9 Ways You Put Your Life at Risk Every Day

By Tim Lemke on 22 October 2014 0 comments

If you watch cable news, you'd think that we were all at risk of dying from Ebola, falling airliners, or terrorist attacks. But the reality is that the greatest risks to our health stem from activities we take part in nearly every day.

Statistically, we are far more likely to get hurt or die doing relatively mundane activities than jumping from planes or getting eaten by sharks. (See also: The 5 Most Dangerous Things Hiding in Your Home Right Now)

Just in time for Halloween, we give you nine common things we do (or don't do enough of) that are a risk to our health. Just prepared for a little scare…

1. Getting in a Car

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 30,800 fatal crashes involving motor vehicles in 2012 in the United States. That's nearly 15 fatalities for every 100,000 licensed drivers. (And of course, this rate rises among people who were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.) Despite major advancements in automotive safety, accidents make up about a quarter of all accidental deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These numbers provide ample support for walking and taking public transit if at all possible. Generally speaking, the less you drive, the safer you'll be.

2. Drinking Sugary Beverages

Research from Harvard University has linked the sugar content in beverages to more than 25,000 obesity-related deaths in the United States and 180,000 worldwide. A can of soda can have more than 30 milligrams of sugar, or 20% more than the World Health Organization's recommended daily intake for an entire day. This much sugar puts you at risk for conditions like diabetes and heart problems. You can avoid sugar in your drinks by grabbing diet versions, or switching to other drinks like green tea sweetened with honey. And what's so bad about plain old water?

3. Eating a Lot of Meat

Meat has its benefits, in the form of proteins and many vitamins. But there is evidence that too much red meat will put you at risk for various health problems, including heart disease. Researchers at Harvard reported that a single extra serving of meat each day increased mortality by 13%. And that number jumped to 20% among subjects who ate processed meats like hot dogs or bacon.

You don't necessarily have to become a vegetarian to reduce your health risk, but it's possible to get protein from other sources, including fish, chicken, nuts, and whole grains.

4. Sitting!!

There's mounting evidence that sitting for long stretches of time is hazardous to your health. It's a major problem for anyone who works in an office setting, in particular. Numerous studies report that prolonged sitting can contribute to a wide range of maladies including heart disease, bad back, muscle degeneration and circulation problems. One report that looked at studies between 1989 and 2013 concluded that sitting for more than 10 hours a day contributed to a 34% increase in mortality rate compared to people who sat for one hour a day. But there's a lot you can do to counteract this. Cut down on your TV watching, or watch while at the treadmill at the gym. If you work in an office, get a standing desk (or even a treadmill desk.) Bottom line: just get moving! (See also: The 5 Best Standing Desks)

5. Not Sleeping Enough

The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep, but gets barely more than six, according to multiple studies. The National Institutes of Health reports that an ongoing sleep deficiency contributes to kidney problems, heart disease and stroke, and increases your risk of obesity and diabetes. Not to mention, a lack of sleep makes you more vulnerable to accidents; driver fatigue contributes to about 100,000 car accidents and 1,500 deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In short, it's time to catch up on your sleep. Doctors advise going to bed at the same time every night and keeping away from food, television and electronic devices near bedtime. Regular exercise also helps.

6. Not Getting Enough Sex

Simply put, having an orgasm is good for you, especially if you are a man. An article in the former British Medical Journal studied more than 900 men between 45 and 59, and found that those men who had "high orgasmic frequency" had a 50% lower mortality rate than those who had fewer orgasms.

There's also some evidence that sex will improve your mood and reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

So, go and have more sex. (Safe sex, with someone you love, of course.) Your life depends on it.

7. Going Out in the Sun

When you actually take time to read about the impact of ultraviolet rays from the sun, you suddenly feel like it's better to just stay inside forever. UV rays will damage your skin, and too many sunburns will place you at risk for several types of skin cancer, including the deadly melanoma. The American Cancer Society reported that there will be an estimated 76,100 cases of melanoma in 2014, with 9,710 deaths.

Of course, there are ways to prevent sun damage. Avoiding tanning beds at all cost is advisable. And when you do go out in the sun, avoid going out in the middle of the day and apply a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of at least 30.

8. Entering Your House

To be clear, it's not so much the entering as what can happen to you once you go inside. Specifically, heavy things have the potential to fall on you and hurt you.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that between 2011 and 2013, an annual average of 38,000 people went to emergency rooms after a tipover of a television, furniture, or an appliance. More than half of these incidents involved children, and the vast majority of the 430 deaths were among kids aged 10 and under. But adults still got hurt more than 16,000 times. In 2015, the CPSC will implement a $400,000 campaign to educate people about the potential for television and furniture tip-overs.

9. Accumulating Debt

Debt is not just bad for your financial wellbeing, it may also be bad for your health. A recent study from Northwestern Medicine reported that young people with higher loads of debt reported higher blood pressure and poorer mental health. A Gallup Poll in 2014 reported that 34% of young people with no debt said they were thriving physically, compared to 24% among those with more than $50,000 in debt.

Avoid debt, if you can. If you have debt, pay it off as soon as possible.

Any risks I've overlooked? Please share in comments!

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