Are You Doing More Harm Than Good: Some So Called Habits May Not Be Good After All

Sitcoms are riddled with story lines involving well-intentioned characters whose actions wreak havoc on the rest of the cast. Remember when Lucy tried to go a whole day without lying on I Love Lucy? She ended up alienating everyone around her with her good-natured honesty. Fortunately for Lucy, she realized the error of her ways in just 30 minutes. But in real life, we don’t always find clarity so easily. And sometimes our best intentions lead us to do more harm than good when it comes to our health.

Here are eight ways you might be sabotaging your health.





Overusing Hand Sanitizer
The use of hand sanitizer has exploded in recent years. And why not? It’s portable and easy to use. But it’s not the best way to keep your hands clean. In flu season especially, you want to make sure you’re keeping your hands clean. But antibacterial everything everywhere will not foster resistance.

What you should do instead:
The single most effective way to prevent the spread of disease is hand washing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Wash your hands with soap and warm, running water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer only when washing isn’t an option.

Brushing After You Eat
You may think that brushing your teeth after a meal will help reduce your risk of cavities, but that’s not the case. In reality, many foods contain acids that break down teeth’s protective enamel. Brushing right after a meal can loosen enamel particles and wash them away.

What you should do instead:
Your body has its own way of cleaning the mouth and fighting plaque after meals. It’s called saliva. To increase saliva production and also give you a fresh, clean feeling, dental experts recommend chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating. If you must brush after a meal, wait at least an hour. Otherwise, brushing twice a day—once in the morning and once at night—and flossing once a day will keep your pearly whites sparkling.

Taking a Daily Aspirin
You’ve probably heard that taking an aspirin a day can help lower your risk for heart attack, and you’d be correct. The problem arises when people start themselves on an aspirin regimen without consulting their doctor. That’s because there are conditions that aspirin can adversely affect, namely hemorrhagic stroke (burst blood vessel), tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and gastrointestinal bleeding, according to Mayo Clinic.

What you should do instead:
Most people at average risk for heart disease don’t need to take aspirin daily. Ask your doctor about what’s right for you. If you’re already on a self-prescribed aspirin regimen, don’t quit—it may increase your risk for heart attack—but do consult your doctor.

Hitting the Gym Hard on the Weekends
The health benefits of exercise are numerous: weight maintenance, reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, improved mood, better sleep. And good for you for making time to work out. But if you hit the gym or playing field only on weekends, you could be setting yourself up for danger.

If you push too hard for just one day, you greatly increase your risk of injury. There are more than 10,000 visits to ERs each day for sports- and exercise related injuries, according to the CDC.

What you should do instead:
Rather than cramming a week’s worth of physical activity into two days, spread it out. You can still plan a more intense workout or game on the weekends, but get some exercise during the week as well, such as walking, stretching and using light weights.

Grilling Your Food
It’s a lower-fat option than frying or sautéing, but grilling may not be the perfect cooking method you think it is. Consuming charred meat may increase your risk for certain cancers; one study found a 60 percent increased risk for pancreatic cancer in people who regularly ate well-done meat, according to the American Cancer Society.

What you should do instead:
Rather than closing down your backyard kitchen, follow a few simple rules to avoid overcooking and charring meat, which can produce carcinogens. Choose lean meats and trim them of excess fat. Precook meat in the microwave or oven to reduce the time it needs to be on the grill. Cut off and discard inadvertently burnt portions of meat.

Taking a Daily Vitamin
Ensuring you’re getting the recommended daily value of vitamins and nutrients sounds like a good idea, right? Actually, Americans aren’t as deficient in vital nutrients as vitamin companies would have us believe. And with today’s abundance of fortified products, including milk, orange juice, bread and cereal, most of us are getting sufficient amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, iodine, folic acid and iron.

Furthermore, a review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that multivitamins had no effect on helping to prevent cancer and heart disease. And smaller studies have even suggested that taking a multivitamin actually raises the risk for breast, prostate and colon cancer.

What You Should Do Instead:
Eat a balanced diet. There are guidelines that people over 50 should take a vitamin with B12 and women of childbearing age should take folic acid. But in most cases, pills have never been shown to give the benefits of eating a really healthy diet. The whole food is much healthier than its individual parts.

Wearing Flips-Flops or Ballet Flats
Ladies, you know that 4-inch heels are bad for your body. They cause bunions, corns, and foot, knee and back pain. So you may think that giving your feet a break by slipping into a pair of flip-flops or ballet flats is doing them a service. But in fact, these options come with their own problems. They provide no support and little stability. And flip-flops in particular place undo stress on the toes as they require a constant gripping action to keep them on your feet when walking.

What Your Should Do Instead:
Opt for well-fitting shoes with proper arch support that are sturdy enough for the activity you’re doing. Choose sandals with ample support and protection and with multiple straps to keep them in place.

Drinking Bottled Water
If most of your drinking water comes from a bottle, you may be missing out on one of the greatest public health advancements of the 20th century, according to the CDC. That’s because fluoride, found in tap water, helps prevent tooth decay and fight cavities. It’s not included in the vast majority of bottled waters.

What you should do instead:
It’s simple: Drink tapwater. If you don’t like the taste, get a filter or mask the flavor with a bit of lemon or orange juice or a slice of cucumber. If it’s convenience you crave, buy a reusable bottle and fill it with water from the tap.

Guidance for Healthful Living
Do you want to start new healthy habits but don’t know where to start? Meeting with GMC’s registered dietitians at the Diabetes & Nutrition Education Center can get you started. Metabolic testing and personalized coaching are available. Call 678-312-6040.

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