The human body is a complicated thing, and the reasons it breaks down can be complex. But that doesn’t mean guarding your health against disaster is a highly scientific process. Experts say you can slash your risk of disease by making some easy tweaks to the basics of your everyday routine. Conversely, ignoring these fundamentals can wreck your health. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
Not Getting Enough Exercise
We most commonly associate exercise with weight and heart health. And it is indeed crucial to both. But it’s less known that exercise is a powerful booster to the immune system and can help protect against everything from sniffles to COVID to cancer. According to the National Institutes of Health, exercise can flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways; cause disease-neutralizing antibodies to circulate more rapidly through the bloodstream; and slow the release of immunity-impairing stress hormones. You can realize these benefits with just a moderate amount of exercise—even walking 20 minutes a day.
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Not Getting Quality Sleep
A growing body of research has linked poor quality sleep to a range of serious illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and dementia. That’s because when we sleep, major body systems—including the heart, brain, metabolism and immune system—repair and reboot themselves. If you’re not getting enough rest, your body begins running on the equivalent of stripped gears—and the damage can pile up. Experts such as the National Sleep Foundation recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.
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Not Controlling Stress
Stress doesn’t just make you tired; it strains the body on a cellular level. Studies have found that chronic stress causes the brain to pump out more of the stress hormone cortisol, which has a variety of negative physical effects, including weight gain and a weakened immune system. According to the American Cancer Society, people who experience chronic stress are more prone to the common cold and viral infections like the flu. A study in Finland recently found that chronic severe stress can actually shorten your lifespan by up to three years.
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Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Overindulging in alcohol can wreck your health—not just your liver, crucial as it may be as the body’s detox center. Drinking too much increases your risk of heart disease, respiratory infections, sepsis, and more than 10 types of cancer. To avoid that, drink moderately—meaning no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women—or abstain.
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Experts say we’re dealing with a pandemic that’s been lurking beneath the headlines: Social isolation. Recent studies have found that people who report feeling chronic loneliness have a higher risk of health problems including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. Loneliness seems to induce a stress response that causes inflammation in the body, potentially impairing the heart, immune system and brain. Experts say social interaction should be considered as important as physical exercise—make an effort to stay connected to others every day.
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Not Following COVID Best Practices
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.