Mayday Hospital Care

How healthy are you, really? Find out how your lifestyle could be putting your health at risk.
In this article:

  • How not getting enough sleep can lead to diabetes, heart disease and obesity
  • The hidden health risks of binge drinking
  • Why spending too much time as your risk could lead to scary health risks, including deep vein thrombosis!

Even people who don’t smoke or gobble mountains of bacon and eggs can put themselves at risk of conditions like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and even deep vein thrombosis without even realising it. Maire Bonheim explains how your lifestyle could be damaging your body.

Not Getting Enough Sleep

A massive 97 per cent of British professionals are missing out on their recommended eight hours of sleep a night, according to a recent study, but sleep is vital for healthy functioning and even for your brain’s logic and decision-making abilities.

Not getting enough z’s is also known to increase your risk of being overweight and developing high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Tons of studies have shown that the less you sleep, the greater your body mass index will be and the more weight you’ll gain over time. Plus, regular sleep deprivation makes you twice as likely to be obese, no matter what age you are.

The reason? Lack of sleep causes hormonal changes that increase appetite and also change your metabolism, making it difficult for your body to process and store carbohydrates or regulate hormone secretion.

It also messes with glucose tolerance – the cause of the diabetes risk.

Some experts even link increasingly busy lifestyles and lack of sleep with the obesity epidemic. “The ‘epidemic’ of obesity is paralleled by a ‘silent epidemic’ of reduced sleep duration with short sleep duration linked to increased risk of obesity both in adults and in children,” says US medical Professor Francesco Cappuccio. “These trends are detectable in adults as well as in children as young as 5 years old.”

Binge Drinking

Recent years have seen a rising national concern about the way that British people binge drink – usually classified as anything over eight units in one session for men (about four pints of beer) and six units for women (about two-thirds of a bottle of wine). Whatever the amount, though, if you deliberately drink to get drunk, then this applies to you!

Binge drinking is generally viewed as harmless when compared to alcoholism, but in fact, it poses similar long-term health threats besides the morning-after nausea and headaches.

Binge drinkers risk blood clots, heart disease, liver damage (including fatal scarring), stomach ulcers and ruptures, sexual dysfunction, osteoporosis, brain damage and several types of cancers.

Binge drinkers are twice as likely to die from a stroke or heart attack. Plus, drinks are massively calorie-laden and contribute to obesity.

In general, it is suggested that men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol a week and women no more than 14.

However, for safe drinking, units should be spread over the week to allow a maximum of two or three a day, possibly up to four for men.

Stress

There’s a well-known deadly link between stress and heart disease. The psychological distress leads to changes in your body and metabolism, known collectively as the metabolic syndrome, that produce heart disease.

Stress also increases the risk of heart disease even for young women, and there’s a medical explanation why: women have traditionally been considered “immune” to heart disease until after menopause when their oestrogen levels dramatically drop.

Oestrogen produced before menopause helps protect against heart disease and osteoporosis.

But stress can actually reduce oestrogen levels much earlier in life and quadruple the early development of hardened arteries that cause heart attacks and strokes.

“Stress during the years before menopause can lead to the early development of hardened arteries,” says Dr Jay Kaplan of Wake Forest University in the US. “This suggests that having an oestrogen deficiency in the pre-menopausal years predicts a higher rate of heart disease after menopause.”
Stress has also been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome and even kills off new nerve cells in the brain. (Read more: Stress Can Kill Brain Cells).

For more on how your emotions could be impacting your body, Click Here.

Spending Too Much Time At Your Desk

Skipping your lunch break could be a lot more dangerous than you thought. For starters, all that inactivity massively increases your chances of being overweight and developing high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes.

Plus, constantly staring at your PC can damage your eyesight. Look away every 15 minutes to give your eyes a break, and avoid squinting.

Many people squint without realising it to cut out glare and focus on unclear objects, but it prevents you from blinking often enough and could lead to an irritating and painful condition called dry eye.

So, to prevent red, burning, and strained eyes, reposition your PC away from the glare at the easiest distance for you to read and make the font larger.

And then there’s repetitive strain – nerve damage caused by repetitive work like clicking a computer mouse or bending towards a screen that causes inflammation and can lead to chronic pain and even, eventually, to degenerative problems and muscular injuries.

Studies show it also leads to depression and fatigue – “sick worker syndrome” – so you’ll hardly be able to perform at your best. Repetitive strain injuries affected over half a million workers in the UK last year and resulted in more than 5.4 million sick days, according to the Repetitive Strain Injury Association. Their advice?

Sit up straight with your screen at eye level (put it on a base if necessary), your feet flat, and a comfortable working space in front of you. Make sure you get up, stretch and move around regularly.

Sitting cramped behind a desk for extended periods of time also increases your risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis, a condition in which a blood clot forms within a deep vein in the leg, usually in the thigh or calf.

It can be caused by poor circulation because of problems such as heart disease, a recent heart attack or stroke, varicose veins, or periods of inactivity like those experienced on long-haul flights, during prolonged bed rest or spending hours at a desk!

DVT is not dangerous in itself, but it can result in the movement of a clot to the lungs, causing blockages and possibly respiratory failure – known as a Pulmonary Embolism – which can result in death.

Eating Processed Food Regularly

Processed foods are products like biscuits, ready meals, pies, sausages, and even some cereals. They seem harmless, and you may even think you’re being healthy by choosing them instead of a piece of freshly baked cake or a sandwich. But don’t be fooled; processed foods are packed with saturated fat, sugars and hidden salts – all linked to conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

They are the main reason the NHS is calling for a simple traffic light food labelling system, so people are able to quickly assess a product’s sugar, salt and fat content and make healthy eating decisions – like saving processed foods for special occasions! 

Processed foods are a product of modern life – we’re too busy to bake or cook meals and treats using healthy, raw and natural ingredients, so we buy them.

But in order to provide products that look and taste fresh even after they’ve been on the shelf for ages, manufacturers include additives like preservatives, colourants, flavourings and way too much salt. For example, believe it or not, there is more salt in a bowl of some cereals than in a bowl of Atlantic seawater!

Hidden salts are especially dangerous as they lead to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. For more on the health risks associated with salt, Click Here.