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Positively Beautiful: 3 ‘innocent’ habits that are just as bad for your health as smoking

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Positively Beautiful: 3 ‘innocent’ habits that are just as bad for your health as smoking
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We may love the show, but I’m so glad we don’t live in the “Mad Men” era anymore, when casual smoking at work was a total thumbs-up. (Just like hurling offensive comments at female employees, and having a triple-martini lunch!)

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These days, most people recognize that cigarettes are a terrible health risk. My son, Grant, plugs his nose and holds his breath if we walk by someone smoking. He sometimes slips out a less-than-polite comment, too. Although I don’t like smoking, I don’t like him being rude, either.

But when it comes to your health and longevity, there are several other habits that are just as bad – if not worse – than having a smoke.

1. Sitting all day.

As this NPR story reports:

“Men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity.”

Sitting at your desk absolutely counts as “sedentary activity.” If you’re working at your computer for six hours a day, five days a week, you’re already clocking in at 30 hours. (And that’s before you factor in that Netflix movie marathon on the couch after work!)

To fight back against this health risk, invest in a standing desk. Or, at the very least, take a 10-minute stretch break every 90 minutes to get your circulation flowing. I recently wrote about taking walking meetings, or doing stand-up huddles to get things done.

2. Not getting enough sleep.

As a physician who is board certified in sleep medicine, as well as ENT (eye, nose and throat) and integrative medicine, I’ve studied the effects of sleep deprivation firsthand, and let me tell you, it’s pretty scary.

Lack of sleep (or low-quality sleep that’s being disrupted by blinking lights, snoring or sleep apnea) raises your risk for stroke, heart disease, hypertension, depression and diabetes.

If you’re frequently groggy in the morning, like you can’t pull yourself out of bed without a gallon of coffee, make some lifestyle adjustments – or consult with a sleep specialist!

3. Unresolved anger.

It doesn’t matter if you’re angry at yourself, your parents, your partner, or “the entire world” – living in a state of chronic anger and bitterness can be deadly.

As this article reports, summarizing a study from Washington State University:

“People over the age of 50 who express their anger by lashing out are more likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries – an indication that you’re at a high risk for a heart attack.”

Lashing out is bad, but suppressing your anger isn’t any better. Bottling it up has been linked to elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Some researchers suspect that suppressing negative emotions can actually triple your risk for a heart attack.

The solution is to find healthy ways to uncork your emotions. Psychologist Suzanne Gelb recommends thwacking a pillow with a knotted-up towel. I guess the punching bag workout would be great as well! Or, like sculptor Pablo Solomon, you could try banging a stone with a hammer and chisel, turning your emotions into a work of art!

Do what it takes to work on these three health risks. Your well-being is worth it.

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