthy blood pressure from 140/90 (and 150/80 for those older than 65) to 130/80 for all adults. According to Harvard Medical School, that means 70 to 79 percent of men over 55 technically have hypertension. Over time, that can weaken the walls of blood vessels, increasing your risk of stroke, heart attack and dementia.
The Remedy Rx: To lower your risk, get your blood pressure checked soon—and regularly. Follow a heart-healthy diet (including these foods), lose weight and stay active.
Unhealthy eating (namely too much saturated fat) can raise your cholesterol, but so can simple aging. Our bodies produce more of the artery-clogging stuff as we mature. The general guideline is to get a cholesterol check every five years, but older adults may need it done more frequently. Your total cholesterol level should be less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), with an LDL level of less than 100 mg/dL and an HDL level of 60 mg/dL or higher.
The Remedy Rx: To keep your bad cholesterol level down, eat a diet low in saturated fat and trans fats, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
It’s past time to stand up for yourself at work. A 2017 study at the University of Warwick found that workers with desk jobs had bigger waists and a higher risk of heart disease than those with more active jobs. What’s more, workers’ bad (LDL) cholesterol increased and good (HDL) cholesterol decreased with each hour beyond five hours of sitting a day.
The Remedy Rx: If you work a desk job, stand and move around as much as possible during the day.
Our kidneys are absolutely crucial to our health, and they never ask for credit. After age 40, it’s wise to give them a bit more attention. Chronic kidney disease (CKD)—in which the kidneys filter fewer and fewer wastes from the blood, toxifying the body—tends to develop silently, not showing symptoms until your kidneys are badly damaged.
The Remedy Rx: Standard urine and blood tests at your annual physical can detect CKD, allowing and your doctor can take action to slow its progression.
Have you recently felt your heart skip a beat (and romance or your credit-card bill had nothing to do with it)? One in four Americans over the age of 40 develops an irregular heartbeat, otherwise known as atrial fibrillation (AF or A-Fib). A-Fib inhibits the heart’s pumping efficiency by anywhere from 10 to 30 percent and can lead to heart failure, angina and stroke, according to Harvard Medical School.
The Remedy Rx: If you’re experiencing an irregular heartbeat—which can be indicated by a fluttering in your chest—talk to your doctor, who can run tests or refer you to a cardiologist.
“While most people realize that water is essential to their health, very few actually drink enough,” says Eddie Johnson, founder of Anabolic Bodies. “Besides for ensuring that you have the correct electrolyte balances, and being beneficial to your excretory system’s health, water, (or lack of it), can also affect your eating habits. In fact, it is well documented that thirst is often mistaken for hunger, this means that if you’re thirsty, you may be exchanging zero calorie water for unnecessary meals. Over time this will add up to extra pounds that will take their toll on your health, as well as your appearance.”
The Remedy Rx: To ensure you’re adequately hydrated, follow experts’ guidelines: Drink 1.7 liters (or 7 cups) of water every 24 hours.
Breast cancer is scary to think about, but not getting screened annually is a scarier prospect. The risk of developing breast cancer increases as women age. By age 40, that risk is 3.5 times higher than it was at age 30.
The Remedy Rx: After 40, get an annual mammogram. Do regular breast self-exams and alert your doctor to any changes, including lumps, dimpling of the skin or inversion of the nipple.
Ovarian cancer is known as the ultimate silent killer, because a routine screening test hasn’t been developed yet. According to the American Cancer Society, most ovarian cancers develop after menopause, more than half in women over age 63. So it’s important to know the possible symptoms.
The Remedy Rx: If you experience bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, or feel full quickly when eating, consult your doctor. If you have a family history of ovarian cancer, tell your doctor about it.
There are many factors that determine if you’ll develop an illness; genes aren’t everything. But you have a higher risk of developing heart disease, certain cancers and conditions like diabetes if your parents or family members had those conditions. According to research published in the journal Circulation, men with a family history of heart disease had nearly a 50 percent increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
The Remedy Rx: Make sure your doctor knows about your family history of serious illness. Ask if screening tests are warranted.
A stroke, or “brain attack,” occurs when the brain is deprived of blood or oxygen by a clogged or ruptured artery. The risk of stroke increases as we age. The good news: The National Stroke Association says that up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable.
The Remedy Rx: Keep your blood pressure and weight in a healthy range. If you have high cholesterol, diabetes or AFib, get them treated—all are risk factors for stroke. Don’t smoke, and limit your alcohol intake to less than two drinks a day.
If you think you need less sleep as you get older, think again. You shouldn’t be having insomnia issues at any age; you’re depriving your body of the rest it needs to repair and recharge, putting yourself at risk of cancer, heart disease, dementia and more.
The Remedy Rx: If you’re having chronic trouble getting to or staying asleep, talk to your doctor. He or she may provide a referral to a sleep specialist.
Experts say women should have no more than one alcoholic beverage per day, and men should limit themselves to two. Any more than that, and you’re putting yourself at risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and more than a dozen forms of cancer.
The Remedy Rx: If you’re drinking more than that on a regular basis, talk to your doctor.
Times are tough for many—it was always thus—and we all get down sometimes. But if you find yourself with a persistent low mood, frequent feelings of hopelessness, or a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy, you could be experiencing depression. Untreated, it could raise your risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
The Remedy Rx: Talk to your doctor. Many treatments are available.
Science has found that having sex — and regular orgasms — has a host of mental and physical benefits: Alleviating depression and anxiety, improving prostate health and guarding against heart trouble, to name a few. For example: A review of research published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that having sex once a month or less increases men’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Remedy Rx: If you find that you’ve shut down sexually, ask yourself why, then take steps to change it. Consider your sexuality as important to your health as your diet, a consideration that doesn’t have to fade with age.
As we age, issues like chronic pain and depression can creep in. Likewise, treating them with a drink or two can lead to alcoholism. The effects worsen as you get older, according to the National Institute On Aging, and can lead to “some kinds of cancer, liver damage, immune system disorders, and brain damage.”
The Remedy Rx: Remember that alcohol isn’t medicine. If you’re a woman who needs to have more than one drink a day, or a man who regularly drinks more than two daily, talk to your doctor.
“The worst health mistake a person can make is not seeking and receiving appropriate screening for sexually transmitted infections. Many STIs are silent, and without screening you may be causing permanent damage to your body,” says Shannon Brown Dowler, MD, a family medicine physician in Asheville, North Carolina. “Even if you get checked every now and then, are you getting all the right parts checked? You can get STIs in quite a few places besides your penis and vagina, like the eyes, throat, mouth, anus and rectum. Screening is recommended for extra-genital sites where exposure has occurred, because the infections can be very subtle in these places.”
The Remedy Rx: It may be awkward, but talk to your doctor about your sexual health, safer-sex practices, and if you should be screened for STIs regularly. (Spoiler alert: If you’re sexually active, you should).
The primary risk factor for colon cancer? Being older than 50. And the disease is starting to surface more frequently in younger people. The American Cancer Society just lowered its recommended age for first colonoscopy from age 50 to 45 (for people of average risk; those with a family history may need to get screened earlier). Data shows that it saves lives.
The Remedy Rx: Get that first colonoscopy, if you haven’t already, and follow the guidelines for follow-up procedures. Currently, it’s advised that you repeat the test every 10 years.
Heartburn, or acid reflux, is more than just a pain. Over time, that backing-up of stomach acid can damage the esophagus, leading to a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus. That could develop into esophageal cancer, a particularly deadly form of the disease.
The Remedy Rx: If you suffer from regular heartburn, talk to your doctor about it. He or she might recommend medication or further testing.
While type 2 diabetes can strike at any age, your risk of developing the disease increases significantly after age 40. Left untreated, the condition can lead to severe complications, including heart disease, vision problems, even poor circulation that can require amputation.
The Remedy Rx: The American Diabetes Association recommends a regular diabetes screening for all adults over 45.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s essential that you follow your doctor’s recommendations, including any medication regimen. Here’s why: Diabetes causes sugars to build up in the blood. Over time, that damages arteries, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, eye problems and circulation problems that could lead to amputation.
The Remedy Rx: If you’re on medication for your diabetes, stay compliant. Follow any recommendations for diet and exercise.
Think dentist visits are kids’ stuff? Dental care is especially crucial after 40: Daily wear-and-tear can lead to cracking, cavities and plaque buildup, which can progress to receding gums and tooth loss. That’s what your dentist is there to prevent.
The Remedy Rx: Get regular dental checkups and practice good oral hygiene daily. Use a fluoride rinse twice a day, to help reinforce teeth and keep gums healthy.
Here’s a real deep state you need to worry about. The risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, increases with age. That’s when a blood clot forms deep in your veins, usually in the leg. If a piece breaks off, it can travel to the lungs or heart, a potentially fatal complication.
