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Healthy You

7 unhealthy habits to quit this year

Thursday, January 04, 2024 9:42 AM

By Endeavor Health

The start of a new year is often when people mark a fresh start in some aspect of life.

Whether it’s exercising, eating healthy or something else, you resolve to really do it this year.

But if you don’t have a specific goal in mind, where should you begin? Take stock of your daily habits and you might come up with some answers.

Man working on computer

Habits form easily and are often influenced by the people around us. Heck, some of us likely have habits in practice now that formed during the pandemic.

“Everyone has a habit or two they’d like to change,” said Vivian Salazar, MD, an internal medicine physician with Endeavor Health. “The key is targeting a habit for change that would improve your health and wellbeing over time.”

Need some inspiration? This list of unhealthy habits is a good place to start. Consider making a New Year’s resolution to stop one or more of these:

  1. Smoking. This is a tough habit to break, yet it consistently tops the list of things physicians recommend people avoid. Smoking not only can cause cancer, it can also cause heart disease, stroke, diabetes and COPD and increases your risk for a host of additional diseases. Talk to your primary care physician about quitting, as they will have resources that can help.
  2. Sitting all day. Not getting enough exercise can cause health problems as we age. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise each week, which is about 20 minutes a day. Exercise can help strengthen your bones, improve your cardiovascular system and even lead to better mental health.
  3. Poor eating habits. Sugar is hard to avoid in today’s world, but it’s crucial that we try whenever possible. Did you know that someone who consistently reaches for sweetened beverages throughout the day could potentially lose 15 pounds in a year just by switching their beverage to water? Take a hiatus from take-out and fast food. “The Mediterranean diet offers a heart and brain-healthy roadmap for those trying to figure out how to eat healthy,” Dr. Salazar said. “Simply cooking at home more often and eating fruits and vegetables will help establish a new, healthier habit.”
  4. Running on too little sleep. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a higher risk for things like obesity, heart disease and dementia. Adults should aim for an average of 7-8 hours of sleep each night, which can help reduce stress and improve overall health.
  5. Avoiding the doctor. When you have a hectic, packed schedule, it’s not always easy to pencil in a physical. But when you think about your future health, it’s worth the time. Seeing your physician (and dentist and ophthalmologist) on a regular basis ensures you have a baseline record of your health and are up to date on preventive screenings. This can help you avoid surprises down the road and often prevents small health issues from becoming big health issues.
  6. Not making time for yourself. Maintaining a good work/life balance is important, and so is a go-time/downtime balance. Carving out time for self-care is not only smart, it’s essential to your mental wellbeing. What would you do if you had an hour of free time?
  7. Staying in a comfortable mental rut. Getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and eating healthy all help keep your brain in top shape. Adding activities that challenge your cognitive ability helps too. Learn a new skill, start a hobby, volunteer — trying something new helps keep your mind sharp.

NorthShore University HealthSystem, Swedish Hospital, Northwest Community Healthcare and Edward-Elmhurst Health are now united under one name, Endeavor Health. We’re setting a new standard for healthcare that’s focused on you, because your best health is our endeavor. Learn more.

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