Sure, you exercise regularly, eat right, and haven't touched a cigarette in years. But you could still be trashing your health. Some seemingly healthy, or atleast un-harmful, things can actually be pretty bad for you. Read on to learn 20 ways you're unwittingly harming your health.
You know that “good bacteria” that’s in your gastrointestinal tract and is apparently the key to better health? Well, it’s also all over your man parts, so using antibacterial soap on them decreases their number of good bacteria, making you susceptible to infections, even of the sexually transmitted variety, says Darius A. Paduch, M.D., Ph.D., director of sexual health at Weill Cornell Medical College. He recommends using Dove non-antibacterial soap. If you’re circumcised, wash up with it once per day. And if you’re sporting a turtleneck—which acts as a mucosal barrier to bad bacteria—opt for every other day. On your days off, just use water.
The human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds. Tilt your head down to look at your phone, though, and you can put up to 60 pounds of weight on your spine, according to a new study published in Surgical Technology International. “It can also lead to tightness of the muscles in front of the shoulder like the pectoralis minor, contributing to rotator cuff tendinitis and other potential problems,” says Guillem Gonzalez-Lomas, M.D., assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center. Meanwhile, high-volume texting has been associated with thumb tendon inflammation, which is indicative of early tendinitis. “If you're texting and playing games, you're compounding that risk, as well as risking possible arthritis at the base of the thumb (carpometacarpal joint) later in life,” he says.
“Alcohol is a kind of kryptonite for muscle building. One, it suppresses the anabolic response in skeletal muscle to resistance exercise. Two, it probably delays recovery,” says Gonzalez-Lomas. And, all muscle-building aside, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it will add to any exercise-induced dehydration you’ve already got going on. Not exactly what you want from your post-workout sip. Refuel with water or a sports drink, wait 30 minutes to an hour, and then drink responsibly.
Your circadian clock needs darkness in order to produce sleep-inducing melatonin that will tell your body it’s time to go to bed. So, when you play with a light-emitting phone, tablet, or computer at night, you throw off your circadian clock and your body gets the message that it’s actually time to be awake, says Steven Lamm, M.D., medical director of the Tisch Center for Men’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center. A screwed up internal clock messes with more than your sleep schedule. It can also spur weight gain, sap your smarts, and mess with your libido. Lamm recommends turning off your devices at least 45 minutes before bed.
The low-fat craze is over. “Nearly one-third of your calories need to come from high performance fats,” says dietician Susan M. Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D., a scientific consultant with USANA Health Sciences. “Diets composed of less than 25 to 30 percent fat can decrease stress-coping skills in stress-prone individuals. Important omega-3 fats from fish oils are critical to maintaining brain health, repairing oxidative damage and fighting inflammation. And diets too low in fat lower testosterone production.” Choose healthy fats from fish, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, canola, and coconut oils.
Here’s a whole new reason to move to the penthouse floor: In one 2013 Bern University study, researchers found that people who lived on or below their building’s 8th floor were 40 percent more likely to die from respiratory diseases and 35 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases than those who lived on above the 8th floor. Researchers believe that exposure to air and noise pollution, which are both greater as you approach ground level, may play a role.
Nope, we aren’t going to repeat the “weed kills brain cells” mantra. We are just going to say that it may give you man boobs. Called gynecomastia, man boobs comes down to an imbalance between testosterone and boob-sprouting estrogen, Paduch says. Research suggests that marijuana decreases men’s levels of testosterone, and with fewer manly hormones in your body, estrogen can take control of your chest.
You know “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but most men are still skipping it—or eating it a few hours after they wake up, says cardiologist Kevin Campbell, M.D., F.A.C.C. Problem is, if you have your egg sandwich when you get to work, your brain and metabolism have already missed out on hours of fuel, he says. If you don’t eat within the first hour of waking, expect brain fog and a stomach pooch.
No woman likes to think of her partner masturbating. But when it comes to your sex drive, if you don’t use it—even by yourself—you lose it. The more often you orgasm, the more libido-revving hormones you’ll produce, says Paduch, who notes that his patients who make a point to masturbate end up having higher sex drives that his patients who don’t.
