SIX BAD HABITS YOU SHOULD BREAK
You can brush your teeth until they sparkle, but unless you floss, too, bacteria and food particles stay stuck between your pearly whites. Fluoride in water and toothpaste only cleans the surface of our teeth, explains Clark Stanford, DDS, PhD. The leftover bacteria can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. And that could mean more for your health than a cavity or two -- a 2011 study presented to the American Heart Association found that periodontal disease boosted heart attack, stroke and heart failure risks.
2. You Have a Nightly Date with Your Fridge
Eating late at night doesn't cause weight gain in and of itself. But if you're heading to the fridge for ice cream at 11 p.m., chances are you've already met your calorie allotment for the day. Plus, when we're tired we tend to crave sugary desserts rather than low-calorie nibbles. "Fatigue and low blood sugar have similar side effects as far as feeling 'out of it' -- shaky, dizzy and tired -- so people tend to want dessert-y items before bed," explains Majorie Nolan, RD, national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. And even if late night snacks don't always make you gain, they might hurt your teeth. A 2010 study found that eating snacks in the middle of the night can lead to tooth loss because the mouth produces less saliva at night, making food breakdown slower.
3. You Tell Little White Lies at the Doctor's Office
It might feel awkward to tell someone you see only a few times a year about all your aches, pains, and less-than-healthy habits, but lying to your doctor can have serious health consequences. "Giving inaccurate information to your doctor could result in a lack of treatment when one is needed, treatment when none is needed, or the wrong treatment. Any of these could be truly dangerous," says David Katz, M.D. People tend to gloss over the truth about diet, activity level, stress and sleep, as well as use of supplements and alternative medicines. One study from 2009 suggests that women between the ages 45-64 also stay quiet about another health habit -- their sex life. Women were more likely to admit to having occasional or non-traditional partners and being uninterested in sex in an anonymous survey compared with a live medical interview.
4. You Skimp on Sleep
If you find yourself staying up late finishing a project or watching re-runs, you'll have to pay with more than just stifled yawns the next day. Shorting yourself on sleep comes with a slew of harmful side effects, like an inability to concentrate, a weakened immune system, and confused hormones that impact appetite and food choices. And just one night of sleep deprivation can mess up your system. In a 2010 study from the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, subjects who had only four hours of sleep showed more insulin resistance than when they had eight and a half hours of sleep -- bad news for diabetics. But if sleep isn't always your top priority, you're not alone. Sixty-three percent of Americans say they need about seven and a half hours of sleep but often get less than seven.
5. You're a Creature of Habit at the Gym
Do you run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, lift weights, and stretch the same way every week, but don't see results? If you've had the same fitness routine for a while, your brain and muscles could be in a rut. "At first when we're learning a skill, we're not efficient, and we burn more calories as we go through a learning curve," says American Council on Exercise fitness expert Mary Jayne Rogers. "As we become more fit and coordinated the same exercises require much less energy." If you've been doing the same routine for months and don't feel stronger, it might be time to shake it up
6. You Sit On Your Duff All Day
Unless you spend your day standing behind a sales counter or performing a physically-demanding job, chances are you log your nine-to-five sitting at a desk. And even if you spend your personal time training for a marathon, that might not be enough to counter the bad-for-you side effects of sitting, according to a 2009 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Researchers followed 17,000 people ages 18 to 90 for 12 years, and found that the ones who spent the most time sitting had higher morality rates, regardless of their leisure time physical activity. Why? It could be because the body doesn't produce as much of a fat-burning enzyme if it's sitting all day. Another theory is that the body becomes so accustomed to this position that the muscles don't work as well when you try to do other activities, hurting your posture and ability to exercise.