25 Things You're Doing That Would Horrify Your Physician

Where you eat matters just as much as what you eat.

Your physician has your best interest in mind, which means there are certain things they're never happy to hear about your lifestyle. Of course, you know anyone in charge of your health would be horrified to learn you load up on fried foods or consume a pack of cigarettes a day. But did you know they'd be similarly unnerved to discover that you rely on hand sanitizer as opposed to soap and water, or that you eat out at restaurants several nights a week? Unless you want to get an earful at your next check-up, it's time to ditch these habits that would horrify your doctor.

Taking sketchy supplements


The vitamins you take can have a huge impact on your health—which is why you'll want to run your choices by your doctor. "Patients are often taking massive doses of potentially unsafe products," says Arielle Levitan, M.D., a physician of internal medicine and co-author of The Vitamin Solution.

"[The vitamin] industry is largely unregulated and many of these products are not overseen by the FDA, so inferior brands include unlisted ingredients," she says. "Plus, overdosing on vitamins can be quite harmful. Fat-soluble vitamins build up in your system and can be quite dangerous."

Only washing your sheets once a month

laundry basket

Seeing as your physician's job is to keep you healthy, he or she would scold you if they knew how seldom you washed your pillowcase. A 2016 study conducted by Amerisleep found that neglecting to wash your pillowcase for even just two weeks can result in 5.98 million colony-forming units of bacteria per square inch (CFU/sq. in.). That's 330 times more bacteria than what's found on the typical faucet handle.

After one month, you'll find nearly 12 million CFU/sq. in. on your pillowcase, which is nearly 40 times more bacteria than what's on the typical dog bowl. Yuck!

Downing energy drinks for a quick boost

energy drinks Lower Blood Pressure

If there's one thing your doctor really doesn't want you to drink, it's energy drinks. A 2018 study presented at the American Heart Association annual summit found that when young, healthy adults drank just one energy drink, it diminished their blood vessel function, which in turn limited blood flow both to and from the heart.

Relying solely on hand sanitizer

woman using hand sanitizer ways we're unhealthy
Shutterstock / Elizaveta Galitckaia

Though hand sanitizer is useful, it shouldn't be the only thing you use to clean your hands. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus, HPV, and giardia are just some of the many types of bacteria that hand sanitizer is unable to protect you against. If you aren't washing your hands with soap and water enough, you are making yourself vulnerable to these dangerous germs.

Continuing to work out after an injury

heart attack after 40

When you twist your ankle or pull a muscle at the gym, the smart thing to do is abandon your workout and seek medical attention. However, "more often than not, patients will continue their workout to completion and deal with the injury after the fact," says Dr. Thanu Jeyapalan, clinical director of Yorkville Sports Medicine in Toronto, Ontario. "Continuing through pain is like purposely pulling on damaged tissue. It's important not to ignore the pain and to stop immediately."

Wearing high heels regularly

Woman with Heels on Summer Fair

High heels might accentuate your assets, but they're certainly not doing anything for your joint health. In fact, according to a 2010 study from Iowa State University, walking around in stilettos and pumps for a prolonged period of time can contribute to both joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis, a form of arthritis that affects the entire joint.

Not sleeping enough

Tired Woman Holding Her Alarm Clock Habits That Horrify Physician

Of course, you can't always control your work schedule, and certain professions revolve around 24-hour and even 48-hour shifts. However, if you admit to your physician that you're staying awake for days at a time, they aren't exactly going to give you their blessing.

In a 2016 study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, researchers found that short-term sleep deprivation among 24-hour shift workers was associated with an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels. In other words, the study showed that skimping on sleep—even if it's for work—puts your heart health at risk.


Person Smoking an E-Cigarette Habits That Horrify Physician

If you think that your physician is going to be happy because you're using an e-cigarette instead of real cigarettes, think again. Vaping has been linked to everything from lung damage to addiction, and a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology even linked e-cigs to cardiovascular disease.

Isolating yourself

man alone and sad Habits that Horrify Physician

You might not think your doctor would care about your personal life, but it turns out the size of your social circle can affect your health. A 2015 meta-analysis published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science found that people who reported loneliness had a 26 percent increased risk of early mortality; and those who were socially isolated had a 29 percent increased risk.

Eating alone

woman eating while working Habits That Horrify Physician

Yep, your physician just might be concerned about your solo eating habits, too. In a 2018 study published in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, Korean researchers concluded that women who ate alone at least twice a day were 29 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome—a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol—than those who never ate alone were.

Similarly, men who ate alone had a higher likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome and were more likely to gain weight in the abdominal area.

Eating out on a regular basis

Woman at a Restaurant Habits that Horrify Physician

Any physician would also cringe if they found out that a patient was eating out more than they were preparing food at home. In a 2015 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers determined that eating at a full-service or fast food restaurant was associated with a daily net increase of almost 200 calories.

And buying ready-made meals

frozen turkey dinner

Frozen dinners might be convenient and cost-effective, but they're not doing any favors for your health. Per a 2015 report published in the journal Appetite, ready-made meals tend to be high in saturated fat and salt, both of which contribute to health issues like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Eating too quickly

Adult Man Eating a Burger Heart Risk Factors

If you're not sure why your waistline is widening, you might want to take a look at the pace of your meals. A 2012 study published in the journal Diabetologia examined 7,275 Japanese individuals and found that the faster they ate, the more likely they were to be obese.

