22 Activities Men and Women Do That Increase Their Risk of Chronic Illnesses

A young couple dancing in the kitchen 

While many factors contribute to a person's risk for infections and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, certain lifestyle choices can increase the chances of developing a chronic condition.

From smoking tobacco to ignoring warning signs, here are 22 common things men and women do that may lead to chronic illnesses. However, these risks can be minimized with the right lifestyle changes and preventative measures. Read on to learn what behaviors put your health at risk and how to make a change for the better.

1. Eating an Unhealthy Diet:

Healthy eating and diabetes

Eating healthy food can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and other medical conditions. In addition, eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals, such as fruits and vegetables, is vital for overall health.

Eating whole grains and lean proteins can help you maintain a healthy weight to avoid diabetes and heart disease.

Try to cut down on foods with trans fat because it can also contribute to heart disease. Most processed and fast foods contain trans fat.

2. Maintaining an Unhealthy Weight


As you get older, your metabolism slows. Maintaining a healthy weight is an essential factor in preventing heart disease. Being overweight increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential to overall health and happiness. Take our Weight Aware Health Risk Assessment to find out if you are at risk of weight-related diseases.

3. Avoiding Exercise:

Inside walking track at gym in Longview

Exercise has many mental and physical benefits, plays an important role in everyday life, and helps prevent illness and disease. Regular exercise helps to strengthen the heart muscle and improve circulation. Exercise also helps increase HDL cholesterol levels (known as the "good" cholesterol) and lowers blood pressure, both of which help protect your heart.

4. Smoking:

Quitting smoking can help reduce the risk of heart disease and COPD in several ways. First, quitting eliminates exposure to the dangerous chemicals and toxins in cigarette smoke. These harmful substances can damage the lungs and airways, causing chronic bronchitis and other breathing problems. Smoking can also damage the lining of blood vessels, leading to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other serious health issues. 

5. Not Managing Stress:

Managing stress can lower your risk of developing diseases in several ways. Regular physical activity can help reduce stress while improving overall health and well-being. Research shows exercise can also lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and strengthen the heart.

Practicing mindfulness can also help you manage physical and mental stress. Stress has been linked to inflammation and high blood pressure, contributing to cardiovascular health issues. Mindfulness strategies such as meditation or yoga can help reduce stress while improving your mental state, focus, and overall mental and physical health.

6. Avoiding Regular Checkups and Screenings:

Don't Skip Your Checkup

Monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help detect potential signs of heart disease. Regular checkups also provide opportunities for health care professionals to evaluate your lifestyle choices so they can recommend modifications, if needed, to reduce the risk of serious medical conditions.


Dr. William Pickard, Family Medicine in Port Arthur, Texas said, "People don't want to know something's wrong. I think that's for a lot of people who haven't seen a doctor in a while, men and women. They just get scared and they'll say, 'What I don't know doesn't hurt me.' And in reality, there are a lot of things you don't know that can hurt you."


7. Drinking Too Much:

Heavy alcohol consumption is linked to high blood pressure, increased triglyceride levels, and obesity. All of these are risk factors for developing heart disease. Too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, damage heart muscle, and weaken circulation. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation.

8. Consuming a High Sodium Diet:

Reducing sodium intake can help prevent heart disease. A diet low in salt can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. One of the best ways to reduce sodium intake is simple diet changes. Start by avoiding processed foods, reducing your fast-food intake, and preparing meals with fresh ingredients.

9. Ignoring Cholesterol Levels:

High cholesterol levels can increase the risk of developing heart disease, a stroke, and several other serious health conditions, often with no previous warning signs. If you've been diagnosed with high cholesterol, a change in diet and lifestyle is needed to decrease your chances of a serious health issue developing. Sometimes, your provider may also prescribe medication to help manage your cholesterol levels.

10. Not Getting Quality Sleeping:

Woman having trouble sleeping

Sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy, happy lifestyle and reducing stress. Aim to get at least eight hours of quality sleep each night to stay healthy and support your immune system, energy levels, focus, and physical health. Sleeping eight hours a night makes you less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

11. Not Taking Breaks During Work:

Prioritize tasks, break large projects into smaller chunks, and take breaks when needed. Taking breaks by walking, socializing, getting some fresh air, or simply changing your environment for a few minutes can help reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors. People who take regular breaks during their workday have lower levels of stress hormones, reduced anxiety, and less inflammation.

12. Not Socializing:

Maintaining strong social relationships can help improve your overall health and well-being. Spend time with family and friends, reach out for support when needed, or join a support group.

