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“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”

Mahatma Gandhi

There probably isn’t one of us who, at some time, hasn’t been guilty of taking our health for granted. We sail through life without a worry in the world because all too often we are simply unaware of the importance of the role we need to play in maintaining our own good health.

And just what do we mean when we say good health. Generally we tend to think about the condition of our bodies, whether we’re fit and disease and pain free. But, what of the mind? It’s virtually impossible to assess the state of our health without taking both our physical and mental well-being into consideration. Take a look at how The World Health Organisation defines health.

‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ – World Health Organisation

When it comes to health there is no quick fix. There are several areas we need to take charge of if we want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We need to consider what we eat, whether we are getting enough exercise and sleep, and we need to control our stress levels by equally balancing work and recreation time.

Nutrition and Health

You might, quite rightly, feel that the continuously changing fads, latest diets and news on nutrition are all very confusing and that what was considered good only yesterday poses a health hazard today. Quite obviously times do change as we gain more knowledge but when it comes right down to it there are some nutrition basics that you can follow.

For the average person a healthy, balanced diet will include some food each day from each of the basic food groups:-

  • Fruit and vegetables – A variety of fruit and vegetables each day are a vital source of vitamins and minerals. Five portions a day are generally recommended.
  • Meat, fish, eggs and beans – These foods supply our bodies with a range of vitamins and minerals and are a good source of protein, essential for the body to grow and repair itself.
  • Starchy foods eg. bread, rice, potatoes and pasta – Packed with fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins as well as being our main source of nutrients and a good source of energy, starchy foods should make up about a third of what we eat.
  • Milk and dairy foods – Milk and dairy foods such as cheese and yoghurt are good sources of protein. They also contain calcium, which help keep bones healthy.
  • Fat and sugar – While these supply energy for the body they should be eaten in moderation. Too much fat and sugar means that we consume more energy than we burn, and this can mean weight gain and obesity which increases our risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

Exercise and Health

Irrespective of our age and physical abilities the benefits of regular exercise on our well-being are simply too hard to ignore.

  • Energy booster – Regular exercise improves muscle strength, delivers oxygen and nutrients to tissues and increases the efficiency of your heart and lungs which in turn boosts your energy levels.
  • Controls weight – Exercise burns calories. The more you exercise the more you burn. There are many ways you can increase your physical activity beside a work out in the gym – speed up you walk or take the stairs instead of the stairs are two simple examples.
  • Improves mood – Your body makes chemicals, called endorphins, before and after you work out which relieve stress and improve your mood. And, the effect of exercise on your physical appearance is a confidence booster all on its own.
  • Controls the risk of disease and health conditions – Being active decreases unhealthy triglycerides and increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol. This helps to keep the blood flowing smoothly and lessens the risk of heart diseases and other problems such as depression, type 2 diabetes, stroke, arthritis and certain cancers.
  • Promotes better sleep – Regular exercise helps you go to sleep quicker and stay asleep longer.
  • Social and fun – Exercise need not be a dreaded 30 minute workout. Playing a sport, enjoying an aerobics class, hitting the hiking trails or joining a walking group are all ways to have some fun and improve your social life at the same time.

Mental Health

We’ve all heard the saying ‘a healthy body is a healthy mind’ but the converse is also true, a healthy body is dependent upon having a healthy mind.

As women we fill many roles – wife, mother, caregiver, co-worker and friend – often juggling our time to give everything the attention it needs and deserves. The stress associated with all these responsibilities often takes its toll and its imperative to our health that we find ways to cope.

How can you do this? Well you can start with taking some ‘you’ time – time for yourself, to do whatever it is that relaxes and de-stresses you. Think about it as your personal health insurance policy and whatever you do . . . never, ever feel guilty about it.

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