The major causes of mortality in the US and worldwide are not wars or natural disasters, but the effects of harmful lifestyle such as use of tobacco, physical inactivity and poor diet (Grave, Calugi, Centis, El Ghocn and Marchesini 8). During the recent decade the number of people suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders and mental disorders resulting from various stresses (Kmietowicz 1408). Moreover, the percentage of obese people has increased from 28% to 36% during the 1998-2006 period, and the adherence to the patterns of healthy lifestyle has decreased (Kinq, Mainous, Carmemola and Everett 529). The trends are quite threatening and might annul the progress in healthcare and social benefits. Thus, it is highly important to draw public attention to the issues of maintaining good health and to focus on several key aspects of healthy lifestyle such as proper nutrition, exercising, and maintaining mental health. Most behaviors leading to high morbidity are modifiable (Bone, France and Aikin 191), and this fact increases the importance of focusing public attention on healthy lifestyle.
It is possible to outline several components of a lifestyle contributing to maintaining good health: proper exercising, proper nutrition and proper mental condition (Bone, France and Aikin 188). Preventive behaviors for each of these components are discussed below. A separate section is devoted to the programs for transforming ordinary habits into health-promoting set of actions.
It was proved that establishing good health habits in early life contributes to long lifespan and that prevention-oriented approach started at early age helps to reduce risks of degenerative chronic diseases in the middle and old age periods (Dwyer 417). A healthy and balanced diet ensuring that all needs of the body are met might reduce risks for many diseases, and the effect of such diet takes place in all age periods (although maximal effect of healthy nutrition is reached when this behaviour is adopted at early age) (Dwyer 418). General nutritional recommendations include 5-9 daily servings of vegetables and fruit (DeBruyne, Pinna, Whitney and Whitney 520). Healthy diet includes drinking a lot of clean water and dishes prepared using nutrients-rich foods. Fat intake should constitute no less than 30% of calories, while transfats and saturated fans should be reduced to the minimum (DeBruyne, Pinna, Whitney and Whitney 104). Reducing the amounts of salt and sugar is also a step towards a healthier lifestyle. The most important factor in healthy nutrition is diversity and balance of nutrients, and the balance of calories in order to keep weight within normal bounds.
People trying to choose a low-calorie diet should be aware that a diet including fewer than 1200 kcal can be bad for nutritional adequacy, and thus might cause related health problems (Fraser 75). Also, it is necessary to check the balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates (Fraser 87). Finally, organizing meal spacing in regular intervals and drinking enough clean water are essential for healthy nutrition.
Regular exercise is vital for maintaining a good health. Minimal exercising recommendations for adults include 20 minutes of vigorous training (activity) three days a week or half an hour of moderate activity five days per week (Alsaker 70). For teenagers and children, this ratio should be increased to the minimum of 60 minutes per day (Plowman and Smith 418). As a result of proper exercising, it is possible to lower the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease etc. (Alsaker 83). Weight-bearing exercises and exercises aimed at improving strength and balance also contribute to bone health, and to overall state of the person’s health. It is important to realize that alcohol, tobacco and drugs are incompatible with healthy lifestyle, and might annul the effects of best-developed training program.
One of the well-known health problems of nowadays is obesity: a growing number of people have excessive BMI (body mass indexes) and are thus in the “group of risk” for such illnesses as heart disease, osteoarthritis, metabolic syndrome etc (Plowman and Smith 353). It was proved that coping with obesity required not only a special combination of diet and training sessions, but is also closely related to cognitive processes (Grave, Calugi, Centis, El Ghocn and Marchesini 3), and thus the programs addressing obesity should include a cognitive component.
Maintaining Mental Health
A study by Kmietowicz (2005) proved that mental problems account for 43% of capacity benefits claims on average. For these claims, the largest part is caused by depression and the consequences of stress. Modern life is becoming more and more rapid, and people should know that maintaining mental health is as important as maintaining physical health. Although the social perception of people having mental problems stigmatizes them, the purpose of health care industry is to eliminate this wrong belief, and to associate basic methods of maintaining mental health with the popular mainstream of healthy lifestyle.
Such factors as the balance of work and life, connections with family and friends and time for relaxation and self-assessment form the fundamental background for maintaining mental health. Often, such activities as short change of environment, an outdoor walk or picnic and short daytime sleep can help to cope with mental stress.
Brain activities which can help to cope with mental stress are yoga and medication, brain games, nourishment of the brain with diverse activities and mental exercise. If stressful states persist for prolonged periods of time, it is recommended to ask for counseling help, engage into group therapy or attend appropriate trainings.
Balanced Programs for Maintaining Health
Numerous research studies (Kinq, Mainous, Carmemola and Everett 497) have showed that in order to maintain good health it is necessary to match their training schedule with the corresponding diet. The combination of these two activities should provide optimal balance of caloric and nutrient components, maintain optimal weight and body composition, support recovery after training sessions. Most often, dietary recommendations have two separate branches: for individuals with active lifestyle and for those with sedentary lifestyle. The ration of the latter should include fewer calories, but should also be comparable with the ration of active individuals with regard to nutrients.
There are many programs combining all three components in order to help people transform their attitude to health and lifestyle. One of the most successful examples of such program is the “Eight Weeks to Optimum Health” plan of action, developed by Andrew Weil (Weil 49). This program includes recommendations on fine-tuning eating habits, provide the necessary vitamins to the healing system and adjusting to weekly exercise requirements. Breathing exercises, visualization techniques and discovery of creative hobbies are also integrated into the program, as these components represent the mental health component of the healthy lifestyle (Weil 165). One can create an own program for maintaining a good health, or use one of those suggested by Dr. Weil or other authors – the most important thing is to fulfill the minimal requirements to nutrition, exercising and activities related to maintaining mental health.
Alsaker, R.L. Maintaining Health. Teddington: Echo Library, 2007. Print.
Bone, Paula F., Karen R. France, Kathryn J. Aikin. “On break-up cliches guiding health literacy’s future.” Journal of Consumer Affairs 43.2 (2009): 185-199. Print.
DeBruyne, Linda K., Kathryn Pinna, Eleanor N. Whitney and Ellie Whitney. Nutrition and diet therapy: principles and practice. Belmont: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.
Dwyer, Johanna. “Starting down the right path: nutrition connections with chronic diseases of later life.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 83.2 (2006): 415-420. Print.
Fraser, Victoria J., M.d. Diseases and Disorders. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2007. Print.
Grave, Ricardo D., Simona Calugi, Elena Centis, Marvan El Ghocn and Giulio Marchesini. “Cognitive-behavioral strategies to increase the adherence to exercise in the management of obesity.” Journal of Obesity 2011: 1-11. Print.
Kinq, Dana E., Arch G. Mainous, Mark Carmemola and Charles J. Everett. “Adherence to healthy lifestyle habits in US adults, 1988-2006”. American Journal of Medicine 122.6 (2009): 528-534. Print.
Kmietowicz, Zosia. “Mental health should have same priority as physical health”. BMJ 7505.330 (2005): 1408-1408. Print.
Plowman, Sharon A. and Denise L. Smith. Exercise Physiology for Health, Fitness, and Performance. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007. Print.
Weil, Andrew. Eight weeks to optimum health: a proven program for taking full advantage of your body’s natural healing power. Harrisonburg: Knopf, 2006. Print.