Advance with MUSC Health

10 Things Not to Do to Promote Health

Jerry Reves, M.D.
January 15, 2024
Person running on the beach

Each January, this column contains advice on things to do to improve healthy aging. In fact, you probably have a habit of reminding yourself of all the things you should do in the new year to make it more prosperous and healthier.

Just as there are many things to do, there are almost as many things not to do.

This column has 10 not-to-do actions for a healthier year. Avoidance will improve health and reduce stress that leads to failing health.

Do not smoke or use illicit drugs

There is abundant evidence that smoking is harmful to one’s health. It’s never too early or too late to stop. Although nicotine is addictive, many aids to help you stop smoking are available. As for the mind-altering, addictive illicit drugs such as marijuana and its derivatives, they, too, are harmful for many reasons. The craving that they cause interferes with healthy life experiences and can impair performance.

Do not drink alcohol excessively

As with tobacco, alcohol in excess is proven to be detrimental to physical and mental health. It also leads to isolation and social deprivation.

Do not operate machinery under the influence of alcohol and drugs

Many fatal accidents can be traced to alcohol and impaired judgment and reflexes. As we age, we already have impaired reflexes, and adding drugs of any kind, including alcohol, can impair performance even further, leading to deadly consequences on the road, in water or in the shop with tools.

Do not eat unhealthy foods

Our diet is one of the best ways we have to preserve our health, and what we don’t eat is also a part of the healthy recipe. Stay away from foods high in saturated fats, fried in animal oils, high in salt and baked with lots of sugar. These foods taste good but aren’t good for you. They lead to hypertension, obesity that can lead to some cancers and heart and vascular disease, including stroke.

Do not sleep less than seven hours a day

Rest and good sleep each day are vital to good health. Sleep is essential to a healthy immune system, mental clarity and stamina. Regular sleep cycles involve a routine that permits you to get the seven uninterrupted hours of sleep necessary for good health.

Don’t skip regular exercise

Regular exercise is another proven strategy to attain and maintain good health. We can find seemingly thousands of reasons not to do it, but we must put them aside if our aim is to remain healthy. Twenty or more minutes a day of exercise is a must for everyone. It can be managed no matter what else there is to do or what the weather is like.

Do not ignore others

To remain healthy, you must pay attention to and interact with others. Many studies have shown that socialization is an important part of staying healthy.

Do not miss doctor appointments or skip medications

Health maintenance is a team effort between you and your physician. Regular check-ups or follow-up appointments are proven methods to improve health. Some routine appointments can even be done virtually, which can be easier and more convenient.

Medicines are all different and require specific instructions on how (with or without food) to take them and how often and when. Medicines are prescribed to be taken at a particular time or frequency because of their unique properties, and it is up to you to follow the instructions for maximum benefit.

Do not track storms more than about four times a day

No scientific evidence exists to support this recommendation; it’s based on personal observation. If, however, a hurricane is headed your way, keep up with the latest advisory, but don’t try to follow each one. We can’t control the weather, and excessive preoccupation with it leads to unnecessary stress. Have a storm plan and use it when necessary, but otherwise, concentrate on the things that you can control.

Do not watch/listen to “the news” or talking heads excessively

This key to health is like the weather. We can’t control all the bad things happening. Excessive exposure to disturbing ideas is not good for one’s health because it leads to stress that causes us harm. You can get reliable news reporting by reading good newspapers in the morning or afternoon, either online or locally,  and you’ll find that they have information that is less traumatizing.

Things Not to Do to Promote Health


  • Smoke or use illicit drugs
  • Drink alcohol excessively
  • Operate cars, boats, machinery under the influence
  • Eat saturated fats, salt, sugar, fried and prepared food
  • Sleep less than seven hours a day
  • Skip regular exercise
  • Ignore others and be reclusive
  • Miss physician appointments and prescribed medications
  • Track storms more than four times a day
  • Watch/listen to “news” and talking heads excessively

The Bottom Line

January is a good time to form or reaffirm good habits and discard bad ones. The list of things not to do is a suggestion. You know your own good and bad habits, and the beginning of the year is the best time to break the bad ones. Good luck with the good ones, and have a happy and healthy new year.