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10 Stupid Health Habits


We read a lot about habits that will supposedly make us healthier and help us to live longer. Turns out, even the most oft repeated advice is often baseless.

We all know people who have a terrible diet, are overweight, and smoke, and yet live to be 100. On the other hand, we also know people who spend most of their time in Spandex or Yoga pants, spend 30 minutes in the probiotic aisle figuring out which yogurt to buy, and die of a heart attack at 45 doing a downward dog.

The fact is that most healthy habit recommendations, whether they come from the US Preventive Services Task Force or the Huffington Post are based on probabilities, risk factors, and biostatistical odds ratios derived from studies with varying degrees of academic rigor. Sometimes the studies we read about in the news are funded by self-serving interests like the bottled water industry, the dairy industry, or agribusiness.

Take, for example, the notion that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day.” Some scientists argue this is all a myth, and that just because we keep repeating it doesn't make it true.

Here are some other recommendations you might want to reconsider:

1. Drink skim milk.

2. Do situps.

3. Drink eight glasses of water a day.

4. Since a little exercise is good, more is better, so do as much as you can tolerate.

5. Take lots of vitamins and supplements.

6. Get an annual check-up.

7. Don't eat eggs.

8. Rely on sunscreen to prevent melanoma.

9. Believe everything you read about getting 8 hours of sleep a night.

10. Do everything you can to eliminate all the stress in your life.

Given your genetic makeup and what we know and don't know about risk factors to your health, a healthy mix of moderation, common sense, a little fun now and then, and a favorable roll of the dice is probably the best advice. Pick your parents wisely.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice