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The Six Worst Lifestyle Choices You Could Make

Sometimes, we're our own worst enemies when it comes to good health. A case in point is when we make absolutely horrific lifestyle choices, often with the full knowledge of just how horrific they are. Why we make them, or the consequences we deal with later, are all highly personal, but one thing's for sure:

"Our lifestyle choices are a disaster," according to Dr. Laurence Sperling, chief of preventive cardiology at Emory School of Medicine. "It's combustible."

He said this in regard to an expert panel that recently lowered the target for bad cholesterol to 70 or lower for those at very high risk of heart attack. The target had been less than 100. The move had some experts wondering whether Americans were so bent on making bad lifestyle choices that their only hope of living a healthy life is by living a largely drug-induced one.

That said, we've compiled a list of some of the most offensive lifestyle choices you could make--and here's to hoping that we all choose not to do them ... or at least some of them.

1. Overeating

Scientifically, overeating means eating an amount that is "inappropriately large for a given energy expenditure." Realistically, overeating is something that many Americans do as a hobby -- at their favorite restaurant, on their favorite holiday, with their favorite snack food, or just because they're with friends. It doesn't really matter when; we just do it.

If you only overeat once or twice a year, chances are you'll be OK, but do it compulsively and you're headed down the road to obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Most Americans who smoke are trying to quit or want quit, yet 48 million of us still do it.

2. Smoking

This one is obvious yet ironic because, according to the American Heart Association, of the estimated 48 million Americans who smoke cigarettes, most are either actively trying to quit or want to quit.

Most people are familiar with the related health effects of emphysema, cancer and heart disease, but smoking can also have negative effects on the eyes, the throat, the urinary tract, the digestive organs, the bones and joints, and the skin.

3. Drinking and Driving

Another obvious one, yet, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in 2002 about 1.5 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (or narcotics). And, in 2003, 17,013 people in the United States died in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes, representing 40 percent of all traffic-related deaths.

If there's going to be drinking, decide on a designated driver beforehand; this one is really that simple.

Americans love junk food - -even knowing what it does to our health.

4. Living on fast food.

Going hand-in-hand with overeating, living on a junk food diet is another surefire way to end up overweight and suffering from a myriad of health problems ranging from clogged arteries to depression. One only needs to turn on Morgan Spurlock's documentary "Super Size Me" to find out exactly what the body goes through after consuming nothing but fast food for 30 straight days.

"I start to get tired, I start to get headaches; my liver basically starts to fill up with fat because there's so much fat and sugar in this food. My blood sugar skyrockets, my cholesterol goes up off the charts, my blood pressure becomes completely unmanageable. The doctors were like, 'You have to stop,'" Spurlock said.

Still, according to Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, the average American eats three hamburgers and four orders of fries--every week.

5. Not exercising.

Given all the great things that we know exercise is good for, including:

  • Boosting HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Improving the circulatory system
  • Lowering blood pressure and blood fats
  • Reducing the risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke
  • Strengthening muscles
  • Increasing flexibility
  • Building stronger bones and fighting osteoporosis
  • Relieving stress and anxiety

It is curious that we're not all doing it. Imagine a pill that came out with those types of real benefits -- it'd be flying off the shelves. To not exercise, then, (assuming you are able to) is akin to turning down all of those excellent health potentials.

6. Living With Your Stress.

We all have stress, but if you don't do something to relieve it, sooner or later it will take its toll on you. Stress is linked to everything from heart disease and a decrease in immune function to depression and digestive problems. The good news is that stress can be relieved ... you just need to find a method that works for you. Here are some tips to try:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Prayer
  • Gardening
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Soaking in a bath
  • Hiking, biking or swimming

Recommended Reading

12 Signs it is REALLY Time to Leave Your Job

How to Make All Your Relationships Work


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution July 19, 2005

Overeating: The Health Risks

The Irreversible Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking

Smoking Cessation

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Harvard Magazine: The Way We Eat Now

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