For many, taking the first step toward healthy living can seem overwhelming. But eating more fruits and vegetables, taking walks, washing your hands, and improving the well-being of your community are all easy ways to become a bit healthier.
In fact, according to the American Public Health Association (APHA), nearly 1 million Americans die each year from diseases that can be prevented by living a healthier lifestyle. Each April, APHA celebrates National Public Health Week (NPHW) to spread the word about good health, encouraging both communities and individuals to take an active approach toward healthier living.
This year, APHA invites you to “Join the Movement” to improve your health and the health of your community, by providing these tips to make simple changes today for a healthier tomorrow.
Live active, eat healthy
Small swaps – and steps – can lead to big changes.
- Check out the MyPlate recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at www.choosemyplate.org to help plan your meals with proper proportions .
- Look to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables when preparing meals.
- Choose more fish and low-fat meat cuts.
- Cook food at proper temperatures.
- Talk with elected leaders about including sidewalks, bike lanes, and farmers markets in your community.
- Get at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise each week.
- Encourage children to get 1 hour of active play each day.
Prevent tobacco, drug, and alcohol abuse
Education goes a long way in preventing substance abuse.
- Talk with your employer about implementing a substance management and tobacco-cessation program for employees.
- Advocate for smoke-free policies in your community and workplace.
- Follow prescription medication instructions thoroughly.
- Do not use illicit drugs.
- Do not drive if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Avoid the spread of communicable disease
Communicable diseases can’t be avoided completely, but you can better protect your family with the following precautions.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze.
- Immunize your family.
- Disinfect surfaces in your home and workspace.
- Talk with your employer about providing paid sick days to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
- Support local legislation aimed at lessening the impacts of some of the most serious communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, influenza and tuberculosis.
Support reproductive and sexual health
Advocacy and education can help encourage safe sex practices and reproductive health.
- Practice safe sex.
- Use contraceptives.
- Visit your doctor for regular screenings.
- Promote access to quality health care to reduce HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Advocate to get comprehensive reproductive and sexual health education in your communities.
- Eat healthy, remain active, quit the use of tobacco and alcohol, and visit your doctor regularly, especially when pregnant.
Promote mental and emotional well-being
It is important to advocate for mental health education in your community:
- Advocate for mental health awareness and programs within your community’s schools, businesses and community centers.
- Talk with your employer about providing a comprehensive mental health services program as part of the organization’s healthcare plan.
- Learn to recognize the symptoms of mental health issues, such as depression.
- Support local nonprofits aimed at educating community members about mental illness.
- Seek out treatment for mental health issues.
Following these tips can lead to a much healthier lifestyle for you and your family.
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