10 Ways We’re Killing Ourselves by Taking Health Risks

February 15th, 2015 | by

The sad part of our human condition is that we’re a stubborn lot. We want what we want when we want it, and often don’t give much thought to the outcome. Most of us, in the back of our minds, already know how risking our health will pay us back in the long run, we just don’t want to own up to it. After all, there are lots of people who are old who have smoked all their lives, right? Those warnings on every pack we buy can’t possibly be meant for US. We are amazing self-deceivers.


While our optimistic attitude actually serves us well in many ways, in the area of health care, it does not. When applied to most areas of life, optimism gives us the motivation we need try new things, continue to struggle with things when the goal is worthwhile, or bring us back from terrible things that happen in life. However, thinking things are going to be just fine when you engage in a risky health practice will come back to bite you in the you-know-where.


The number of premature deaths humans experience due to exposure to health risks is far too high. According to an international study conducted by the University of Washington (2010), the highest risks to health and number of deaths attributable to those risks are shown in the following:


Risk                                                      Deaths

Dietary risks                                        678,282

Smoking                                               465,651

High blood pressure                          442,656

High body mass index                       363,991

Physical inactivity                               234,022

High blood sugar                                 213,669

High total cholesterol                         158,431

Ambient air pollution                          103,027

Alcohol use                                           88,587

Drug use                                               25,430




Steps to reduce these risks can be easy or they can be daunting, but none are impossible.


  • Dietary Risks


I know, I know, it’s the same old advice that you get tired of hearing. Eat more fruits and vegetables. While fruits and vegetables offer the most health benefits when fresh, they can be made into tasty and decidedly NOT boring salads and dishes. Have some with every meal.


  • Smoking


Of course, the key here is to never start, because it’s difficult to give up. You may need to involve yourself in a support organization or quit with a friend to keep each other accountable and increase your life expectancy.


  • Blood Pressure


Blood pressure, if it’s caught by a doctor, can be controlled with medication. However, the medication itself can have some unpleasant side-effects. Engaging in some cardiovascular sport helps, and you don’t have to be sports-minded to do it…dancing in the dark in your kitchen will do the trick as long as it’s energetic!


  • High Body Mass Index (BMI)


Everyone has a right to make their own lifestyle choices, and being overweight is one of them. However, it’s no secret that being overweight and having a high BMI can be very difficult on the body and be a gateway for other diseases, causing life expectancy to decrease.


  • Physical Inactivity


Many people have jobs that position them in front of a computer or at a desk much of the day. That means to include exercise in our lives, we must do it on our own time, which can be difficult if we have obligations. However, exercise can be as simple as a brisk 10-minute walk as often as you can, it’s not necessary to dedicate huge blocks of time.


  • High Blood Sugar


Also known as hyperglycemia, one of the biggest problems with this conditions is that symptoms don’t become noticeable damage starts to occur. If blood sugar reaches a certain level, you could have diabetes. Lower levels of blood sugar can be treated with diet and exercise; however, some people may require insulin.


  • High Cholesterol


High Cholesterol can cause fatty deposits to form in blood vessels, which can end up being a ticking time bomb to your body. Enough fatty deposits and blood flow may be blocked. High cholesterol is often controlled with a healthy diet and regular exercise, but can also be controlled with medication.


  • Ambient Air Pollution


According to the World Health Organization, ambient air pollution is responsible for many cases of COPD, lung cancer, and other diseases. While you can’t control the quality of the air, if you can, stay inside on days when there is high pollution and if you feel at risk, wear a mask if practical.


  • Alcohol Use


It’s not likely we will give up our beloved alcohol any time soon. Because it’s a poison that needs to be cleared out by our liver, and because of the potential for abuse, we must monitor our intake. While a glass of wine after work may not be cause for concern, overindulgence can significantly lower your life expectancy. According to, 70% of people who abuse alcohol can increase their health status in 6 months with treatment.


  • Drug Use


The use of drugs has been a blessing and a curse to society. They can make us feel better but inappropriate use of legal drugs or use of illegal drugs can kill us instantly or over a period of time. Most people require treatment to regain their health and increase life expectancy.


How at risk are you?