13. Not Relaxing When Home:

Bringing work home and not taking time to unwind is a common societal issue. Relaxing and decompressing can help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. Reading, spending time outside, or hanging out with friends and family are great ways to practice healthy relaxation. Stress management is an integral part of any wellness plan. Find strategies that work best for you and commit to reducing stress.

14. Waiting Too Long to Seek Care

Some people tend to wait longer than others to seek medical care due to various factors. A few potential reasons that people may hold off include:

  • Lack of knowledge or understanding of their symptoms and conditions
  • Difficulty expressing emotions related to physical health concerns
  • Feeling 'invincible' and not believing that they are vulnerable to illness
  • Feeling that it is a sign of weakness to ask for help
  • Feeling that they don't have time due to busy work schedules

15. Avoiding Professional Medical Help

The reasons why some people are less likely to seek medical help when they need it vary. Some of the most common reasons include shame and stigma associated with seeking professional medical help.

Men in particular may also be more reluctant to seek help due to societal expectations that they should be tough and able to deal with problems independently.

Finally, some people may have a negative attitude toward seeking medical care due to past experiences with health care providers. They may also feel they don't need professional help to solve their issues.

16. Lacking Knowledge of Available Resources

Some people may need to be made aware of the resources available to them. This could make it difficult for them to know where to seek help.

Often, people lack education on health care topics, such as understanding the importance of preventive care or being aware of available treatments.

If you are aware of the resources you can access, you may be more likely to seek proper health care when necessary.

This includes knowing about the services of a primary care doctor, receiving online care if needed, and seeking a specialist to treat specific conditions.

17. Avoiding Regular Blood Tests and Screenings

You should have regular health screenings and blood tests as part of your wellness routine. These help diagnose problems early on, preventing them from becoming more serious.

Men should get regular screenings for cholesterol levels, prostate exams, HIV tests, and colon cancer screenings. Women should get regular screenings for cholesterol levels, mammograms screenings, pap smears, HIV tests, and any others your primary care provider recommends. An annual physical examination is also important for men and women in detecting any health issues.

These tests can help you identify and treat serious illnesses before they become too advanced. They can also help you stay healthy by catching problems before they become life-threatening.

18. Ignoring Family History:

You should be aware of your family's medical history. Understanding inherited genetic conditions and how they may impact your health is important. You should also be aware of lifestyle factors contributing to your risk for certain diseases, especially if you have known health issues in your family.

Knowing about potential health risks can help you make informed decisions regarding your health and lifestyle choices.

Taking proactive steps to understand your family history can help you live a healthier and longer life.

19: Avoiding Health Screenings at Key Ages:

You should know the recommended health screenings for specific age groups. This includes physicals, blood tests, and other tests for potential issues. For instance, men over 50 should get a colonoscopy every 10 years to detect colorectal cancer. Men between 25 and 35 should consider getting tested for HIV and other STDs.
For women, you should get a mammogram every year or every other year depending on your risk, starting at age 40 or when your provider recommends. Until age 65, you should get a pap smear or cervical cancer screening every year. 

Staying on top of recommended health screenings can help you address any medical issues before becoming more serious.

By undergoing these screenings regularly, you can reduce your risk of developing serious health issues.

20: Ignoring Mental Health:

You should not ignore mental health issues and how they affect physical health and quality of life. Mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression can significantly impact overall wellness.

You should be aware of the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and seek professional help when needed. They should also strive to maintain a healthy balance between work and home life to reduce stress and enjoy their life.

By taking mental health seriously, you can lead healthier and happier lives.

21. Ignoring Warning Signs:

You should be aware of the warning signs of something wrong with their health. This includes unexplained weight loss, fatigue, chest pains, other pain, or any other sudden changes in physical health.

It's important to consult a doctor if any of these symptoms arise and to get the appropriate medical care. Ignoring warning signs can lead to more serious medical conditions.

By paying attention to any warning signs, you can get the help they need quickly and nip potential health issues in the bud.

22. Not Building a Relationship with a Primary Care Provider:

Navigating Your Health with a Primary Care Provider

You should have a trustworthy primary care provider who you can build relationships with. A primary care provider can help you stay informed about your health, monitor for potential issues, and provide guidance on maintaining good health.

An ongoing relationship with a primary care provider allows you to discuss any issues that may arise and provides an opportunity to review health goals.

By developing a relationship with a primary care provider, you can ensure they get the best care for their needs.

How You Can Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle

You must know the importance of exercise and nutrition. Eating healthy is essential for physical and mental well-being, while regular exercise can help reduce stress and improve overall fitness. By leading a healthy lifestyle, you can live a healthier, happier, and longer life.

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