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Everyday habits that could shorten your lifespan

News Desk
News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sun, December 17, 2017 | 10:02 am
Everyday habits that could shorten your lifespan

Popping pimples, binge-watching Netflix, biting your nails or "forgetting" to wash your hands with soap: They may seem innocuous, but these habits can affect our health in the long run. So next time you feel like watching an entire season of 'Game of Thrones' in a single evening with Parmesan popcorn – just don't do it. (Shutterstock/File)

Many of us pay little attention to how our everyday actions might affect our health.

Have a look at the list that follows, compiled by Reader's Digest, to find out how your inadvertent salt binge or persistent pimple popping and other seemingly inconsequential actions could be hazardous to your overall health.

Midnight snacks

According to research from Mexico City's National Autonomous University of Mexico, the late-night snacking you just can’t resist may increase your risk of diabetes or heart disease.

“This habit increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes because in time, you will not only have high triglycerides levels after your night meal [but permanently],” says Dr Ruud Bujis, author of the study.

He explained that triglycerides are dangerous blood fats that accumulate in fatty tissue—especially around the belly—and aren’t easy to get rid of. He recommended eating as little as possible at night, keeping about 11 to 12 hours between an evening meal and breakfast the following morning.

Read also: Small improvements to eating habits may prolong life: study

Habitual binge-watching 

Admittedly, we are all susceptible to becoming addicted to the myriad shows on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon that can rob us of precious sleep. A new study reveals that young adults who binge-watched experience more fatigue, insomnia, poorer sleep quality and greater alertness before bedtime.

Binge-watchers had a 98 percent higher likelihood of poor sleep quality compared to their counterparts who refrained from binge-watching.

According to the president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr Ilene M. Rosen: “Even one night of sleep loss can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, which makes you much more likely to be involved in a deadly motor vehicle crash or workplace accident. […] Performance after sleep deprivation, even for one night, is similar to the performance of individuals who are intoxicated, so encouraging binge-watching over sleeping is like encouraging drunk driving.”

The adverse effects of a night’s sleep lost are worsened by chronic sleep deprivation. Adults should typically sleep seven hours or more to promote optimal health.

Too much salt

It's no secret that too much salt can have detrimental effects on the heart and kidneys. In fact, too much salt is the leading cause of diet-related deaths.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that excessive consumption of salty foods was responsible for 9.5 percent of all diet-related deaths.

Read also: Creating good sleeping habits

Improper hand-washing

Unwashed hands are responsible for spreading many food-borne illnesses. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, washing hands properly with soap and water could decrease deaths associated to diarrheal disease by half.

The effects of the infamous Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic of 2003 could have been mitigated by proper hand-washing.

Not flossing

Saul Pressner, a New York City dentist, has said that routine flossing could add up to six years of life expectancy in otherwise healthy people.

“It is hypothesized that by flossing, one reduces the amount of microorganisms in the mouth, therefore reducing oral inflammation," he said. "Less inflamed gums are less likely to bleed and therefore, fewer bacteria and viruses will enter the bloodstream from a healthy mouth.”

Read also: Bad habits that may harm your teeth

Unsafe sex

Dr Donnica L. Moore, president of the Sapphire Women’s Health Group, recommends using condoms unless you are in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a healthy partner.

“While HIV/AIDS is no longer considered a ‘death sentence’, and it is treatable in many cases, it still causes a great risk to your health and projected lifespan,” she said.

Other STDs that could be life-threatening, such as hepatitis, could also be prevented by regularly using condoms.


Nail-biting can introduce both oral bacteria and skin bacteria underneath the skin's surface where they don’t belong, explains Adam Friedman, associate professor of dermatology at the George Washington School of Medicine and Hospital. 

“Here, they can proliferate using a tender, swollen paronychia (infection around the nail fold), a felon (strep infection of the finger pad), or even deeper infections involving the deeper finger structures.”

He said that, in the right environment, the bacteria could find its way into the bloodstream and might ultimately result in sepsis, a blood infection that could be life-threatening.

Popping pimples

Anyone who has had a pimple can probably admit to having popped one, without realizing how hazardous this may be to their health. Dr Friedman says touching acne in any way has the potential to disrupt an already damaged skin barrier and allow the entry of aggressive and possibly invasive bacteria, as acne alters bacteria populations on the skin.

“Many know that P. acnes, a gram-positive bacteria that loves to live in our hair follicles, is increased in acne, but so is our good friend staph, who just loves himself some skin,” he explained.

It has been found that community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) has a penchant for skin infections, including abscesses, furuncles and carbuncles. “Popping pimples is game time for MRSA, as skin invasions can easily allow for an entry point to the rich blood vessel network, eyes and even central nervous system. Not good,” he summed up.

Skipping breakfast

Boston-based nutritionist Dana Greene deems breakfast the most important meal of the day.

“Breakfast regulates your appetite for the whole day, so skipping it makes you eat more later in the day — setting you up for weight gain. And you know that being overweight or obese increases risk for heart disease and death.” (afr/kes)