YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH
Austin, who lives in Britain, leads a busy life. In the past, he had some unhealthful habits but came to realize that he was paying a price for them. He stopped smoking and overindulging in alcohol. Still, long days in front of his computer left him feeling lethargic.
Although Austin started work at eight o’clock in the morning, he rarely felt fully awake until ten, and he was often sick. So he made an adjustment to his routine. The result? “In the last seven years, I haven’t taken more than two sick days a years,” he reports. “I feel great –awake and alert –and I enjoy life.”
Austin, his wife, and their two small children live in Nepal. Sanitation is lacking in their neighborhood, and the area swarms with mosquitoes and flies. In the past, Austin, and his family frequently suffered from respiratory problems as well as eye infections. They too made changes that greatly improved their health.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH
Whether they are rich or poor, many people fail to see the link between their habits and their health. They may regard enjoying good health as a matter of chance or as something over which they have little control. Such a fatalistic view holds many back from improving their health and leading a more productive life.
In reality, whatever your financial circumstances, there are basic steps you can take to protect and greatly improve your own health and that of your family. Is doing so worth the efforts? By all means! You can increase the quality of your life and avoid needlessly shortening it.
By word and example, parents can teach their children to form good habits, resulting in better health. The extra time and expense involved will be repaid in reduced suffering, less time lost to illness, and less money spent on medical bills. As the saying goes, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
KEY 1 : EAT WISELY
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”
With these few words, author Michael Pollan encapsulates simple, time-tested dietary advice. What does he mean?
EAT FRESH FOODS. Concentrate on eating “real” food –whole, fresh foods that people have been enjoying for millenniums –rather than modern processed foods. Commercially prepackaged foods and fast food from chain restaurants usually contain high levels of sugar, salt, and fat, which are associated with heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other serious illnesses. When cooking, try steaming, baking, and broiling instead of frying. Try using more herbs and spices to cut down on salt. Make sure meats are properly cooked, and never eat spoiled food.
DO NOT EAT TOO MUCH. The World Health Organization reports a dangerous worldwide increase in overweight and obese people, often the result of overeating. One study found that in parts of Africa, “there are more children who are overweight than malnourished.” Obese children are at risk of present as well as future health problems, including diabetes. Parent, set a good example for your children by limiting your own portions.
EAT MOSTLY PLANTS. A balanced plate favors a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains over meats and starches. Once or twice a week, try substituting fish for meat. Reduce refined foods such as pasta, white bread, and white rice, which have been stripped of much of their nutritional value. But avoid potentially dangerous fad diets. Parents, protect your children’s health by helping them to acquire a taste for foods that are healthful. For example, give them nuts and thoroughly washed fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks instead of chips or candy.
DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS. Adults and children need to drink plenty of water and other unsweetened liquids every day. Drink more of these during hot weather and when doing heavy physical work and exercise. Such liquids aid digestion, cleanse your body of poisons, make for healthier skin, and promote weight loss. They help you to feel and look your best. Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and too many sweetened drinks. One soft drink a day can add seven kilograms to your weight in a year.
In some lands, obtaining clean water can be hard work and is expensive. Yet, drinking it is vital. Tainted water needs to be boiled or chemically treated. Dirty water is said to kill more people than wars or earthquakes; it reportedly kills 4,000 children a day. For infants, the World Health Organization recommends only breast-feeding for the first six months, then breast-feeding plus some other foods until at least the age of two.
KEY 2: TAKE CARE OF BASIC BODY NEEDS
“No one ever hated his body: on the contrary, he provides and cares for it.” Taking basic steps to care for yourself can make a world of difference in your health.
GET ENOUGH REST. “Better is a handful of rest than a double handful of hard work and striving after the wind.” The demands and distractions of modern life have whittled away at the time people spend sleeping. But sleep is essential to good health. Studies show that during sleep our body and brain repair themselves, benefiting memory and mood.
Sleep reinforces the immune system and reduces our risk of infection, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, obesity, depression, and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than artificially bypassing sleepiness –our natural “safety device” –with sweets, caffeine, or other stimulants, we should heed it and simply get some sleep. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep every night to look, feel, and perform their best.
Young people need more. Sleep-deprived teens are more prone to have psychological troubles and to fall asleep when driving. Sleep is essentially important when we are sick. Our body can overcome some illnesses, such as a cold, if we simply get extra sleep and drink plenty of fluids.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH. Brushing your teeth and flossing them after meals, and especially before going to bed, will help ward off tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss.
Without our own teeth, we may not benefit fully from the food we eat. It is reported that elephants do not die of old age but that they slowly starve to death after their teeth wear down and they can no longer chew properly. Children who have been taught to brush and floss their teeth after eating will enjoy better health in youth and throughout life.
GO TO THE DOCTOR. Some ailments call for professional medical attention. Early diagnosis usually results in a better outcome and less expense. So if you do not feel well, get help to find and eliminate the cause, instead of merely seeking to relieve the symptoms.
