From well done toast to using hand dryers…10 innocent habits that are bad for your health
THINK you live a pretty healthy lifestyle because you eat well and exercise?
That’s true – you should definitely be doing that – but there’s a few little habits you probably didn’t know are harming your health.
Think the odd email you read at night is OK, or popping that spot on your forehead won’t hurt? Maybe you love a weekend lie-in.
While they all seem like relatively harmless things to do, they’re worse for you than you think.
In fact, some habits raise your risk of illness, infection and even chronic disease.
Here’s 10 everyday habits that could be harming your health…
1. Hitting snooze on your alarm
Monday morning rolls around and you’r shutting up the alarm and dozing off again.
But experts say this interferes with your body’s natural waking mechanisms, potentially leaving you exhausted all day.
Sleep expert Neil Robinson, of bed firm Sealy, says: “Hitting the snooze button is the most common mistake that prevents us getting top-quality rest. It makes us more likely to wake up heavy-headed rather than fresh-faced.
“Pressing ‘snooze’ to give us those precious ten more minutes in bed actually prepares our bodies for another sleep cycle.
“Just as we fall back asleep, another alarm goes off, quickly interrupting our fresh sleep pattern and causing us to feel fatigued for the rest of the day.
“An alarm sound when we are asleep can cause us to release the stress hormone cortisol, so hearing it multiple times in the morning means we wake up with higher stress levels than normal.”
2. Checking emails at night
Is your packed work schedule leaving you stressed, worried and checking emails at night?
Or perhaps you just want to be ahead of the game for the morning.
But it’s doing you more harm than good.
New research from Lehigh and Colorado State Universities found that those who check their emails outside work hours experience more stress and mental health problems, but they might not realise to start with.
Their partners are normally the ones that are the most affected and experience the same stress as their spouse, a survey of workers aged between 31 and 40 found.
Other research has found similar results.
Future Work Centre in the UK surveyed 2,000 people across varying industries and job roles about the use of email.
They found that, while emails keep workers informed, they’re also a clear source of frustration and stress outside of working hours.
3. Popping pimples
When a pimple rears its ugly head it’s hard to resist the temptation to squeeze it – but you should never give in.
Popping those pesky zits causes your skin to burst open.
Not only do you spread the infection that’s already in the spot, but you leave yourself open to other nasty skin infections as well.
When you have an open wound, no matter how tiny it is, bacteria can get into your skin and cause nasty problems.
Last year an Australian woman developed cellulitis, a serious infection of the deeper layers of the skin and underlying tissue, after popping a pimple.
If that’s not enough to stop you, there’s always the “triangle of death” – that’s the area from the bridge of your nose to the corners of your mouth.
Blood vessels in this area drain to the base of your brain and if you spread infection this way it can cause paralysis, blindness and even death.
4. Using hand dryers
When you’ve been to the loo you wash your hands, that’s a given.
But there’s one part of that process you should probably skip – the hand dryers.
New research has found the propel poo particles throughout the building…nice.
Hot-air dryers can suck up nasty germs left lurking in the bathroom after the toilet is flushed.
One of the bugs commonly found in a number two is E.coli, which can trigger nasty bouts of food poisoning – think diarrhoea and vomiting.
So as you pop your sparkling clean hands under the dryer all that’s happening is the hot air is firing minuscule particles of poo on to your palms, according to scientists from the University of Connecticut.
5. Not brushing your teeth before bed
Tired? Tipsy? Forgetful? Whatever the excuse, can skipping the occasional brushing really leave your pearly whites much worse off?
Dr Nigel Carter, of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “Brushing your teeth before bed is crucial for oral health. Bacterial plaque — which constantly builds up in your mouth — grows more quickly when you are asleep.
“Saliva flow is much reduced at night and this increases plaque formation. Failing to brush means plaque is not removed and, together with any sugary foods left in your mouth, will produce acid which can eat into the enamel of your teeth, causing tooth decay.
“Toxins from the plaque can also cause gums to be inflamed and eventually lead to gum disease. Over time, built-up plaque can harden on your teeth, making it impossible to remove with a toothbrush.”
There’s another far more sinister problem a build up of plaque can cause – heart disease.
It may seem like a big leap, but plaque can cause an inflammatory gum condition called gingivitis, which can cause inflammatory markers in the blood.
Any inflammatory makers in the body can lead to problems like heart disease.
6. Sitting with cross legged
We all do it, sit at our desk with our legs crossed.
But it’s actually quite bad for your circulation.
A study published in the Journal of Nursing in 2010 found a significant increase in blood pressure when people sat cross legged at the knee.
It can also put added pressure on the veins in your leg, leaving you at greater risk of varicose veins and even a blood clot.
While it’s not likely to cause a medical emergency, any increase in blood pressure – no matter how temporary – isn’t good for you.
7. Your weekend lie-in
Who doesn’t love a lazy Saturday morning? Especially after a week of early starts.
But it leaves you with social jetlag – something that occurs when your work and social commitments interfere with your want to sleep.
Studies have shown that the shift in sleeping patters from weekdays to weekends can increase your risk of heart disease.
The NHS says that regularly going to bed and waking up at different times is bad for your health.
There’s a tonne of research to suggest that sleep deprivation can heighten our chances of getting fatter and developing type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and heart disease.
According to new research from the Duke University Medical Center those with irregular bedtimes had a higher body mass index (BMI), higher levels of blood sugar, higher blood pressure and were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the following decade than those who had regular sleep patterns.
8. Drinking hot coffee
Don’t panic, you don’t have to quit drinking coffee…how would we get through the day?
You just have to make sure you’re not drinking scalding hot coffee.
According to the World Health Organisation drinking hot drinks like tea and coffee can increase your risk of oesophageal cancer, but only if the drinks are piping hot.
That’s because the hot drinks can damage the cells that line the throat and oesophagus, increasing the risk of mutations that lead to cancer.
9. Eating burnt toast
Love using the highest setting on the toaster to get a crispy, slightly burnt bit of toast?
It might taste great, but evidence suggests it increases your risk of cancer.
Last year Brits were officially warned that burning starchy foods such as spuds, bread and pizza dough may increase the risks of developing the disease.
The Food Standards Agency said carbs should only be cooked until “golden” and in accordance with the instructions on any packaging.
That’s because burning these foods creates a chemical called acrylamide, which has been linked to cancer.
A chemical reaction causes the toxic chemical to form when sugars and proteins in starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures, above 120C.
But you’d have to be eating an incredible amount of burnt carbs for your risk of disease to be something to worry about.
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10. Not washing your salad
Just because you’ve bought a bag of pre-washed salad from the supermarket doesn’t mean you can skip washing it.
The general rule is, you should always wash fruit and vegetables before eating them to reduce your risk of illness.
Not only will some have chemical residue on them from pesticides, but you’re also risking nasty food poisoning bugs like E.coli.
The same goes for any food you buy – always follow the serving instructions on the label.
Earlier this year nine people across Europe died from listeriosis after eating frozen sweetcorn.
Dr Lisa Ackerley, aka the Hygiene Doctor, told The Sun Online you should always wash fruit and vegetables yourself – and to always read the instructions on the label because you may be surprised by what they say.
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