“Maybe its machoism but many men tend to overtrain,” Lamm says. “Exercise is important but the body needs rest.” One 2014 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings even shows that exercising too much (more than the equivalent of running 30 miles or walking 46 miles per week) may increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Experts believe that if you exercise past this point, your body may accumulate free radicals that harm your heart.
Most guys feel like they should be able to handle problems on their own. But depression and anxiety don’t work like that, Lamm says. “Avoiding mental health issues often results in a fluctuation in weight, headaches, and lack of sleep, only making the issue worse,” he says. If you’re experiencing large changes in weight, sleep, mood, and experience physical pains like headaches and stomachaches, talk to your doctor to figure out if a mental health disorder may be to blame.
OK, so egg whites aren’t bad for you, but yolks are better. They’re packed with choline. “Choline is half the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is active every time you think or move,” Kleiner says. “It also acts to keep your brain cells healthy.” Meanwhile, increasingly more studies are refuting the long-held belief that egg yolks raise cholesterol levels. For instance, one study published in the British Journal of Medicine suggests you can eat an egg a day without increasing your risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.
More than half of guys forgo their annual exams, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Most men refuse to go to doctor unless something hurts,” says cardiologist James M. Rippe, M.D., founder of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute and professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Central Florida. But something doesn’t have to hurt for your blood pressure to be through the roof, for you to be deficient in vitamin D, or (if we are really trying to freak you out) for you to have cancer, he says. This year, schedule a physical and show up.
Carbo-loading is a thing for a reason. “If you train hard, skipping carbs means you will have no fuel for your muscles. Only carbohydrates can fuel high intensity training. If you are a competitive athlete, you can’t pass your opponent or sprint to the finish without carbs,” Kleiner says. Meanwhile, if you are cutting carbs, your mental health could suffer right along with your exercise performance.
You know sitting is the 21st century’s number-one health threat, that’s why you work out. But a 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that even exercise won’t save you from sitting disease. In the study, people who sat for eight or more hours a day increased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 90 percent, while also upping their risk of heart disease and cancer.
Hey, we are all for splurges every now and then, but please don’t make yours movie theater popcorn. “It’s one of the worst things you can eat,” Campbell says. One report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest shows that many theaters pop their kernels in coconut oil, which is 90 percent saturated fat (by comparison, lard is only 40 percent), explaining why a medium bucket can contain three days’ worth of saturated fat. And that’s before you top it with “butter,” which is oftentimes just non-hydrogenated soybean oil. Gross.
Out of every 100 contact-wearers, only two actually do what they’re supposed to do to keep their eyes clean, per research in Optometry and Vision Science. Researchers say that, besides causing pus and ulcers, sleeping in your contacts, not washing them with saline solution, and not washing your hands before putting them in, can potentially result in blindness. Read your contact lens’ instructions ASAP… granted you can see them.
“No pain, no gain” is a load of crap. “When performing exercise, pushing through pain can be a major contributor to injury,” says physical therapist Anthony D’Angelo, C.S.C.S., vice president of clinical operations at Professional Physical Therapy. If something hurts during your workout, stop and rate it on a scale of one to 10 before starting back up. “Pain produced during exercise should not be rated more than a one or two on the scale or the muscle you are training begins to become inhibited,” he says. What’s more, while productive muscle soreness can last for a couple days, if it continues longer than that, you may have an injury and should consult a physical therapist. Remember: there's a difference between soreness and actual pain.
You know sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer, but you still don’t wear it. If you’re not concerned that melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in men, consider that up 90 percent of skin aging is actually sun damage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
It doesn’t matter how much you can bench press; if your legs are weak, you’re weak. “The key to any structure is a solid foundation,” says certified personal trainer, Reggie Chambers. Your biggest muscles are found in your legs, and if you don’t work them on the regular, you’ll miss out on huge calorie burns and muscle-building hormone boosts. Plus, you could end up with low back pain and hip stiffness.