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10 everyday health mistakes

Jane Murphy / 03 October 2017

These habits mean you could be putting your health at risk without even realising.

Snooze button
Stay away from the snooze button - or your brain and body will think the original wake-up call was a false alarm.

1. Googling your symptoms

Nasty headache? Chest pain? Referring to 'Dr Google' might appear to be a fast and easy way of diagnosing the problem – but in reality, it's merely fuelling your anxiety and could even be making symptoms worse. In fact, one in five hospital outpatients may be suffering from 'cyberchondria' – worrying excessively about their health, and going for unnecessary appointments and tests, fuelled by looking up symptoms online – say UK researchers. The solution? If you've got a health niggle, don't ignore it. Simply stay away from the internet and see your GP instead.

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2. Eating in front of the TV

We all like to relax and unwind with a TV dinner at the end of a busy day. But if you're distracted while you eat, you're likely to consume significantly more calories during your meal, as well as further snacks throughout the rest of the evening, says a University of Birmingham study review. So switch off the TV and pay attention to what you're eating: it will make your meal more enjoyable, too.

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3. Hitting the snooze button

Allowing yourself a few more minutes in bed could make you feel more drained and tired than if you'd just got up when the alarm went. The reason? Start dozing off again and your brain and body will think the original wake-up call was a false alarm, so the second alarm will come as a real shock. This results in a period of grogginess or 'sleep inertia' that can last for up to four hours, says a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

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4. Having a lie-in at the weekend

Need to catch up on your sleep? One word of advice: don't. Changing your sleep pattern by even just a couple of hours has the same effect as crossing a time zone and throws out your body's natural rhythms, says a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Not only will this make you even more sleepy, but it may also increase risk of heart disease and diabetes. So aim to get out of bed at the same time each day.

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5. Skipping breakfast

So you hit the snooze button, had a lie-in and now you think it's too late to eat breakfast? Wrong! Doing so will make you more likely to eat unhealthy foods later in the day – and raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, say researchers from Columbia University. People who eat breakfast daily are significantly less likely to have high cholesterol and blood pressure.

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6. Opting for healthy-looking food

Just because something looks or sounds like it should be good for you, it doesn't mean that's the case. Labels such as 'natural', 'fat-free' or 'wholegrain' can fool us into thinking we're making a healthy choice, and even trick the brain into ignoring less-than-healthy ingredients such as sugar and additives, according to a University of Houston study.

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7. Liking your friends' updates on Facebook

There's nothing wrong with responding positively to social media posts, of course. But – repeat after us – it's not the same as having one-to-one contact. If you really want to find out what's going on in your friend's life, give her a call or – even better – arrange to meet up. Maintaining strong friendships can improve our chances of longevity by 50 per cent, say researchers at Brigham Young University.

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8. Sticking to your favourite fruit and veg

That's fine if you have a whole bunch of favourites, of course. But if you consume too much of the same thing, you won't get the full range of vitamins and minerals your body needs for optimum health. And when it comes to getting your five-a-day, some portions only count once. These include: a 150ml glass of fruit juice or smoothie, mainly because crushing the fruit releases the sugars that can damage teeth; and one 80g serving of beans and pulses, as these are high in fibre but low in other important nutrients.

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9. Delaying that loo break

We won't dwell on this one for too long, but suffice to say... Ignoring the urge to pee can weaken the bladder muscles and heighten your risk of urinary incontinence and infections. Likewise, not opening your bowels when you feel the need increases your chances of constipation or haemorrhoids.

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10. Forgetting to smile

You may feel more like grimacing – but even a false smile is enough to lift your mood, numerous studies have found. Besides, simply breaking into a smile can speed up recovery from stressful episodes, according to University of Kansas researchers.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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