Avoid These Everyday Health Hazards

It’s morning, and you wake to sunlight streaming through your window. After a steamy shower, you make yourself a healthy breakfast and a piping-hot cup of herbal tea. You pack yourself a can of vegetable soup for lunch and head out for your day. Sounds like a pretty healthy routine, right? Not necessarily. Even some of the healthiest-seeming lifestyle choices might be undermining your well-being without you even knowing it. The good news? With a few simple changes, you can easily sidestep the five potential health hazards below:

1. Light-filled nights: Streetlights and other light sources that “trespass” into homes and bedrooms at night are linked to cancer and other health problems, says a new report from the American Medical Association. Being exposed to light when it should be dark reduces the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep cycles and affects the immune system. As we age, melatonin levels naturally drop; so sometimes, in addition to a dark bedroom, taking low dose melatonin (1–3 mg 30 minutes before bed) can help with sleep health.

2. Piping-hot beverages: Letting your latte or cup of tea cool for a few minutes before drinking it might protect your throat from cancer, suggests a new study that compared 300 people diagnosed with a throat tumor to a group of 571 healthy people who lived in the same area. Those who drank hot tea (between 65 and 69 degrees Celsius) were twice as likely to develop throat cancer compared with those who drank warm or lukewarm tea. Although it is unclear how, an editorial in The Lancet suggests scorching fluids may cause damage to the throat’s epithelial lining. Such cellular irregularity may lead to cancer.

3. Canned food: You may have switched from a plastic to a stainless-steel water bottle in an effort to avoid bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that has been shown to imitate estrogen and other hormones in animals; but BPA also lines the inside of metal food cans—everything from soda to soup. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider normal exposure to BPA to be a hazard; however, a recent U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) report concluded that there is some concern that fetuses, infants and children exposed to BPA may be at increased risk for early-onset puberty and prostate and breast cancer. Until we know for sure, choose fresh or jarred food over canned whenever possible.

4. Speed eating: We’ve become a nation of express eaters—dining in cars, at desks, in front of TVs, and often at astounding speeds. It’s not surprising that a team of Japanese researchers found eating fast and until “feeling full” can more than triple your risk of becoming overweight; but did you know eating too fast can also trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response? Speed eating releases the stress hormone cortisol, and shuttles blood from the gut to the organs, which reduces the absorption of nutrients. The simple solution is to eat slowly and mindfully.

5. Loneliness: Feeling lonely can raise blood pressure and disrupt sleep, both of which put you at greater risk for heart trouble, according to a University of Chicago study. Furthermore, having solid friendships has been linked to everything from improved breast-cancer survival rates to lower chances of obesity. Establishing and nurturing friendships can happen via a variety of outlets, everything from dinner parties to book clubs to places of worship. The key is to find an avenue that allows you to feel connected.