Top 3 questions – Healthy lifestyle choices

Professor Michael Kidd, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, discusses making healthy choices, and the small steps we can take every day to enjoy a healthy life.

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General public

Hello, and welcome to today's top three. My name is Michael Kidd, I'm Deputy Chief Medical Officer with the Australian Government Department of Health. And today, we're going to talk about healthy lifestyle choices. We get a lot of questions about how to be healthy, how to make the right choices to support your health and wellbeing. So, let's look at some of your questions.

The first one is, if many chronic health conditions are preventable, what can I do to prevent from becoming unwell? So, it's true that many chronic conditions can be prevented, or you can minimise how serious they may be. And this includes conditions like heart disease, leading to heart attacks or strokes. It can include lung disease, it can include what we call Type II diabetes, and it can include a number of different cancers. All of these conditions can be either prevented through having a healthy lifestyle, or if you do develop these conditions, having a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent them from becoming worse and prevent you from becoming seriously unwell. So, what can you do to prevent developing these conditions? Well, there's lots of things you can do as part of your daily routine. Having a healthy diet, making sure that you're keeping your weight under control, being physically active, not smoking, or stopping smoking if you're a smoker, either not drinking or drinking a moderate amount of alcohol each day, getting plenty of sleep, looking after your mental health and wellbeing. These are all important components of preventing the development of serious or significant chronic health conditions.

The second question is, getting healthy was my big goal for this year, but I just don't know where to start. What are the first steps I should take in improving my health? Well, the first step is setting yourself a goal. What is it that you want to achieve in order to feel healthy, to be more healthy, over the coming weeks and months and years? And, no matter what your health status, everyone can do more to help to become more healthy and reduce the risk of becoming seriously unwell. So, the first thing is, stop smoking, or don't start smoking. Smoking cessation is incredibly important. As we know, smoking tobacco is a significant risk factor for heart disease, lung disease and a number of cancers. The second is about your diet. Make sure that you're having a healthy diet. Lots of fresh food, avoiding lots of processed food, and being careful about what you're eating, making sure that your diet is balanced. The third is physical activity, and doing some physical activity every day, even if it’s just going for a walk. Increasing the amount of physical activity you do each day will help you to feel a lot better. It’ll also help to build up your lung and your heart function, and also help to build up the strength in your body and help to prevent you from becoming overweight or obese or help you to tackle overweight or obesity challenges if you have them. The fourth is about alcohol, and either not drinking alcohol or if you are drinking alcohol, make sure that you’re drinking a safe amount only each day. And that’s no more than four standard drinks in any one day, no more than ten standard drinks in any week. The fifth is about sleep. It seems very simple, but a lot of people don’t get enough sleep or don’t get high quality sleep. So do all you can to make sure that you get that very important rest at the end of the day, so that you wake up the next day, feeling full of energy and ready to go out and do the things that you need to do. And the sixth is about looking after your mental health and wellbeing. And we know that over the last two years of the pandemic, many people have experienced anxiety, depression, and other impacts on their mental and emotional health and wellbeing. So doing all you can to boost your mental health and wellbeing, doing things that you enjoy with people that you enjoy being with, with your loved ones, your friends, your family, and others. So there are six things that you can do to help to improve your health and wellbeing and improve how you’re feeling each day.

The final question is: “If I had to do just one thing to improve my health, "what would it be?” Well, as a general practitioner, I’m not going to give you just one thing to do, because all six of those things, about smoking, diet, exercise, alcohol, sleeping, and mental health and wellbeing, they’re all important. But the one I want to focus on today is about being physically active, getting up and getting outside and going for a walk or doing whatever physical activity you enjoy doing, and trying to do more and more of it. I know sometimes it can be really hard to be motivated to become physically active, but the more that you do, the more motivation you’ll have, and the better that you’ll feel for doing the activity. And as I mentioned earlier, even if it’s just going for a walk, walking to the shop instead of driving, going for a walk with your dog or with members of your family or with your friends, physical activity is a really important part of having a healthy lifestyle. So, perhaps, that might be a great place to start.

So that’s our top 3 for today. I wish you all the best in meeting your aims on having a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Top 3 questions

  1. If most chronic conditions are preventable, what can I do to prevent them?
  2. Getting healthy was my goal for this year but I don’t know where to start! From a health professional, what are the first steps I should take to improving my health?
  3. If I had to do just one thing to improve my health, what would it be?

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