We sit at our desks and work hard all day to earn our living. We have calorie free diet sodas and energy sports drinks to fuel us. We get home and relax in our air conditioned homes.
We are thankful that most offices are air conditioned and so are the cars. We slather on sunscreen to protect from us from cancerous sunrays. We can shop in the comfort of our homes using our mobile phones which has innumerable apps to ensure we never need to step out of our homes. We enjoy staying up late watching netflix. Technology is a boon that has made human life a much more convenient and enjoyable one.
Yes! We have much to be thankful for. But what price are we really paying for all this?
The cost, tragically, is our health.
Many of our typical everyday habits are like slow poison that is seeping into our system, slowly making it’s way into every inch of our body. A lack of vitality, greying hair, accelerated ageing, poor digestion, oxidative stress and lack of endurance are just some of the symptoms most of us face. These symptoms can be seen even in youngsters in their early twenties.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of daily habits that are sabotaging our health. These are the lifestyle habits that have no immediate harmful effects. Instead, they are like slow cancer which is progressively eating you from within. Identifying and understanding them is the first step to getting started on a healthier and happier life.
1. Pollution and Toxic Air
This is a problem we are well aware of. Pollution and toxic air seem to have become an inevitable part of our daily lives.
A healthy person who is exposed to moderate levels of pollution for a short term may be able to get away with very few health ramifications. But long term exposure to high levels of pollution can result in respiratory and inflammatory diseases. It can exacerbate existing heart and lung problems. Air pollution increases the risk of certain cancers, particularly lung cancer.
If outdoor air is bad, indoor can be even worse if there is cigarette smoke. 90% of all lung cancer cases are said to be caused by cigarette smoke. Even inhaling secondhand smoke can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Air conditioning is another cause of indoor air pollution we need to be more concerned about.
2. Air Conditioning
Most of us are under the misconception that air conditioning improves the quality of the air we breath in. From an evolutionary perspective, human beings are not meant to stay indoors for long times, let alone modify the air we breathe. Our genetic code is so defined that we are required to breathe in fresh air. Our skin needs to feel the fresh air too .
Prolonged exposure to air conditioned spaces cause loss of moisture from the skin, making the skin more dry. Overtime this cause the skin to age faster. You may have noted having a stuffy nose or a sore throat when you wake up in an airconditioned bedroom. This is usually due to the mucous membranes getting irritated by the cold dry air. At this stage you are more vulnerable to contracting a flu, cold or other illnesses.
Air conditioners are known for circulating air-borne diseases. They are notorious for circulating microorganisms and germs that cause breathing problems. Different types of moulds can make their home inside your AC ducts and they get circulated when the AC is switched on. Actress Brittany Murphy and her British screenwriter husband Simon Monjack are believed to have been killed by the toxic mould growing in their house.
Sweating is an important mechanism of the body to flush out toxins and improve the immune system. It helps clear the clogged skin pores too. Air Conditioning prevents sweating, which obviously is not always a good thing. Continued exposure to cold air is notorious for exacerbating existing symptoms of arthritis, low BP and neuritis. etc.
3. Sitting is the New Smoking
Most of us are aware of the hazards of smoking. But sitting for prolonged periods – at the office desk, in front of a computer or in front of the television – creates as much health issues as smoking does.
Sitting for extended periods of time leads to the atrophy of leg and gluteal muscles. When these muscles weaken, injuries due to falls are more likely. Our digestive process are impaired because of our lack of movement and hunched posture. Poor sitting posture may leads to poor spine health by creating compression in the discs in the spine. This in turn leads to to premature degeneration which is quite painful.
Studies have demonstrated that sitting for prolonged periods in the office chair can lead to depression, heart disease, diabetes, varicose veins and even deep vein thrombosis. A deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in your legs. It is quite serious problem as this blood clot in the vein of the leg breaks off, it can cause a pulmonary embolism. This medical emergency can lead to major complications and even death.
The problems of sitting for long periods is aggravated by the lack of physical activity during the rest of the day. Many of us plan to go to the gym after office or at least a walk. But after a long gruelling day at our office desks, we just want to go home and rest. So we promise ourselves – ‘ll do it for sure tomorrow.
4. Lack of Physical Activity
Online shopping is indeed a great blessing. But there’s nothing like roaming the shopping malls to run up steps on the pedometer. We buy and wear our smart watches or the latest fitness gadgets with all the enthusiasm of a New Year resolutionist. And just like most New Year resolutions, these promises we make to ourselves fade like writings on the snow. The fancy smartwatch is ultimately used to just tell time. Sadly the pedometer, the pulse checkers and all the fancy health apps remain unused despite our best intentions.
