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5 unhealthy habits to ditch now

Take back your health before the final whistle blows. By Nick Corbett

Blog_GoodHealthJune2014You’ve all been there before. The meat’s on the braai, the game’s on in 10 and you’re about to crack open a beer while you reach over for another handful of crisps. While your significant other whips up a salad, she discreetly points out that you haven’t seen the inside of the gym for the past three months and that she is finding it harder to navigate around your growing love handles. So what, right? Well, here’s a slice of insight into the everyday activities that cause harm.

Puff daddy

A study on tobacco-related deaths in SA revealed that eight percent of adult fatalities each year is caused by smoking, with more than twice the number of men lighting up than women. From tuberculosis to lung cancer and heart disease, each cigarette causes lasting damage to several vital parts of your body.

But here’s some better news: it’s never too late to quit. Put out your cigarette and take a deep, deep breath. After 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease substantially. Three months out, your circulation is back up and running and your lung function increases. After 10 years? Your danger of lung disease is less than half that of a smoker. It’s time you made a long-term investment in your bellows you’ll reap the rewards instantly.

Hey, fatty boom boom

Cholesterol isn’t called the silent killer for nothing: it can creep up on you with hardly any warning, leading to heart failure, stroke and high blood pressure. According to Krisela Steyn from the University of Cape Town and Chronic Disease Lifestyle Unit at the South African Medical Research Council, about 195 people die every day due to cardiovascular-related diseases.

What makes this stat even more shocking? For every woman who has a heart attack, two men suffer the same fate. Caused by diets high in saturated fats (think your favourite red or processed meats), you can constrain your cholesterol intake by switching to lean meats, such as fish, chicken and turkey, and steamed veggies instead of that bowl of cheese and béchamel sauce you disguise the cauliflower in. Trust us, it’s not all that bad.

Don’t drink till you drop

Many people have started ditching the smokes, having woken up to the facts about their damaging effect on your lungs and skin. But what you may not know about your weekend, or daily, beverage of choice is that its effects go beyond that annoying Sunday headache.

Men, especially, are at risk of the damaging effects of alcohol abuse, not only because they are likely to go over the top and have one too many, but also, according to a study around the impact of banning the alcohol advertisements, because men are seven percent more likely to binge drink than women.

The bad news? Your pancreas and liver sustain long-term damage from having to break down alcohol. So say ‘no’ to ‘one more’ and reach for something harmless instead.

Cover up

According to research undertaken by Cansa, SA now has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world, after Australia. If that isn’t bad enough, 80% of sun damage suffered occurs before you turn 18.

Why is that bad news for men? Many feminine skincare products feature a built-in SPF, whereas male grooming is only just catching up in the sphere of sun protection. No matter how rugged you consider your old soap-and-water morning routine, take some time to invest in face and body creams that offer at least SPF15. In a few years’ time, your skin will be firmer and healthier for it. Planning a day outside at the cricket? You know the golden (and not too tanned) rule – don’t forget your sunscreen.

May I have some more?

Obesity is more than just being overweight. In 2011, South Africa was ranked as the third most obese country in the world. And while women are more prone to the condition than men (thanks in part to men’s higher resting metabolic rate), the danger to your health remains the same.

Simply put, obesity is caused by overeating – to the point where your body mass index is 20% higher than what it should be. And while that six-pack may seem as likely as you playing scrumhalf for the Boks next year, taking the steps to losing weight is easier than you think. Plan at least 30 minutes of light daily exercise to rid yourself of excess kilojoules, cut out fatty foods and drink more water throughout the day. And whether or not you sign up for the Comrades Marathon, your body will thank you for each kilo shed.