During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have become much more familiar with the CDC than we used to be, relying on their guidance on how to protect ourselves from the coronavirus and when and how to be vaccinated. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn't just good in a crisis—it's a repository of science-based advice about preventative medicine intended to keep you healthy now and decades down the road. These are seven major ways the agency says you may be endangering your health and shortening your life. 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.
Eating an Unhealthy Diet
"Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to stroke and related conditions, such as heart disease," says the CDC. "Adults who eat a healthy diet live longer and have a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Healthy eating can help people with chronic diseases manage these conditions and prevent complications."
Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers. "Active people generally live longer and are at less risk for serious health problems," the agency says. Exercise can also reduce anxiety and help you sleep better. The CDC and many other experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, including at least two sessions of muscle-strengthening activity.
Not Protecting Your Hearing
"There is no cure for hearing loss!" the agency notes emphatically. The CDC's recommendations: "Avoid loud noise whenever possible and turn down the volume on personal listening devices. If you can't avoid loud noise, use earplugs or earmuffs to protect your ears. If you suspect you may already have hearing loss, take steps to keep it from getting worse."
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Consuming too much alcohol raises your risk of six types of cancer, the CDC says. It also elevates your level of blood triglycerides, potentially hardening arteries and raising blood pressure, contributing to heart attack or stroke. To reduce your risk of a variety of health problems, experts recommend drinking only in moderation—no more than one drink a day for women, and two drinks a day for men.
Being obese increases your risk of many negative health consequences, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, many types of cancer, "low quality of life," and death from any cause, the CDC says.
Tobacco doesn't just increase your risk for lung cancer, the #1 cause of preventable death in America. Tobacco smoke can damage the heart and walls of arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke, and dementia. "The nicotine in cigarettes raises blood pressure, and the carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry," says the CDC. Inhaling secondhand smoke also puts you at risk.
Not Getting the COVID Vaccine
Last month, the CDC released a study that found people who haven't been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 had an exponentially higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus. People who aren't fully vaccinated are 4.5 times more likely than vaccinated people to contract COVID, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die from the disease, the agency said. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.