Lifestyle’ diseases – particularly heart attack and stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes – have reached epidemic proportions in most countries around the world,” says President of the International Self-Care Foundation David E Webber Ph.D.
“We are all at risk! But did you also know that lifestyle diseases are substantially preventable? Up to 80% of heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes, and over a third of cancers could be prevented by eliminating shared risk factors, particularly tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol. This means encouraging ‘self-care’ – personal health and wellness management and lifestyle disease prevention.”
International Self-Care Day, 24 July, symbolizes that the benefits of self-care are experienced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In other words, the benefits of self-care are life-long and do not just relate to a single day.
“The International Self-Care Foundation’s vision is of a world in which people live long healthy lives, taking personal responsibility for their own wellness by adopting healthy lifestyle and self-care behaviours. However, a big challenge in lifestyle disease prevention is that responsibility ultimately rests with each of us as individuals, and there are many practical difficulties. Self-care needs to be a central part of people’s lives, and integrated into families, communities, organisations and society. But being substantially outside current Health and Social Systems, self-care has in the past lacked a champion.
Nutritional consultant Vanessa Ascencao echoes the importance of looking after your health and advises against quick-fix approaches, which often cause more harm than good.
“A healthy lifestyle and looking good requires consistency. This encompasses a regular exercise routine and a daily balanced diet which includes whole, natural foods.”
Ascencao recommends the following tips for getting into shape and staying that way:
- Ditch the guilt trip: you can’t take back your holiday indulgences. Focus on the future and what you can do to become healthier, long term.
- Don’t deprive yourself: crash diets are not long-term solutions. Focus on health, rather than diet. Choose healthy foods and cut out big, heavy meals. Have small meals or healthy snacks throughout the day instead.
- Drink water: you could feel hungry when your body really needs water. Aim for up to two litres a day.
- Choose healthy: increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and salads. They contain fibre, anti-oxidants and low GI carbs which are all great for a clean and healthy system.
- Cut down on sugar and avoid artificial sweeteners: sugar is an enemy of good health and artificial sweeteners contain harmful ingredients. Instead, choose a natural sweetener like xylitol. Alcohol is also packed with sugar so cut back on your consumption.
- Be creative: if you’re craving processed food and sugar, find healthy recipes online that satisfy your taste buds and your sweet tooth. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring!
- Stress less: stress can lead to unhealthy eating and burnout. Lower your stress levels with yoga, meditation and massage.
- