When we look after our physical health by eating a nutritious and balanced diet, engage in physical activity on a regular basis, manage our stress levels and get enough sleep, we usually feel and look our best.
If you can do these things every day, you may reduce the risk of associated health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and certain types of cancers in the long term.
Healthy living is about achieving a healthy lifestyle that you can maintain long term. Gradually making lifestyle changes will help to improve your health over time.
It can be difficult to change old habits, but there are steps that you can take to become healthier.
Start off slow by making small changes that you are more likely to keep up and gradually build on these changes over time. For example, start going for a regular walk rather than pushing yourself to run every day or if you’re trying to cut down on sugar do it gradually over a few weeks rather than all at once. Even one new health behaviour can make a big difference to your health.
Overweight and obesity levels in South Western Sydney are higher than the NSW average with 34.1% of the population considered overweight and a further 21.8% considered obese.1
This can be attributed to lifestyle factors including lack of physical activity and poor nutrition choices with only 7% of the population in South Western Sydney eating the recommended serves of vegetables each day and 54.9% eating the recommended two serves of fruit each day.
To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, we need to be physically active and choose nutritious food and drinks in the right amounts to meet your energy needs.
What does a balanced diet look like?
The amount of food and energy (kilojoules/calories) needed each day will vary from person to person depending on age, gender and physical activity levels, however we should all aim to enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods everyday from the five food groups.
The five food groups include:
- Vegetables: eat plenty of vegetables including different types and colours, and legumes/beans, and enjoy them raw or cooked
- Fruit: two serves per day is usually adequate. Choose a variety of different fruits over the week
- Grain: (cereal) foods. Aim to choose wholegrain and/or high fibre varieties of breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
- Protein: Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
- Dairy: Reduced fat milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives (reduced fat milks are not suitable for children under the age of two years)
The occasional treat is OK in moderation but try to limit your intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt and sugars such as lollies, chocolates, chips, biscuits, desserts, ice cream, take-away and sugary drinks.
For more detailed information visit Eat for Health
An accredited practicing dietitian can also provide you with individualised advice - click here to find a dietitian
The Get Healthy Information & Telephone coaching service is a free and confidential telephone-based service providing professional advice to help you achieve you health related goals.
To find out more information about health services available in your area visit the National Health Services Directory.
1. NSW 2011 Census: ABS report
Lack of physical activity is a major factor in increasing our risk of illness and disease. Less than half of people in South Western Sydney do not reach the recommended time for exercise each week. This places the community at greater risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and some cancers.
Being physically active improves mental and musculoskeletal health and reduces other risk factors such as overweight, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.
How do I start to exercise?
The first thing to know is that if you are not currently doing any physical activity, you will benefit from starting some. Benefits have been found in performing 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (such as a brisk walk) in as little as three 10 minute blocks.
Exercise top tips
- If you’re not sure where to start or you are worried that exercise may not be suitable for you, speak to your GP who can assist and refer you to Exercise Physiologists who can get you started. Use the National Health Services Directory to find practitioners near you
- Sign up to the FREE Get Healthy Service where you can speak to a health professional to achieve your exercise and healthy lifestyle goals
- Search the web using trustworthy websites such as the Active and Healthy NSW Health website or the Heart Foundation
- Check out the National Physical Activity Guidelines for more information and recommendations
What about sitting time?
Did you know that adults spend more than half their waking hours sitting?
The electronic age has affected how much time we spend sitting each day (known as sedentary time) at home, during work and travel. This increased sedentary time has been linked directly with health problems, such as poor nutrition, obesity and insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes.
There are many ways in which adults can sit for long periods throughout the day. A typical day might include sitting to eat breakfast, to drive to work, at your desk, at work, to drive home, to eat dinner, during the evening to do things such as watch television, use a computer and socialise.
Check to the Heart Foundation Sitting Less for Adults page to get some more ideas on how you can spend less time sitting and improve your health!
1. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, July 2014. Available from http://www.health.gov.au
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014. Australia’s health 2014., Physical Inactivity. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/
3. Heart Foundation Active Living Page, Accessed 14th September 2015. Available from: http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/
Smoking is a major risk factor for many chronic conditions including coronary heart disease, stroke and many cancers.
Rates of smoking have been declining for many decades, however approximately 20.7% of the population still smoke in the South Western Sydney area; this figure is higher than the state average which is 15.6%.
Smoking is still one of the largest single preventable causes of death and disease in Australia and this represents an enormous social and economic burden on individuals and the health system.
In 2011 there were 5019 smoking related hospitalisations in the South Western Sydney area, highlighting the significant impact that smoking is having on our health system.
What are the risks?
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia, accounting for more than 15,000 deaths in Australia in 2003. Tobacco use not only reduces your life expectancy but your quality of life as well.
Evidence shows that smokers have a significantly increased risk of death and/or illness from various types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, abdominal aortic aneurysm, emphysema and other respiratory diseases.
Smoking can also cause blindness, contributes to osteoporosis, dental problems, erectile dysfunction in men, and reduced fertility in women, increased risk of pregnancy complications including premature birth, low birth weight, still birth and infant mortality and smoking has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome.
Exposure to second-hand smoke, also known as passive smoking, where a person breathes in another persons smoke, can cause premature death and disease in children and adults who do not smoke.
Benefits of quitting
Quitting increases life expectancy and improves quality of life and reduces your risk of chronic health conditions such as lung, throat, mouth, kidney and bladder cancer; heart disease and stroke; emphysema and other lung diseases; gangrene and other circulatory diseases; blindness from macular degeneration and cataracts; brittle bones; and impotence, infertility and miscarriages.
Your appearance also benefits from quitting smoking. It reduces the risk of wrinkles and looking older faster, yellow teeth and bad breath.
Quitting smoking is also good for the health of your children. A smoke-free environment for your children lowers their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS or cot death), ear infections, asthma and allergies, bronchitis and other lung problems and of children becoming smokers themselves.
Other benefits of quitting unclude saving money. If you spend $100 a week on cigarettes then you will save more than $5000 for each year you don’t smoke. Your sense of taste and smell will improve, you will have more energy and a better quality of life, your body will start to repair itself and cigarettes will no longer control your life.
Where can I find help to quit?
More than a third of Australia’s total burden of disease can be attributed to modifiable risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and the harmful use of alcohol.
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of developing a health condition. Some risk factors are called modifiable risk factors because you can do something about them. Therefore it is important for the population to work on changing those behaviours that contribute to the development of risk factors, including overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, which in turn lead to chronic disease.
Prevention and better management of chronic disease to improve health outcomes is therefore a key focus of the Australian health care system.
Many common chronic diseases are responsive to preventive measures such as changes in behaviour, for example being more active, making better food choices, reducing alcohol consumption and smoking cessation.
Are you at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes?
Developed by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute to assess an individuals risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By answering a series of questions you will be able to calculate your risk of type 2 diabetes in the next 5 years.
Absolute risk is your chance, as an individual, of getting cardiovascular disease (which includes all heart, stroke and blood vessel diseases).
The absolute risk calculator is used to predict your risk of a cardiovascular event over the next five years.
It should be performed for all adults aged 45 and older (or 35 years and older for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) without existing cardiovascular disease or not already known to be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Are you a healthy weight?
It is important to aim to be a healthy weight as people who are overweight or obese have higher rates of death and illness than people of healthy weight.
Carrying excess weight is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea, osteoarthritis, psychological problems and reproductive problems for women.
A quick way to check whether your weight is in a healthy range is by calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI calculator can be used for both men and women, aged 18 or older.