Skipping breakfast

man drinking espresso outside ways we're unhealthy

Carve some time into your morning to have a proper healthy breakfast. In addition to all of the weight loss benefits that come with devouring a nutritious morning meal, eating breakfast can also keep your arteries from hardening. That's according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which found that subjects who regularly skipped breakfast were more likely to have atherosclerosis—the build-up of fat and cholesterol in or on your artery walls.

Using artificial sweetener

artificial sweetener in coffee health tweaks over 40

You might think that you're doing yourself a favor by using artificial sweeteners in your morning coffee, but your doctor would actually probably prefer you to just use the real thing. In a 2018 study published in the journal Molecules, researchers from Ben-Gurion University in Israel found that six different artificial sweeteners—including aspartame, sucralose, and saccharine—were toxic to vital digestive gut microbes.

Avoiding the dentist

Scary Dental Assistants at the Dentist's Office Habits that Horrify Physician

Your physician cares just as much about your oral health as your dentist does—that's because forgetting to floss or neglecting your pearly whites can affect far more than just your mouth. In fact, gum inflammation—an all-too-common side effect of poor oral hygiene—is associated with everything from Alzheimer's disease to a 50 percent increased risk of heart attack.

Using tanning beds

girl in tanning bed Skin Cancer Risks

Unsurprisingly, one of the last things your doctor wants to hear is that you're using a tanning bed. Along with cigarettes and other toxic substances, ultraviolet (UV) tanning devices are classified as Group 1 cancer-causing agents by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer.

What's more, a 2018 study published in the Journal of Cancer Policy notes that approximately $343 million is spent annually in the United States on direct medical care for skin cancer cases attributed to indoor tanning.

Going outside without sunscreen

woman with sunburn on beach what happens to your body when you get a sunburn

The tanning bed isn't the only place where you might contract skin cancer. According to the Cleveland Clinic, UV radiation from the sun is the most common skin cancer-causing agent. Even if you don't get sunburned, simply being exposed to sunlight is a potential risk factor.

Plus, Dr. Gretchen Frieling, a board-certified dermatopathologist in Massachusetts, says sitting outside sans sunscreen can also age you. "Sunscreen is key to prevent the signs of aging," says Frieling. "Even when indoors, and specifically by windows, sunscreen is essential, as certain types of UV radiation can get through windows."

Neglecting your symptoms

man clutching his chest and coughing Habits That Horrify Physician

Fatigue. Irritability. Constipation. Though it's easy to brush these off as run-of-the-mill side effects of stress and being overworked, failing to mention—or even recognize—these symptoms could prevent your physician from potentially helping you fix something that's easily treatable. If your symptoms are a sign of something serious and you don't acknowledge them until later, you're going to end up dealing with a disease that's much further along and therefore harder to treat.

Taking unprescribed medications

acetaminophen and other pill bottles in a medicine cabinet, parenting tips

You shouldn't be taking a friend or family member's leftover painkillers. There's a reason why certain medications are only offered with prescriptions. According to Lexie Lindner, PharMD, of the Mount Nittany Medical Center Pharmacy taking someone else's medicine could lead to unintended—or even fatal—side effects.

Or failing to take prescribed medications

reasons you're tired

Your physician is prescribing you specific medications for a reason—and if you aren't taking them, you could be putting your health at risk. Physician and health coach Dr. Michelle C. Reed notes that "if you are not taking your medicine as directed, your provider may increase or add another medication and it might not be a necessary addition."

Not exercising regularly

sad, depressed, or tired man in his bed, health questions after 40

There's a reason why your doctor asks you about your exercise habits every time you go in for a check-up. In addition to contributing to weight gain, being sedentary can also contribute to poor heart health and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. The good news? According to the Mayo Clinic, just 30 minutes a day of moderate activity is enough to keep you healthy and happy.

Staying up late

Woman Staying Up Late Watching TV Habits That Horrify Physician

Don't expect your doctor to pat you on the back when you inform them that you usually stay up until well past midnight. A 2019 analysis published in Advances in Nutrition looked into the effects of staying up late on a person's health and determined that night owls don't just tend to have unhealthier diets, but are also at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Skipping meals for weight loss

Dieting Woman Habits That Horrify Physician

There are several healthy ways to lose weight—but skipping meals isn't one of them. At the very least, it's an ineffective approach your doctor definitely wouldn't recommend. For example, in a 2012 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers found that women who skipped meals lost nearly eight pounds fewer than those who didn't over the course of 12 months.

"When you skip a meal or go a long time without eating, your body goes into survival mode," says Haley Robinson, a clinical dietitian with Piedmont Healthcare. "This causes your cells and body to crave food which causes you to eat a lot. We usually tend to crave unhealthy foods and all attempts at eating healthy go out the door."

Not drinking enough water

Man Taking a Break From His Run to Drink Some Water Dirtiest Things in Your Home

When you go to the doctor's office for a check-up, one of the many things that they ask you about is water consumption. Without an adequate amount of H20 you can suffer from things like heatstroke, kidney failure, or even swelling of the brain. And if you're curious about the mechanics of dehydration, This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Don't Drink Enough Water.

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