When it comes to your health and wellbeing, what you whose do can be as important as what you are doing. “A healthy lifestyle is key to a long, healthy life, and is possible,” says Monique Tello, MD, MPH. “Success may require some thoughtful trial and error, but don’t give up! I have seen all kinds of patients at all ages make amazing changes, and you can, too.” Here are five things your doctor wants you to stop doing. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Ultraviolet light is a major risk factor for skin cancer, so protecting yourself from the sun is crucial, doctors say. “80% of ultraviolet light passes through clouds. So if it is cloudy, we need to still apply sunscreen,” says dermatologist Evelyn Jones, MD. “That is why—365 days of the year—if you just plan and are intentional about putting sunscreen on everywhere the sun can see, then you’re going to be better off and better protected.”
“You’re going to look for an SPF—or sun protection factor—on sunscreen of 30 or higher,” says dermatologist Klint Peebles, MD. “SPF basically tells you how much UVB light that the sunscreen can filter out. For instance, an SPF of 15 is going to filter out 93% of the sun’s UVB rays. An SPF of 30 is going to filter out about 97% of the sun’s UVB rays.”
People who are immunocompromised should take extra care to protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors advise. “We do recommend that they wear masks even if they have been vaccinated,” says Monique Spillman, MD, PhD, gynecologic oncologist and clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Texas A&M College of Medicine. “We know that just because of their therapies—including chemotherapies—their immune systems can be lowered, and they are more at risk of not just COVID-19, but other infectious diseases as well… We strongly urge our patients to be vaccinated and I have that conversation with every single one of my patients, whether they’re on active chemo or immunotherapy or not. We urge them to get vaccinated because even if your immune system is slightly lowered because of chemotherapy or immunotherapy, you can still respond somewhat to the vaccine. And it does give you some level of protection, particularly against the more severe forms of the disease.”
Excess body fat—especially in the abdominal region—is linked to a host of dangerous health conditions including heart disease and diabetes. “I’m a huge, huge fan of doing something very basic and very cheap, which is doing a waist circumference measurement,” says Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, obesity medicine physician and associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “That’s taking a simple tape measure, which should cost you no more than about $6, and measuring at the belly button—or umbilicus if you want to be really fancy—and going around the circumference. Our target waist circumference for women would be 35 inches or less. And for men, it would be 40 inches or less. If we can utilize that in conjunction with weight, we can determine one’s risk stratification… When we carry weight in our midsection—what we call central adiposity—it does increase our risk for metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, so our focus is really in that area.”
Sitting all day and avoiding movement and exercise is strongly linked to ill-health, experts warn. “When we look at a sedentary lifestyle, these are individuals who spend most of their day sitting and don’t ever have any purposeful movement,” says Dr. Stanford. “And by purposeful movement I mean that you get up with intention of being active. Now, in the COVID-19 pandemic era, this looks very different because we are doing a lot of working from home. Maybe one’s physical activity was just that journey to work. Maybe they did a lot of walking to work and from work, and maybe they’re unable to do that in this more virtual era. What I would do is, challenge those individuals to consider building a purposeful activity. Maybe you start your day off with the workout inside of your home, apartment or wherever you are or maybe you conclude your day with something.”
Many Americans are drinking more during the pandemic—and doctors are concerned. “We have seen a significant growth in the number of people needing evaluation for liver transplants—at least here in our facility because our team does those evaluations,” says Alёna A. Balasanova, MD, director of addiction psychiatry education and co-director of the addiction psychiatry consultation-liaison service at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. “You can absolutely develop liver disease and eventually end stage liver disease such that you need a transplant. Alcohol-related liver disease is a leading cause of a need for transplant. [It can] also impact your heart. You can get cardiomyopathy and increased blood pressure, which then, of course, can increase your risk for having strokes.” And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more