Your Health Bubble
I don’t need to tell you that tobacco in any form—smoked, chewed, vaped—is bad for you. You know about its link to cancer. You know about its link to respiratory problems. You know about its link to adverse effects during pregnancy. You know that even secondhand smoke can contribute to a host of health problems.
Tobacco use persists because it is a Habit of Disease in its worst possible form. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance on its own, but the tendency for tobacco-use to become a response for a range of emotions—from boredom to happiness—the habit of smoking or chewing can become deeply rooted in your automatic behavior patterns. This is why so many people still smoke despite the overwhelming awareness for the consequences.
In honor of World No Tobacco Day, which takes place on May 31, the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance asked me to help them raise awareness for the little known link between asbestos exposure and smoking: the risk for developing mesothelioma can increase by 9,000% for smokers who have been exposed to asbestos. Not only is this another reason to add to the many for never smoking in the first place, it could also form the beginning of a dialog with your primary care physician if this risk applies to you.
This link highlights a critical but often-overlooked factor in health: your environment. In the Habits of Health system, we talk about building your health bubble: surround yourself with positive people, reorganize your home to support Habits of Healthy Eating, Movement, and Sleep, and strive to mitigate perpetual sources of stress and anxiety. These pieces of your health bubble tend to be tangible. You might repaint your bedroom using a relaxing shade of blue, and you might start using smaller plates to help with portion control, but the pieces that are less visible are no less important.
For example, a healthy environment should also include the following:
- Air-Filtration: Are you breathing fresh, clean air? Using an air filtration system and regularly changing air filters in your heaters and air conditioners can help minimize the respiratory strain caused by dust and potential harmful particular matter.
- Water-Filtration: Is your water pure? Like air filtration, water filtration helps you to ensure that the water you drink is clean and free of potential harmful chemicals.
- Asbestos Awareness: According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos insulation and textured paint and patching compounds from before 1977 may also contain asbestos. The presence of asbestos does not pose an immediate threat, but if asbestos becomes damaged (perhaps through wear and tear or if you are remodeling) it can become a health hazard. If your home is at risk, talk to a professional about the potential for danger.
- Lead Awareness: According to the Center for Disease Control, lead is especially dangerous for children, and lead is likely to be in the paint for houses built before 1978. Like asbestos, the lead in paint is most dangerous when the paint begins to deteriorate. Paint chips and even dust can pose lead hazards. If your house is older, make sure that everything is in good condition and consider talking your state or local health department about your lead concerns.
- Mold Awareness: Depending on your climate and the age of your home, harmful mold can contribute to sinus and respiratory problems and even trigger serious allergic reactions. The Center for Disease Control recommends controlling the humidity levels and ensuring that your home has adequate ventilation to prevent mold from occurring in the first place.
As it is with any area of your health, neglecting your environment can complicate other areas of your health, even intensifying the consequences of other Habits of Disease much in the same way that the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure increases the likelihood of mesothelioma.
Your environment matters, so get rid of any source of harmful chemicals, tobacco or otherwise.