Ask any doctor and they will tell you that prevention is better than a cure. It is better not to drink too much alcohol and develop gout. It is better not to eat too many lollies and get cavities in your teeth. However prevention is not a message that politicians are comfortable delivering because they would effectively be telling people to take responsibility for themselves, whereas these days most politicians try to buy our votes with promises of what the government can give us. Alas, I’m straying from my point that prevention is better than a cure.
I believe in safeguarding your physical and emotional health and also safeguarding your friendships and work relationships. What I’m saying is that it’s better to avoid trouble in all areas of your life rather than having to sort out messes. Let’s begin with our health.
How to avoid disease
Come on people, you should know this stuff by now.
- Eat lots of vegetables, some proteins, only healthy fats (like olive oil and avocados) and only a limited amount of good carbs. Stay away from sugar and alcohol. That stuff is only for very special occasions. Once in a while it pays to search the internet and read about healthy diets. Do not go overboard and go on crash diets, instead, be consistently moderate in your diet.
- Keep your weight down. Use the Body Mass Index to ensure you are not overweight. I hate to break it to you but if you carry extra weight you are more likely to suffer from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, kidney disease and a heightened risk of developing cancer. I know shedding weight is hard in middle-age but make it a long-term project. Keep chipping away at losing those kilograms. Look what’s at stake – your life!
- One in 20 Australians have diabetes. Again you are at increased risk of developing this illness if you are overweight. To avoid this ghastly illness you need to keep your sugar consumption down. You may think that if you get diabetes, all that means is that you will be on medication and you will need to avoid eating sugar. Wrong! Diabetes will cannibalise your health. It damages your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. That means your extremities – your toes and feet will not be able to fight infections. That’s why so many diabetics are amputees.
- Check your cholesterol regularly. Diet is not the only thing that impacts on your cholesterol. It’s actually your liver that controls 80 percent of cholesterol, so care for your liver by avoiding fats, drinking heaps of water and getting your cholesterol checked to ensure it is 200mg/Dl or lower.
- Ensure your blood pressure is under control. Again, this is something you need to have checked regularly. You also need to stay on a good diet, avoid salt and keep your stress levels low. Your weight also impacts on blood pressure. If yours is as high as 120/80 then you have a problem and need to start working towards bringing it down today.
- Exercise is not something you fit in around your other commitments and you ignore when you are busy. If you want to retain your health in old age, exercise is something you need to do every single day. Please, just find 30 minutes to go for a brisk walk. If you can’t do that, find two 15-minute segments or three-10 minute bursts. Exercise is not an indulgence. It is a lifesaver.
- Stay on top of health checks and screenings. Are you just about to turn 50 and you never got around to having your aged-40 health checks? Hey, these are really important! Doctors screen your blood for signs of infection which could indicate cancers or organ inflammation. Be brave and do these tests, including the dreaded bowel cancer test, which all Aussies should do when they turn 50. And guys, be brave and get the old prostate checked. Girls, you know regular breasts checks are necessary, and mammograms are a must for the over 50s. Nip any little problems in the bud and don’t let them grow into big problems. Come on, we all need to face the music and do our tests!
- Getting enough sleep helps our immune system to function properly. We are also nicer people when we are well but niggly and bad-tempered when we are sleep starved. To get a good night’s sleep, don’t have screens in the bedroom and avoid caffeine late in the day.
The basics of looking after your mental health
Mental health and physical health are undeniably linked. If your body is in bad shape, your mind will very likely follow your body. Studies estimate that 20 percent of people with chronic pain also suffer depression.
There are other ways to safeguard your mental health.
- Aim to surround yourself with good people. Make the effort to stay in touch with friends. Do not neglect family members but nurture these relationships. Join community groups and make new friends. Have a rich social life.
- Be kind to others. Altruism is ultimately good for you. Volunteer at a community group, help a neighbour in need. Be kind to a new work colleague.
- Take up a new stress-busting activities like yoga or meditation. Destressing is great for your immune system. Try to smile frequently and laugh often. Alternatively also have some quiet time – pray or meditate. Never fear being by yourself in silence.
- Again I say, silence the voice of your inner-critic. Berating yourself for what you have not done gets you nowhere. Planning what you will do tomorrow and then doing it is a much better past-time. Don’t let you beat yourself up!
- Step out of your comfort zone every so often and sign up for something new. How about learning to tango or what about a road trip to Perth?
If you want to lead a full and rewarding life, and avoid poor physical and mental health, then YOU have to take responsibility for YOU. Don’t listen to the politicians. You don’t want the nanny state to have to take care of you. YOU need to take care of YOU … starting today.
ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.