We all know that prevention is better than cure. Doctors and dentists use this adage all the time, but it’s not always clear how to apply this mantra to your own life. If you’re not a health expert, you’re not au fait with the latest technology and research findings, and you don’t read the health news section on a daily basis, you might not be aware of steps you can take to lower your risk of developing health problems. If you’re looking for ways to boost your health and keep illness at bay, here are some preventative measures you can employ today.
Improving your diet
It’s not possible to say that eating certain foods will make you live 20 years longer, but there’s a huge body of evidence to support the notion that eating well contributes to better health and wellbeing. Many of us have come to think of our diets as a means of stabilizing or losing body weight, but the main aim of your diet should be to nourish your body. While the body is capable of making some nutrients, it relies heavily on the food you eat for other vital vitamins and minerals. If you read magazines or you browse newspapers, you may have come across all kinds of food trends and fad diets, which encourage you to cut out food groups, buy exotic ingredients that cost the earth and alter your eating habits dramatically. Often, all that is needed to improve your diet is a few simple changes. Make an effort to incorporate foods that have high nutritional value, increase your intake of whole grains, and try and consume a diverse range of fruit and vegetables. Moderate your intake of sugar, saturated and trans fats, and salt, and try and control your portion size to avoid overeating. Cooking at home is a great way to take control of what you eat, as you decide what goes into your meals. Takeouts and ready-made meals often contain a lot of sugar and salt. If you’re not a master chef, don’t worry. There are a plethora of simple, quick, healthy recipes online.
Tests and assessments
Be honest. When was the last time you went to the dentist, you had your eyes tested, or you went for blood pressure or cholesterol check? You might think that you don’t need to take a trip to the dentist or your doctor unless you feel unwell or you develop abnormal symptoms, but this is a dangerous game to play. If you have high blood pressure, for example, you won’t be aware of this issue unless you have your blood pressure measured. This is because hypertension doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms. Keep up to date with routine assessments and look into tests like low-dose CT scans, which can be used to detect heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. There are many common myths about CT scans, but often, the benefits of having a scan far outweigh the risks. If you have concerns, your doctor will be able to answer any questions and provide you with information about potential side-effects.
Monitoring your BMI
The CDC estimates that around 40% of US adults are obese. Obesity increases the risk of several life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Being overweight can also affect fertility and increase the risk of depression. If you haven’t weighed yourself in a long time, or you have no idea what your BMI is, it’s a good idea to use an online BMI calculator or to arrange to see your doctor. Your BMI is calculated using your height and your weight. A normal reading is between 18.5 and 20. If your BMI is too high, you may wish to make lifestyle changes that will help you lose weight and get closer to that healthy range. The best way to do this without putting your health at risk is to combine regular exercise with a healthy, balanced, calorie-controlled diet. Fad diets may produce rapid results, but they often deprive the body of key nutrients, and they are not sustainable. Many of us eat without paying much attention to calorie content or portion size and taking control of what and how much you eat can make a huge difference. Use apps to keep a food diary and monitor calorie intake, and don’t eat more than you need to.
Being more active
Regular exercise can improve your immunity and lower your risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, osteoporosis, depression, and stress. If you don’t have an active lifestyle, it’s very easy to start moving more. Simple things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and wearing an activity tracker can motivate you to be more active. If you sit at a desk all day, every day, take a break every hour and walk around. Stretch your legs, and use the time you have available to exercise. Even if you can only manage 20 minutes a few times a week, this will benefit your body and your mind. Join dance, spin, Zumba or yoga classes, walk or cycle to work on sunny days, go for a swim when you leave the office, or work out at home using an exercise bike, a treadmill or a fitness DVD. You don’t need to live in the gym to get in better shape, and you’ll notice a difference in how you feel almost instantaneously. Exercise builds strength and stamina, but it also triggers the release of endorphins, which are also known as happy hormones.
Rest and relaxation
Mental health often takes a backseat, but it’s vital to take steps to protect your mind, as well as your body. Make sure you devote enough time to rest and relaxation, spend time with people who make you feel good, be kind to yourself, and try and spot early signs of stress. If you are stressed, try meditating, exercising, or doing something creative, and take a breather. We all need a time out occasionally to recharge our batteries.
If you’re looking to improve your health and wellbeing, it’s always a good idea to focus on preventative measures. Even the simplest changes could make all the difference.