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Healthy and Unhealthy Habits

Living a long, healthy life depends on on many factors, including genetics, but certain habits can have a major effect. Smoking, drinking and overeating contribute to illnesses and serious life-threatening diseases, while eating a healthy diet and making exercise a habit can keep you well and extend life. The key is to replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones.

Smoking and Drinking

Smoking is an unhealthy habit that is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and 80 to 90 percent of emphysema and chronic bronchitis deaths, according to the American Lung Association. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 percent of which are known to cause cancer, and smoking also contributes to heart disease. Excessive drinking can also have serious health consequences, including high blood pressure, stroke, cirrhosis of the liver, certain cancers and accidental injury and death. Some research suggests moderate drinking may actually help your health, but MayoClinic.com says that women should consume no more than one drink daily and men should imbibe no more than two drinks a day.


Overeating can lead to obesity, a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. If you’re consuming more calories than your body uses, the excess is stored as fat, eventually leading to overweight and obesity. Eating sugary and fatty foods, raiding the refrigerator late at night and gorging on large portions at dinner can lead to weight problems that can shorten your life. Professional counseling and support groups can help curtail these bad habits and reduce overeating.

Consuming Fruits and Vegetables

Eating fruits and vegetables is a healthy habit that will help keep you well and may extend your life. According to Harvard School of Public Health, including plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet can help prevent heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some types of cancers and age-related eye diseases. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines advise eating 5 to 13 servings, or at least 2 to 6 cups, of fruits and vegetables a day. Get into the habit by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal.

Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity is one of the healthiest habits you can adopt. The CDC reports that people who are physically active 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of serious disease and early death than those who exercise less than 30 minutes a week. Regular exercise lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes and protects against cancers, particularly breast and colon cancer. If you plan to make regular exercise a habit, the CDC recommends starting slowly, especially if you’ve been inactive for a long time. Brisk walking is an excellent exercise habit because it provides an aerobic workout that is safe for most people.

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