Regular checkups from accredited healthcare providers can head off many serious problems, as can getting professional medical attention during pregnancy. Keep in mind, though, that doctors cannot perform miracles.
KEY 3: KEEP YOURSELF MOVING
“If exercise were a pill, it would be the most widely prescribed medication in the world.” Of all things we can do for our health, few are more generally helpful than physical exercise.
EXERT YOURSELF. Leading a physically active life can help us feel happier, think more clearly, have more energy, be more productive and, along with proper diet, control our weight. Exercise need not be painful or extreme to be effective. Regular periods of moderate exercise several times a week can be very beneficial.
Jogging, brisk walking, biking, and taking part in active sports –enough both to get your heart beating faster and to cause you to break a sweat –can improve your endurance and help to prevent heart attack and stroke. Combining such aerobic exercise with moderate weight training and calisthentics helps to strengthen your bones, internal muscles, and limbs. These activities also contribute to maintaining a higher metabolism, which automatically helps to control your weight.
USE YOUR FEET. Exercise is beneficial for people of all ages, and membership in a gym is not required to get it. Simply using your feet instead of a car, bus, or elevator is a good start. Why wait for a ride when you can walk to your destination, perhaps even arriving there faster?
Parents, encourage your children to participate in physical play, outdoors whenever possible. Such activity strengthens their bodies and helps them to develop whole-body coordination in ways that sedentary entertainment, such as video games, cannot.
No matter how old you are when you start, you can benefit from moderate physical exercise. If you are older or have health problems and have not been exercising, it is wise to consult a doctor about how to begin.
But do begin! Exercise that is started gradually and not overdone can help even the oldest among us to maintain muscle strength and bone mass. It can also help seniors to avoid falls.
KEY 4: PROTECT YOUR HEALTH
“Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself”
Taking simple protective steps can help you avoid much sickness and misery, as well as loss of time and money.
KEEP YOURSELF CLEAN. “Hand washing is the single most important thing that you can do to help prevent the spread of infection and to stay healthy and well,” reports U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
As many as 80 percent of infections are said to be passed on by unclean hands. So wash them often throughout the day. Do so especially before eating, preparing foods, or dressing or even touching a wound, and do so after touching an animal, using the toilet, or changing a baby’s diaper.
Washing with soap and water is more effective than using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Children say healthier when parents train them to wash their hands and to keep the away from their mouth and eyes. Bathing every day and keeping your clothes and bed linens fresh and clean also contribute to better health.
AVOID INFECTIOUS DISEASE. Avoid close physical contact or the sharing of eating utensils with any who have a cold or the flu. Their saliva and nasal secretions can pass the illness to you. Such blood-borne diseases as hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS are transmitted primarily through sexual contact, intravenous drug use, and transfusion.
Vaccination can help to prevent some infections, but a wise person must still take necessary precautions when with someone who has an infectious disease. Avoid insect bites. Do not sit or sleep outdoors unprotected when mosquitoes or other disease-carrying insects are active. Use bed nets, especially for children, and use insect repellants.
KEEP YOUR HOME CLEAN. Make whatever extra effort is needed to keep your home tidy and clean, inside and out. Eliminate any places where water can collect and mosquitoes can breed. Litter, filth and uncovered foods and garbage attract insects and vermin, all of which can bring in microbes and cause disease. If there is no toilet, build a simple latrine rather than just relieving yourself in a field. Cover the latrine to keep out flies, which transmit eye infection and other diseases.
AVOID INJURING YOURSELF. Obey safety laws when working, riding a bicycle or motorcycles, or driving a car. Make sure your vehicle is safe to drive. Use appropriate protective equipment and clothing, such as safety glasses, headgear, and footwear, as well as seat belts and hearing protection. Avoid excessive sun exposure, which causes cancer and premature aging of the skin. If you smoke, stop. Quitting now will significantly lower your risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke.
KEY 5: MOTIVATE YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY
“Everyone shrewd will act with knowledge.” Arming yourself with basic health information can equip and help motivate you to make needed adjustments for better personal and family
KEEPING LEARNING. Public and private institutions in many lands provide educational programs and literature on a wide range of health topics. Take advantage of them, and educate yourself about basic ways to improve your health and to avoid endangering it. Keep an open mind, and be willing to make simple adjustments.
The good habits you learn and put into practice may well benefit your children and their children after them. When parents set a good example in regard to healthful nutrition, cleanliness, sleep habits, exercise, and disease prevention, their offspring are likely to benefit.
WHAT MORE IS NEEDED? It takes more than self-interest to establish and maintain a healthy way of life. Eliminating long-standing bad habits can be daunting, and making even simple adjustments often requires strong motivation. Even the threat of serious illness and death may not move some to do what they know is good for them. What will? Like all of us, they need to keep in mind a higher purpose, or objective, in life.