For A Better Tomorrow
Written by Lucy Cook
Taking care of yourself by eating a wholesome, nutritious diet and exercising regularly has countless benefits. It can help improve your immune system, reduce the amount of times you fall ill, improve your sleep, give you more energy, enhance your memory, reduce your stress levels and aid in weight maintenance. However, in addition to these immediate benefits, taking care of yourself today can help safeguard your future so you can live a better tomorrow. In fact, taking care of yourself today can help reduce your likelihood of developing many of the most common chronic illnesses that are prevalent society today.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to conditions that involve narrow or blocked arteries that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain, stroke as well as other heart conditions. CVD is a major cause of death in Australia and represents one of Australia’s largest health problems (Craft & Gordon, 2015). There are various risk factors for CVD and while many such as old age, genetics and gender are unmodifiable, there are also various modifiable risk factors. These modifiable risk factors represent areas that you and your family can work on today to help prevent the development of CVD later in life.
Eating a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats is extremely beneficial. Avoid fried and processed foods and base your meals around whole foods with ample fruits and vegetables and you will be safeguarding your heart against CVD. Further to this, physical inactivity is a major risk factor for CVD so partaking in regular physical activity can also help reduce your risk. Finally, reducing your intake of alcohol and quitting smoking is also extremely beneficial.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. This makes bones weaker and more prone to fracture. 4.75 million Australians over the age of 50 have osteoporosis and this number is expected to increase over the next decade (Craft & Gordon, 2015). Fortunately, there are many measures you can put in place now to prevent yourself and your family from developing osteoporosis in the future.
Two extremely important nutrients for bone health are calcium and vitamin D. Consuming a diet rich in calcium from foods such as milk, yogurt, green leafy vegetables, almonds, tofu and fish with bones is an extremely helpful way to prevent osteoporosis. In order for your body to absorb this calcium however, vitamin D is required. Thus, consuming adequate vitamin D is equally as important and this can come from fortified foods, supplements or from responsible sun exposure. In addition to this, performing regular weight bearing activity can help strengthen your bones and prevent the development of osteoporosis later in life. Finally, reducing your intake of coffee, soft drinks and take-away foods, all of which reduce calcium levels in the body, can help prevent the development of osteoporosis.
Diabetes is a condition that results from inadequate metabolism of a hormone called insulin, resulting in high levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes is a serious condition which can affect the entire body, causing conditions such as blindness, kidney failure, limb amputations, heart disease and mental health disorders. Over 4% of Australians suffer from diabetes and it is therefore an extremely prevalent and problematic condition (Craft & Gordon, 2015). There are three main types of diabetes, type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy. Type 1 diabetes is not linked to modifiable risk factors and cannot be prevented. There are however, various steps that you and your family can take today to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes later in life.
Food is the biggest weapon you have in fighting diabetes. Foods to include in your diet to help prevent diabetes include low-GI vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach as well as oily fish, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, wholegrains, berries, seaweed and green tea. In contrast, foods that you should avoid include processed foods, dried fruit and high sugar foods such as lollies, sweeteners, flavoured dairy products and juices. In addition to food, obesity is a leading cause of diabetes so maintaining a healthy body weight through regular exercise and healthy eating is essential in helping to prevent diabetes. Not smoking is a final factor that can help in the prevention of diabetes.
Taking care of yourself today not only has immediate benefits but also long term benefits that can help you and your family live a long and healthful life. Focus on optimising you and your family’s health today and you will be well on your way to preventing the development of chronic disease later in life.
Craft, J., & Gordon, C. (2015). Understanding Pathophysiology (2nd ed.). Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier, Australia.