Six Unhealthy Habits that Are as Bad as Smoking
By Emily Main Rodale News

You donít smoke. You live a generally healthy life, so youíre in the clear as far as unhealthy habits are concerned, right? Not so fast! It seems like every day, a new study comes out finding that habit X is ďas bad for you as smoking,Ē whether itís sitting all day or eating too much fat. So is there any legitimacy to those claims? We checked out a bunch of those studies to find out what the researchers mean when they claim that those things are as bad for you as cigarettes, and in most cases, theyíre not lying. The following six unhealthy habits either expose you to the same contaminants in cigarette smoke or lead to cancer rates equivalent to those caused by smoking. Fortunately, these are easy to fix with a few modifications to your daily routine so you (and your heart and your lungs) can be glad you donít in fact smoke. PLUS: A recent report projected that cancer will be the leading cause of death in the US by 2030. Take control of your life and learn how to cancer-proof your environment.

#1: Sitting all day. Even if you exercise regularly, habitually sitting for prolonged periods, whether at a desk or in a car, is being increasingly linked to a variety of health problems. According to Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care in Canada, inactivity is linked to nearly 160,000 cases of breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer every year, about two-thirds as many cancer cases caused by smoking. Make it right: Make it a habit to take breaks on-the-move at work, and even make (or buy) a standing workstation so youíre less apt to sit all day. At home, resist the temptation to veg out in front of the TV. Go for a short walk around the block to relax, spend a few minutes cleaning, or schedule a gym date with your significant other. PLUS: 9 Health Problems You Can Cure With Exercise #2: Eating too much meat and cheese. Animal proteins are rich in IGF-1, a growth hormone that can promote the growth of cancer cells. And a study from the University of Southern California published in the journal Cell Metabolism recently found that people on highanimal- protein diets during middle age were four times more likely to die of cancer than people on low-protein diets-- a mortality risk factor comparable to smoking. Make it right: Replace some of your animal proteins with these yummy vegetarian protein sources. The same study found that diets high in plantbased proteins like beans, which have protein levels equivalent to some meats, didnít trigger the same increase in cancer rates. In general, middle-aged adults should be eating 0.8 grams of protein for every 2 pounds of body weight daily. Interestingly, the study found that once you pass the age of 65, eating lots of animal protein isnít as harmful because your bodyís production of IGF-1 begins to slow down.

RELATED: 15 Grossest Things Youíre Eating #3: Cooking with natural gas. If youíre one of the 34 percent of Americans whose home is equipped with a gas stove, youíre getting an added dose of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde every time you cook a meal. Those same three contaminants are common in secondhand cigarette smoke, and a December 2013 study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that all three contaminants in homes with gas stoves regularly exceeded public health guidelines. Make it right: Use your vent hood when you use your gas oven or cooktop. Ventilating a gas range can reduce pollutant levels by 60 to 90 percent, even if the fan seems wimpy. Also, cook on your back burners: Most vent hoods arenít properly centered over a cooktop; using the back burners will help your vent hood capture the most pollution. #4: Cooking with the wrong oil. Even if you rely on an electric stove at your house, you arenít immune to cookingís polluting effects. Studies on restaurant and residential kitchens have shown that high-heat cooking with shortening and soybean oil (usually just called ďvegetable oilĒ in the US) releases particulate matter, aldehydes, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, all compounds found in cigarette smoke and linked to airway inflammation. Make it right: Pick the type of cooking oil best suited for your use. For instance, olive oil isnít good for frying or high-heat cooking but is fine for cooking at low temperatures or in salad dressings. Avocado oil, on the other hand, is great for high-heat cooking. Look for the ďsmoke pointĒ on oils that you buy to make sure the oil matches your needs. And donít forget to run the ventilation hood! PLUS: 4 Cooking Oils That Belong in Every Kitchen #5: Tanning indoors. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that indoor tanning causes roughly 420,000 cases of skin cancer in the US every year. Smoking, by comparison, causes 226,000 cases of lung cancer. Make it right: Learning to love pale skin is step number one. But if you really want a natural glow, eat more carrots and tomatoes, suggests a study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. Both foods are rich in carotenoids, which will boost your skin tone, and you wonít have to worry about exposure to sketchy ingredients in sunless tanning sprays and lotions. #6: Not getting enough sleep. This will make you really cranky: Chronic sleep deprivation triggers high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, obesity, and a host of other health problems. One study even found that not getting at least six or seven hours of sleep led to mortality rates on par with those seen in cigarette smokers. Even getting poor-quality or fragmented sleep--when you donít necessarily fully wake up, but the cycle from light to deep sleep gets interrupted--can speed the growth of tumors.

PLUS: 10 Sleep Habits That Make You Gain Weight Make it right: Donít assume that being tired is normal. If you feel like you arenít getting enough sleep regularly, talk to a health professional to see if you might be suffering from a condition such as sleep apnea that is interfering with your sleep. Rodale News


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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