With the year drawing to a close, different thoughts are occupying the minds of many. For some people, it is the excitement of reaching goals or surpassing expectations; for some others it is the hope that there is still time to achieve desired results and for the remaining few, it is the disappointment of having one important goal they wish they had already accomplished. At the beginning of the year, there are varieties of resolutions made by people who indulge in the act of making yearly resolutions, and towards the end of the year they assess the progress made. Living healthier is one of the many goals for which people aspire especially at the start of a new year, even though it should be top priority all year round.
Health issues constitute a major source of concern, and this explains why people are encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle as prevention is generally believed to be better than cure. The idea of staying healthy provides benefits to not only the individual, but the community and country at large. When a majority of the population is healthy, there will be increase productivity and invariably economic growth which says well of a country and attracts international relations. Therefore, seeking out ways to maintain and improve health should be a shared interest for the common good. All over the world, people engage in different activities from time to time to improve their health status and such activities may be influenced by culture, religion, educational or social background, environment, current health status amongst many other factors, mostly with the purpose of enjoying and prolonging life.
Health, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Many times, a common question people ask is: “Is it possible for one to be completely healthy?” From the definition it can be seen that health goes beyond the physical appearance of an individual to include the mental state of a person and how the person interacts with the environment. It is common practice to assume that an individual is healthy from their looks only or the fact that they have fewer hospital visits, but this may be misleading as there have been reports of sudden death amongst people assumed to be in a perfect state of health. Thus, being healthy is not just a goal but should be a lifestyle adopted to prevent diseases and prolong life. Nutrition, physical activity and stress management are important factors that can affect a person’s wellbeing. However, health can be influenced by several other factors.
Nutrition relates to how the food we eat interacts with our body, the impact the various nutrients contained in food as well as beverages have on the various systems in the body and activities that go on in them. Healthy eating habits where food is consumed in the right proportion and prepared appropriately promotes health, prevents diseases, limits the progression of certain already established diseases, among other benefits. As there are different classes of food with each class providing a needed function in the body, it is advised that all classes of food be included in the diet except in cases of allergy or otherwise stated by your primary care provider or other health professionals based on a particular health condition. The nutritional requirements vary amongst age groups and sexes and when in doubt, proper guidance should be sought from your primary physician or healthcare professionals who are experts on nutrition. Nutrition has a direct relationship on the health of a person. Healthy eating promotes health, while unhealthy eating could predispose to certain medical conditions. The food eaten could prevent, treat or cause certain diseases. Some of such medical conditions linked to nutrition include obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, heart diseases, some cancers, thyroid diseases, kwashiorkor, beri-beri, scurvy, gallstones, sleep apnoea, osteoporosis, night blindness, dental caries and depression among others. It is recommended that nutrients are consumed in the right proportion as nutritional deficiencies as well as excess may impact health negatively. For example, it is advised that five portions of fruits and vegetables be eaten a day for a good health; it is also advised for adults, that half the plate be filled with vegetables, one-quarter filled with protein and the remaining one-quarter filled with carbohydrates. Water is a very essential part of the diet and should be consumed liberally throughout the day.
Another important aspect that could affect health is physical activity also referred to as exercise. This means the movement of the body ranging from climbing, running, walking, swimming, gardening, dancing and so on. The effect on the body sometimes depends on intensity of the physical activity; hence moderate to vigorous exercise is usually advised. Being physically active has a long-term effect on health and prevents the occurrence of certain diseases. Lack or less than required physical activity referred to as being sedentary is becoming common and as such the attendant health consequences like overweight, obesity, heart diseases, diabetes mellitus, some cancers, arthritis amongst many others. The WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise throughout the week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity throughout the week. However, you should seek medical advice from your primary care provider on the amount of exercise you can have. Physical activity and adequate nutrition when combined lead to a healthier life.
A third component to achieving and maintaining a healthier lifestyle is stress management. Stress cannot be seen but its effect can disrupt the health of an individual. It is one aspect that is often downplayed and overlooked but has significant impact on how well a person functions. With increased industrialisation, there is increased demand on employees and employers who possess limited resources. Time management is one of the major challenges faced by the working population as a lot of other outputs are linked to it. In the pursuit of better health, it is advised that individuals seek out more effective ways to have stress under control so as to improve performance. Talking to a health professional about symptoms is very essential, to help identify the stressor. Some stress management techniques like meditation, breathing exercise, yoga, adequate sleep and relaxation among others could be adopted to help relieve stress. However, these techniques should not replace medical advice from your primary care provider.
Nutrition, exercise and stress management all relate with each other along with other factors to maintain and improve health. Hence there should be a balance amongst them for optimal performance. Avoiding harmful practices like cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol and others is beneficial to health. It is possible to adopt and maintain a healthy way of living; most of it depends on choice.
Health quote of the week:
“Our bodies are our gardens –our wills are our gardeners.”