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Leading a Healthy Life:
Six Steps to Living Long and Staying Healthy

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Leading a Healthy Life:
Six Steps to Living Long and Staying Healthy

Step 1: Give your body the energy it needs.

Your body needs some foods to stay strong and healthy. Other foods, if eaten too often, contribute to many illnesses. Here are some guidelines:

  • Eat 6-11 servings a day of breads or grains, like rice, pasta, tortillas, or cereal.
  • Eat 3-5 servings a day of vegetables, like carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, or peas.
  • Eat 2-4 servings a day of fruits, like apples, peaches, mangos, bananas, or fruit juice.
  • Eat 2-3 servings a day of meat, fish, beans, eggs or nuts, for protein.
  • Eat 2-3 servings a day of dairy products like yogurt, cheese, or milk.
  • Cut down on alcohol, fatty foods such as butter, grease, or oil, and “junk food” like chips or candy.

    For more information about health eating, try these Web sites:

Step 2: Stay physically active.

Regular physical activity helps people:

  • live longer and feel better throughout their lives
  • be stronger and more flexible
  • build strong bones and fight osteoporosis
  • prevent depression
  • strengthens your ability to fight off illness
  • maintain a healthy body weight

It is best to get at least one half hour of exercise three times a week, but any amount of exercise is better than none at all! If you do not want to go jogging or swimming, try going for a brisk walk with a friend, working vigorously in the yard, or riding your bike to work.

For more information about physical fitness, try these Web sites:

Step 3: A healthy mind is part of a healthy body.

When you are in a good state of mind, you make good decisions for yourself about your job, your lifestyle, and your health. Here are some things you can do to keep your mind healthy:

  • Reduce stress in your life. For ideas on reducing stress, try this Web site: http://www.ivf.com/stress.html

  • Make time in your life for things that are fun. Make a list of activities you like and sure you have at least a little time each day for doing something you enjoy.

  • Get enough sleep. Most Americans get too little sleep. Being sleepy reduces your concentration, increases mood swings, and causes many car accidents. Health Beat has more information at http://healthlinks.washington.edu/index_archive/9901.html

  • Get help if you feel depressed or anxious for more than several days at a time. Talk with a friend or your health care provider for some help.

Step 4: Keep your mind and body free of harmful drugs and alcohol.

  • Tobacco causes more health problems than any other drug and is the most addictive, most widely used. Cutting down or stopping the use of cigarettes, cigars, or chewing tobacco can save your health and save your money.

  • Too much alcohol is definitely dangerous, causing liver damage, fetal alcohol syndrome, and accidents. The tricky question is, how much is too much?

    Your health care practitioner can help you decide, and these Web sites also offer information:

  • Street drugs like marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or pain pills not prescribed for you are dangerous to your health. Street drugs can be diluted with substances that are harmful for you. People often put themselves in dangerous situations to get street drugs. If you are using street drugs and would like to stop but are having difficulty, talk to your health care provider.

    For more information about street drugs, their effects, and where to find help, try this web site:

Step 5: Practice safe living habits

Did you know...

  • Accidents and injuries are the fifth leading cause of death in the US among children, they are the second leading cause of death.
  • Women under 35 are more likely to die in motor vehicle accidents than from any other cause.
  • Accidents in the home cause thousands of permanent injuries every year.

Here are some steps you can take to stay safe:

  • The most common accidents are fires, falls, and drownings. Help yourself and your family to stay safe by installing
    • smoke detectors,
    • have your vision checked
    • learning to swim.
    • For more information, try this Web site: CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/ncipchm.htm

  • Stay safe on the road.

    • Wearing a seatbelt dramatically reduces your chances of death in an accident.
    • Keep children under 60 pounds in an appropriate car seat or booster.
    • Do not ride with someone who has been drinking or drugging.
    • Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle. Find more information about highway safety at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
      http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/

  • Find protection from people who are violent or threatening in your life.

  • Wash your hands regularly to avoid the spread of germs.

Step 6: Get regular health care.

  • Many people think they only need to see a doctor when they are sick or injured. The truth is, health care providers are also experts at preventing illnesses and finding and treating problems before you ever feel sick.

  • Find a health care provider who works WITH you.

  • Know what diseases you are at risk for and attend regular screenings for them.

  • Get yourself and the children in your family immunized against life-threatening illnesses. Find more information about immunizations at the Center for Disease Control Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/nip/

Here are the illnesses most common to women. Click on any of them to find out more.


Laura L S Mueser
Perinatal Social Worker
University of Washington Medical Center

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