The Remedy Rx: According to the Mayo Clinic, the best ways to prevent DVT include not sitting still for long periods of time, keeping your weight in a healthy range, not smoking, and getting regular exercise.
Many of us view an aneurysm as a random phenomenon, the equivalent to a lightning strike. In reality, you can take steps to prevent it. During an aneurysm, a ballooned vein—in the brain, heart, or in arteries throughout the body—can burst, causing serious complications. According to the National Institutes of Health, they’re most common between the ages of 30 and 60.
The Remedy Rx: Keep your blood pressure in a healthy range, eat a heart-healthy diet and manage stress.
We hate to break this to you, but you can, in fact, sleep too much. Studies show that getting more than nine hours of sleep may increase your risk of heart disease and dementia.
The Remedy Rx: View sleep like an all-you-can-eat buffet or open bar—moderation is necessary. The latest recommendation from sleep experts, including the National Sleep Foundation, is that adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
Skipping social obligations in favor of staying home with Netflix might feel great at the time, but ultimately, it’s bad for your heart. Loneliness and social isolation can increase a person’s risk of having a heart attack, according to a study published in the journal Heart. People who reported poor social relationships had a 29 percent higher risk of coronary disease, and a 32 percent higher risk of stroke, than those with robust friendships. Why? Researchers believe loneliness increases chronic stress, a risk factor for heart disease.
The Remedy Rx: Make it part of your routine to hit the gym, develop hobbies, take classes, call or Skype with friends or family. If you’re feeling socially isolated or depressed, talk to your doctor about the best course of action. You might benefit from talk therapy too.
They’re all empty calories, but sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas and sports drinks are no empty threat. They’re a major contributor to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. A March 2019 study published in the journal Circulation found that drinking sugary drinks was associated with an increased risk of death, particularly from cardiovascular disease.
The Remedy Rx: Swap out sugary beverages and diet drinks with classic H20, seltzers or homemade spa water. To stop easily, read: I Was Addicted to Soda. Here’s What Helped Me to Quit.
Diet sodas are by no means a healthy choice. Studies show that people who drink diet sodas and artificially sweetened beverages have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, weight gain, osteoporosis and a decline in kidney function.
The Remedy Rx: Switch out that soda for water or seltzer without artificial sweeteners.
Added sugar can lurk in products you least expect, including tomato sauces, low-fat yogurts and breads. Consuming too much added sugar — the sugar that manufacturers add to foods to sweeten them or extend their shelf life — is a major risk factor for heart disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, adult men consume 24 teaspoons of sugar a day, the equivalent of 384 calories! “The effects of added sugar intake — higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease — are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The Remedy Rx: The American Heart Association advises that adults consume no more than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons, or 36 grams) of added sugar daily. That’s about the amount in one 12-ounce can of soda.
Extra pounds come with extra health risks. Science has found that being overweight correlates to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. But you don’t have to drop to supermodel size to get healthier: Research has shown that overweight people who achieve even modest weight loss (such as 5 to 10 percent of their total body weight) reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Remedy Rx: Know your healthy weight range. Eat a plant-heavy diet. Reduce your consumption of empty calories and processed foods. Get exercise.
Cigarette smoking is the No. 1 preventable cause of death, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Not only is it a major contributor to lung cancer, smoking raises your risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease.
The Remedy Rx: Quit smoking ASAP; see your doctor for help. It’s never too late: Even people who quit smoking between the ages of 65 to 69 can add one to four years to their lives.
We know that one key to heart health is to eat more whole foods and less processed junk, but experts have pinpointed a new enemy: “ultra-processed food.” Two May 2019 studies published in The BMJ link highly processed food with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of early death. What’s “ultra-processed”? The researchers listed “sausages, mayonnaise, potato chips, pizza, cookies, chocolates and candies, artificially sweetened beverages and whisky, gin and rum.” In other words, stuff you know you should be avoiding anyway. In other studies, highly processed food consumption has been correlated with higher risks of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol — all risk factors for a heart attack.
The Remedy Rx: Limit the proportion of ultra-processed food you eat, and increase unprocessed and minimally processed foods—like any food recommended by Eat This, Not That!
Studies show that most Americans consume about 3,400mg of sodium daily — way over the recommended 2,300mg (which amounts to about one teaspoon of salt). High salt intake is a major risk factor for high blood pressure, which in turn ups your chance of having a heart attack.
The Remedy Rx: Stop adding salt to your meals (according to the American Heart Association, ¼ teaspoon of salt is 575mg of sodium) and limit your consumption of fast food and processed foods, which tend to come loaded with sodium.
