Our overall health has many branches and those branches represent the lifestyle choices we make every day. Although the way we put these into practice in our daily lives may differ due to factors such as personal preference, availability of resources, and cultural nuances, the core recommendations remain relevant to all.
Regular physical activity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and it is beneficial for mental and physical health. At least 60% of the global population fails to achieve the recommended weekly minimum physical activity which aids in preventing non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, cancer and stroke.
There are different physical activity recommendations for people depending on age.
For adults, the minimum amount of physical activity is at least 30 minutes per day and for children, beginning at age 5, 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity daily physical activity is suggested.
The more time spent moving, the greater the benefits. An individual can start with a few minutes of activity a day and gradually increase time and pace.
A simple pedometer can be used to measure steps, which are recommended to number about 10,000 over the course of a day. It’s important to get active while doing stationary activities like watching television because the risk of heart disease is doubled for those who spend more than four hours at a time sitting down.
Remember, physical activity should last for at least 10 minutes at a time and the minimum amount of physical activity required for prevention of disease is about 30 minutes of moderate activity per day.
Balanced nutrition is influenced by daily decisions as well as cultural and social determinants. The double burden of malnutrition – featuring simultaneous over- and under-nutrition – has resulted in worldwide hunger and obesity, often in the same populations.
Key strategies to reduce the double burden of malnutrition in adults and children include:
- Breastfeed newborn children (when appropriate) for up to six months and promote the introduction of complementary feeding at six months.
- Promote eating a healthy breakfast at home and bringing healthy meals and snacks prepared at home to work or school.
- Encourage 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, limit sugary foods and drinks, avoid adding salt to food and limit food intake from fats. Avoid trans-fats which are found in most mass produced cakes, cookies and fried foods.
Tobacco use is harmful to the user and smoking tobacco also negatively affects those people around the smoker. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can significantly increase a person’s likelihood of suffering from non-communicable diseases, including lung cancer, emphysema, and coronary heart disease. Smokeless tobacco also negatively affects health, can cause cancer of the mouth, and research suggests it might play a role in other cancers, heart disease and stroke. Not smoking and smoking cessation can increase life span and quality of life, in addition to contributing to an overall healthier lifestyle.
Tobacco dependence is a chronic condition that often requires repeated interventions, but helpful resources exist. Smokers can and do quit smoking. In fact, today there are more former smokers than current smokers.
People who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk for disease and premature death. Although the health benefits are greater for people who stop at earlier ages, cessation is beneficial at all ages.
Alcohol consumption patterns are in part defined by individual societies. There is no standard definition on low-risk drinking patterns, yet the negative effects of alcohol on health are clear. Drinking can weaken the immune system and result in or exacerbate non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and various cancers. Refraining from drinking or responsible, moderate use of alcoholic beverages can help increase individual vitality and reduce the likelihood of alcohol-induced social harm. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is a leading cause of death worldwide.
To reduce alcohol-attributable problems, WHO suggests:
- Setting an alcohol tax.
- Implementing / enforcing legal drinking ages for purchase and consumption.
- Setting maximum blood alcohol concentrations for drivers and enforce them with sobriety checkpoints and random breath testing.
In addition to these policy interventions, nurses are well positioned to assess, educate, and find other resources to assist patients in addressing any alcohol-related problems.