9 Things That Are Slowly Killing People Without Their Knowledge


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It’s scary enough to think about all the known cancers, accidents, and premature causes of death out there. But what about the lesser known killers brought on by everyday activities? When it comes to leading our healthiest lives, taking note of particular habits, foods, and other lifestyle choices that end up being powerful “silent killers” is crucial. Here are some of the most under-the-radar killers we could find.

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1. Sitting All Day

Since the pandemic, more people have shifted to either a hybrid or full-time remote working model. Yes, this has accomplished some good: Many workers can set their own hours and achieve a more seamless work-life balance. The downside, however, to remote work is that it’s very easy to stay glued to your desk. This takes a toll: Long periods of inactivity are observably detrimental to your health. According to the National Institute of Health, a sedentary lifestyle can increase premature mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer risk, and the risks of metabolic disorders like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. 

The takeaway? Do what you can to break up your day with periods of time where you move your body. It could be something like doing the dishes or laundry around your home, or taking a stroll around the neighborhood. This can be a great way to offset those early afternoon energy dumps as well.

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2. Ignoring Your Home’s Radon Levels

Radon sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, but it’s very real, and it’s very dangerous when left neglected. Radon is an odorless, invisible, and radioactive gas that’s naturally released from rocks, soil, and water. It can easily creep into homes and buildings through any small cracks or openings. The accumulation process from there can be rapid: If one breathes high levels of radon over time, the risk for lung cancer is significantly amplified.

It can also take years before radon-induced health problems present themselves. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that radon accounts for around 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths right after cigarette smoke.

So what’s the solution? A radon mitigation system is the best way to reduce radon levels in your home.

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3. Sleeping Too Much/Too Little

It’s all about striking a balance. Sleeping too little is a surefire way to mess with your immune system. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it can also put you at a heightened risk for developing dementia; heart disease; type 2 diabetes; obesity; and breast, colon, ovarian, and prostate cancers. 

Sleeping too much takes its own kind of toll as well. A review carried out on a series of sleep studies determined that people who clocked more than nine hours of sleep each night could have as much as a 41% higher risk for heart disease than those who slept between seven and eight hours a night.

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4. Overdoing Screen Time

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology warns that more than four hours of screen time a day can elevate your risk for a heart attack or a stroke by as much as 113%. With so many of us considering our phones to be literal extensions of ourselves, these stats are all the more troubling. But there’s hope: A different study published in BMJ Open forecasted that by merely reducing your screen time to under two hours a day, you could stand to add as much as an extra 1.4 years back to your total life expectancy.

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5. Boredom

Boredom comes for us all, but we’re much healthier if we can make a conscious effort to avoid it. A study from the International Journal of Epidemiology interviewed more than 7,500 London civil servants aged 35-55 years old in the late 1980s. Among numerous questions, they were asked if they were ever bored at their jobs over the last month. The same folks were then tracked down to determine who had died by April 2009. 

This is where things get bizarre and ominous. The researchers determined that civil servants who reported being very bored were 2.5 times more likely to die from heart problems than those who weren’t bored.

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6. Loneliness

Loneliness hurts on numerous levels. The emotional despair that can envelope you if you’re suffering through a particularly grueling bout of loneliness can render one claustrophobic with melancholy. On top of that, the American Medical Association reports that there is evidence suggesting that people who experience social isolation and loneliness are at an elevated risk for premature death. These same people also have a 29% increased risk of heart disease, as well as a 32% risk of stroke.

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7. Sloppy Handwriting

If you thought being given grief growing up (or well into adulthood) for having poor handwriting was as bad as it was going to get, you thought wrong. It turns out that, in some instances, bad handwriting can be lethal. A 2006 report determined that doctors’ bad handwriting on prescriptions can account for the deaths of over 7,000 people each year. When you consider how crucial it is that abbreviations and dosages are clearly written on a patient’s prescription bottle, it’s not surprising that a sloppy scrawl can have seriously harmful consequences.

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8. Skipping Out on Flossing

For many, flossing is an added nuisance that people don’t want to incorporate into their dental hygiene routine. Skipping flossing only serves to make things worse, though. When you skip flossing, your gums rapidly become inflamed, which can open the floodgates for harmful bacteria to make their entrance. From there, the risks soar through the roof for stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.

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9. Taking Everything Too Seriously

Whoever started the whole bit about laughter being the best form of medicine was really on to something. Sure, sometimes life is a mess. But if you can will yourself to dig deep for that laughter, your body will thank you. 

A study published in PLOS One and authored by Caroline Kaercher Kramer and Cristiane Bauermann Leitao took a look at 315 participants and found that laughter helps human bodies more than it’s been given credit for. Kramer and Letitao determined that laughter causes a 31.9% reduction in the cortisol levels of participants. Further observation revealed that even one laughter session (ranging anywhere from 9 to 60 minutes) accounted for a reduction in cortisol levels of up to 36.7%. Put simply: More laughter leads to a healthier body.

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