Lack of physical activity is a sureshot recipe for disaster. In addition to keeping our body in shape, physical activity plays a key role in improving mood. It can help ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. According to research, regular exercise appears to have a positive effect on brain chemicals and mood-related hormones. Exercise offers many psychological benefits such as increased confidence that foster better mental health.
5. Little Exposure to Natural Sunlight
The lack of physical activity, our love for air conditioning and shopping from the convenience of our homes all ensure that we are exposed to as minimum sunlight as possible.
For millions of years, the human race has evolved under the warmth of the sun. Many cultures such as the Indians, the Greeks and the Egyptians worship the sun god. The Indian vedas advise people to start their day with a prayer facing the sun which ensures they get drenched in the morning sunlight.
Indian ayurvedic rituals give a lot of emphasis to the health benefits of the sun. sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D in the body leads a whole host of symptoms including bone and muscle weakness. Sunlight has the power to improve fungal infections and skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema acne etc. Exposure to sunlight significantly lowers high blood pressure. Sunlight also enhances the body’s capacity to deliver oxygen to the tissues. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. The lack of natural sunlight in our lives is another lifestyle issue that’s destroying our health in the long term.
6. Mobile Phone Radiation
Mobile phones have now become our constant companion and the one thing we just cannot live without. But high tech devices like mobile phone, laptop, tablet, and wearable tech like the smartwatches all generate electric and magnetic fields (EMFs), including electromagnetic radiation, which can be stressful and toxic to our cells.
Cell phones emit a form of electromagnetic field called radio frequency radiation. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified cell phone radiation as a possible 2B carcinogen.
Exposure to the radio waves emitted from mobiles can cause direct brain warming after prolonged use. A study in Italy revealed that their research showed an almost doubling of the risk of head tumours induced by long-term mobile phone use or latency. Another study suggested that benign tumours of the acoustic nerve are twice as common in mobile phone users than in those who do not use mobiles.
7. Consumption of very Little Water
The lack of physical activity, exposure to sunlight and our air conditioned lifestyles have all reduced our water thirst levels.
Whether we feel the thirst or not, our bodies require a fluid intake of a minimum of 2 to 3 litres of water a day. Health experts commonly recommend eight glasses of water a day which equals to about 2 liters. Even mild dehydration caused can have negative effects on both physical and mental performance. Dehydration can lead to moodiness, fatigue, and problems in focusing. Constipation is a common occurrence in those who don’t drink enough fluids. Lack of adequate water in our daily life can lead to kidney stones and renal failure in the long run.
8. Adulterated Food with Empty Calories
Even if we make the healthy choice of the apple over the processed sugary cookie, the apple is probably covered in pesticides and injected with chemical preservatives.
The whole health craze nowadays is for organic food. But most of the labelled ‘organic foods’ are also full of different health hazards.
Pesticides and herbicides are obviously toxic to our systems too and our diet chronically exposes us to these dangerous poisons. Most conventionally raised livestock are raised on GMO feed that is laced with hormones and antibiotics. Dairy cows are fed a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone known as rBGH to increase milk production. But the forced increase in milk production often leads to infections, so they are given increasing doses of powerful antibiotics. These hormones and antibiotics make their way our body though the meat and dairy products we consume.
The diet sodas and sports drinks that are so popular in our culture are nothing but empty and unhealthy calories. Considering the kind of food we are forced to eat nowadays, it’s a miracle we are still sane and alive.
From the high stress lifestyles that keep our cortisol levels elevated to our lack of adequate sleep or late sleeping routines, many of our typical everyday habits that are slowly killing us from the inside. They are causing our body to age faster and get weaker at an alarming rate. There are just 7 covered in detail here, but the list obviously is much longer. We need to become more aware of the health disasters that are waiting for us if we continue down this path.
We need to identify and deal with our mannerisms and habits that are slowly wrecking our health. Instead of short term fixes, we need to treat the root of the problem. The first step to conquering the challenge is awareness and acknowledgement of the problem. We have to pay more attention to the less obvious details, the little habits that add up. The second step is to take charge of our health and make the right lifestyle changes that will eventually heal us and help us live a stronger, healthier and happier life.
With a Masters in Food Science and Nutrition, Tilottama has carved a niche for herself in the Health Writing Industry. She is passionate about helping her readers make informed decisions about the food they eat. She believes in the healing power of food and in food as medicine. Tilottama is an editor and writer at Fitnesshacks.org.