There aren’t many things worse for your body than soda. Those sugar-sweetened empty calories are a prime driver of the country’s obesity epidemic. Consuming excessive added sugar can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. (One doctor we spoke with said that many of her patients who kick the soda habit automatically lose 20 pounds!) But there are five habits that are as bad for your health, and may actually be worse, than drinking soda. Read on to find out what they are—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.  

Sleepy exhausted woman working at office desk with her laptop, her eyes are closing and she is about to fall asleep, sleep deprivation and overtime working concept

Twenty years ago, scientists weren’t sure why humans sleep. Now, we know sleep is as essential to good health as diet and exercise—during sleep, various body systems reboot and refresh themselves, including the brain, which cleanses itself of debris. A lack of quality sleep has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and dementia. Experts including the National Sleep Foundation recommend that adults of every age get seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night to ensure optimum health. 

back pain sitting

A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for some of the most serious diseases, including dementia, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. The good news: even small amounts of activity can make a difference. Experts suggest inserting excuses to walk into your day wherever you can, ideally achieving 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week.

frustrated and stressed businessman sitting at the office front a computer and holding head

Life is stressful. But stress management is crucial to staying healthy. Constant stress increases the risk of chronic illness, and it can actually age us on the cellular level. Harvard Medical School reports that chronic stress seems to shorten telomeres, the structures inside each of our cells that house DNA. Telomeres start out long and get shorter; when they get too short, a cell eventually dies. People with shorter telomeres are at risk of serious issues like heart disease and cancer. 

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Elderly woman stands by window look away.

Studies have found that chronic loneliness can have negative health effects similar to obesity, physical inactivity and smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It’s been found to increase older adults’ risk of dementia by 50%. And brain health isn’t the only threat: A recent Finnish study found that men who reported feeling lonely over two decades were more likely to be diagnosed with cancer—and faced a worse prognosis. 

RELATED: 5 Ways to Prevent Dementia, Says Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Pharmacist checking blood pressure of customer

Your blood pressure is one of the most important sets of numbers you need to know—and have checked regularly. It should be no higher than 130/80, says the American Heart Association says. (According to Harvard Medical School, that means 70% to 79% of men older than 55 technically have high blood pressure.) Over time, high blood pressure can damage blood vessels throughout the body, increasing your risk of stroke, heart attacks, and dementia. And to get through life at your healthiest, don’t miss these 13 Everyday Habits That Are Secretly Killing You.

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