If you think chronic stress is no picnic for your life right now, science has found that today’s freakout is really bad for your body long term. “When stress is excessive, it can contribute to everything from high blood pressure to asthma to ulcers to irritable bowel syndrome,” said Ernesto L. Schiffrin, MD, PhD, and a professor of medicine at McGill University.
The Remedy Rx: Relieve stress by exercising, socializing and regularly engaging in relaxation techniques such as mindfulness. Don’t self-medicate with alcohol. If your stress has become unmanageable, talk to your doctor.
For decades, we were taught to fear all kinds of fat in foods. Those days are long gone. Foods marked “low-fat” are often high in carbs and sugar that fail to fill you up, making you ultimately consume more calories.
The Remedy Rx: Make sure you come home from your next shopping trip with “good” fats — fatty fish, olive oil, nuts and avocados — instead of Snackwell’s.
High in protein, fish is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke. Researchers believe omega-3s ease inflammation throughout the body.
The Remedy Rx: Eat fish like salmon once or twice a week, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health advises. Choose wild-caught fish, not farmed. Grill, pan-roast or steam it; don’t fry or sauté. Add leafy green vegetables, nuts and flaxseed to your cart for more omega-3 action.
The glowing screens that keep us so connected to the world could ultimately shorten our time on it. Looking at the blue light emitted by TVs, computers and phones disturbs your natural circadian rhythm, which can lead to insomnia. Poor sleep has been correlated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
The Remedy Rx: Turn off TV, phones, computers and tablets at least 60 minutes before lights-out. “For the best night’s sleep, consider pretending that you live in an earlier time,” advises the National Sleep Foundation. “Wind down by reading a (paper) book, writing in a journal, or chatting with your partner.”
You shouldn’t need to rely on meds to get to sleep, even over-the-counter drugs. Some studies have linked the use of hypnotic (sleep-inducing) drugs with an increased risk of cancer and death. Researchers aren’t sure why that may be, but why risk it?
The Remedy Rx: There are many strategies you can follow before requesting a prescription, including meditation, relaxation and avoiding screens. Talk to your doctor.
According to a survey conducted by ZocDoc, almost one-quarter of people lie to their doctors. The most common reasons? Embarrassment and fear of being judged.
The Remedy Rx: Stop it right now! Your doctor isn’t here to judge you. “Sugar-coating bad habits or nagging symptoms does not help,” advises David Longworth, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic. “Your doctors are confidential partners in your care. They need all the information available to help you make smart decisions. That includes everything from your habits to every medication you take, including over-the-counter drugs, herbal products, vitamins and supplements. If you aren’t consistently taking medication, talk to your doctor about why — including if you can’t afford them.”
Their marketing might suggest they’re healthy, but sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade contain the equivalent of 8 teaspoons of sugar, along with sodium. Too much of either in your diet can cause hypertension, says Morton Tavel, MD, clinical professor emeritus at the Indiana University School of Medicine and author of Health Tips, Myths and Tricks: A Physician’s Advice. “Unless someone is exercising or competing in a sporting event for longer than 90 minutes, there is no reason to drink something with excess sugar and electrolytes,” he adds.
The Remedy Rx: “Even if you are an athlete and regularly exercise, I would not recommend sports drinks at any time other than when you are actually in the middle of exercising,” says Tavel. “Go for just water and maybe a quick, bite-sized snack like fruit or nuts.”
You might be embarrassed to talk with your physician about your sexual health — including symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED)—but ordering ED drugs like Viagra from sketchy online pharmacies based overseas is not the answer, no matter how much cost savings they promise. (Which is generally untrue; Viagra is covered by many insurance companies at this point, for a small copay that’s usually cheaper than an online pharmacy.) “The risk that these imported drugs are counterfeit, contaminated, or subpotent is high; and quality assurance is a major concern,” says the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
The Remedy Rx: Substitute shame for your health and happiness. Talk openly to your doctor. (And know that some online pharmacies and ED-med services are legit; the database at safe.pharmacy can tell you which.)
The latest trendy diet won’t trump time-honored principles for good nutrition and health. “Trying a new health fad every time one comes out leads to inconsistent self-care,” says Rachel Franklin, MD, a family medicine physician at OU Medicine in Oklahoma City.
The Remedy Rx: “You need good sleep, good food (but not too much), and regular exercise, in that order,” adds Franklin. “Repeat daily.”
And to live your happiest and healthiest life, be sure to avoid these 70 Things You Should Never Do For Your Health.