10 ways to reduce the Risks of Health problems

Many things change in our lives as we age, the children move out, we start getting ready for retirement and we hopefully have the time to do more of what we want. We want to be as healthy as we can so we can enjoy these future events.

Cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) and lung disease are the leading causes of preventable death and disability in Canada. As you age, the risks of these health problems increase and can prevent us from enjoying out lives.  Reducing the risk of these four chronic diseases (long-term or ongoing illnesses) is within your control.  Here are 10 ways to reduce risks of chronic disease:

1.  Nutrition – You are what you eat

One of the ways to reduce these risks is to change what and when you eat.  Just think if we eat better as we age then it will help us to age better as well.

Although nutrition has become increasingly complicated and confusing for the average person there is merit in keeping things simple.  For example, choosing high fibre, lower fat foods and 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables every day can go a long way in eating healthier and preventing chronic diseases. It can be as simple as balancing your daily meals with foods from Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating.

2.  Exercise

Being overweight increases your risk for diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. The risk of a heart attack is three times higher in women who are overweight than in those who have a healthy weight. Increasing the amount you move each day will help you maintain or lose weight, increase your overall energy and improve the functioning of your heart. Be active at a moderate- to –vigorous – intensity at least 2.5 hours a week to achieve health benefits. You can spread out the activities into sessions of 10 minutes or more. Don’t forget the benefits of adding muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least twice a week. This will help your posture and balance. Any amount of physical activity will do you some good, but to achieve greater health benefits, do more.

For more information on Achieving a Healthy Body Weight and Exercise go to www.hc-sc.gc.cn

3.  Rest

The best feature of our body is it can repair itself, given the opportunity. It is so important to give your body some time to repair and recharge by give it some rest and regenerate.

4.  Stop smoking

Most people know that smoking is bad for you.  If you don’t smoke, don’t start! If you do smoke talk to your doctor about the many ways available to help you decrease the amount you smoke and to quit smoking.

Second hand smoke is just as bad.  Non-smoking adults should not expose themselves to second hand smoke. Second-hand smoke may cause you to have an increased risk of lung cancer and respiratory problems. It can also increase your risk of heart disease, because second-hand smoke increases the formation of blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and stroke; raises your heart rate and damages your heart muscle; and lowers the level of protective HDL-cholesterol in your blood. If you live with a smoker, protect yourself and others from the health effects of second-hand smoke by keeping your home and car 100% smoke-free.

For more information on quitting smoking

5.  Control your blood pressure.

Keeping your blood pressure in check can help prevent damage to the walls of your arteries like tears and bulges and possibly slow the hardening of your arteries. Proper eating and exercise as well as keeping your weight within a healthy range are all ways to keep your blood pressure controlled.

An important part of healthy eating and blood pressure control is choosing foods that are low in salt (sodium chloride) and other forms of sodium. Using less sodium is key to keeping blood pressure at a healthy level. The recommended Dietary Intake for sodium is no more than 2.4 grams (2,400 milligrams) of sodium a day. That equals 6 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of table salt a day. Have your blood pressure checked regularly by your healthcare provider.

6.  Limit your intake of alcohol.

Drinking too much alcohol can put you at risk for many kinds of cancer. While there is some evidence that moderate drinking may offer some health benefits, too much alcohol is unhealthy. Moderate drinking means an average of one drink for women or two drinks for men per day.

7.  Reduce Stress

Stress can be hard on the body and your mind. People under large amounts of stress can become tired, sick, and unable to concentrate or think clearly. Sometimes, they even suffer mental breakdowns.  Prolonged stress can really weaken the body.

8.  Get regular check-ups

Have a regular doctor you can go to who will know your history and the medications you may be on. You should feel comfortable with this individual and convenience of location and hours they can see you may aid with how regularly you see your doctor. See this individual yearly or as needed.

9.  Manage a healthy weight

Although everyone’s optimal weight is different, the general standard used for body weight is the Body Mass Index.  The Body Mass Index is one of the standards to determine if you are overweight or obese which are significant risks for health problems.  For more information on maintaining a healthy body weight.

10.  Remain Social

Humans are naturally social beings and because of that, it is important to have relationships with family, friends or co-workers. Most people do not strive to be lonely because loneliness can create more stress, lead to depression and leave the body more vulnerable to illness and disease.

Written by Liz Yih

Elizabeth Yih is a registered dietitian who specializes in Eating Disorders at the University of Alberta Hospital. She also consults for Wholesum Nutrition and has a general passion for living healthy and helping others do the same. Most importantly, she sets a positive example to live life healthy and happy for her four children.

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