Health: Top 10 Unhealthy Habits

by Dr Willie Ong

I’ve written several articles on how to live a healthy life. But this time, let me list down 10 unhealthy habits everyone should avoid. The numbers in parentheses refer to the approximate reductions in lifespan each bad habit entails.

1. Heavy alcoholic (minus three years)

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A little red wine is beneficial for your health. The benefit in red wine comes from the red grapes, which contain flavonoids and resveratrol. However, too much alcohol can lead to diseases such as liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, stomach ulcers, oral cancer, brain damage, dementia, abusive behavior, and vehicular accidents. To be on the safe side, men are allowed to drink two glasses of wine a day while women can take one glass of wine a day.Doctors also don’t encourage non-alcoholic drinkers to start drinking.

2.  Eating unhealthy foods (minus four years)

Here’s the triple threat to your health: fats, sugar, and salt. These three ingredients are linked to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, respectively. Avoid unhealthy fats in the form of saturated fats and trans-fatty acids. Saturated fats are found in butter, creams, and pork and beef fat. Trans fats can be found in margarines and certain cooking oils. Check the nutritional label. There are also hidden sugars in sweetened beverages and juices. Don’t drink too much. Conversely, eat more healthy vegetables and fruits like bananas, carrots, tomatoes, and citrus fruits.

3. No doctor’s checkup (minus four years)

Even if you feel well, your doctor can still guide you on what checkups you need (laboratory tests, vaccines, and cancer-screening tests). Some diseases are so-called silent killers. You don’t feel anything until it’s too late. So, if you are 40 years old and above, or if you have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, get a yearly checkup. Studies show that people who get regular checkups live longer than those who don’t.

4. Engaging in extreme sports (minus four years) 

Life has its risks. So why add to your risks further by engaging in dangerous sports like car racing, thrill rides, professional boxing, and wrestling? A survey at Monash University in Australia shows that horse riding, power boating, and motorsports cause the highest injuries. In the US, American football players frequently sustain serious injuries and have a shorter lifespan. Other risk activities are flying planes, mountain climbing, hang gliding, and parachuting.

5. Yoyo diet and fad diet (minus five years)

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Do everything in moderation. A yoyo diet is a kind of diet fad wherein a person gains weight, then goes on a diet for a few weeks, and then binges again. Some people skip breakfast and then take on a huge meal later. Others rotate from a high-protein diet to various diet fads or diet pills, all of which are potentially harmful to the body. Try to lose or gain weight by just one to two pounds a week.

6. Thinking old (minus five years)

The body will follow what the mind tells it to. Therefore, feel young and think positive. Norman Vincent Peale, main proponent of positive thinking, recalled a time when his concept was scoffed at in the 1950s. Decades later, positive thinking gained more scientific evidence and adherents. Hence, see your glass as half-full. Believe you’ll beat your disease and you can. To learn more about positive thinking, I urge our readers to read any of Peale’s enlightening books.

7. Lack of exercise (minus seven years)

Studies show that even mild exercise has some health benefits. Moderate exercise has been proven to prevent diabetes and maintain body weight.Exercise a minimum of three times a week to maintain your ideal weight and muscle tone. If you plan to enroll in a gym, get a doctor’s clearance first.As you grow older, try to avoid high-impact exercises like basketball and badminton. Swimming, brisk walking, and taichi are excellent exercises. Lack of exercise may also lead to obesity, which in turn is associated with arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.

8. Unsafe sex (minus eight years)

Having multiple sexual partners carries attendant risks for sexually transmitted diseases. While gonorrhea and herpes can be cured, there is still no vaccine or cure for HIV-AIDS. It is sad to note that despite medical advances, many patients with AIDS still die. The Department of Health has come up with these tips for AIDS prevention: (A) Abstinence from sex, (B) Be faithful to your partner. Have a monogamous relationship, and (C) Careful in sex. Use protection if needed.

9. Smoking (minus eight years)

A common reasoning among smokers is this: “If you smoke, you die. If you don’t smoke, you die also.” Yes, what they are saying is partially true. However, the fact remains that, on the average, smokers die eight years younger compared to non-smokers. There are over 70,000 scientific articles to prove that smoking damages your heart, lungs, esophagus, stomach, bowels, prostate, and predisposes you to all kinds of cancer. In fact, smoking-related illnesses are the top causes of mortality. If you want to live longer, quit smoking.

10. Not taking your medicines (minus 10 years)

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Studies show that when a patient with high blood pressure takes his medicines, he may live 10 to 15 years longer as compared to someone who does not take his medicines. For diabetes patients, studies show that reducing the blood sugar to normal levels has enormous health benefits. Other helpful drugs include aspirin and statins when given for the right kind of patients. For those over 40, consult your doctor if you need to take any maintenance medicines.

Now, I hope you will remember to avoid these 10 bad habits. If you want to live longer, simply reverse the above list and do the opposite. For example, instead of not taking your medicines, start taking them. Good luck.


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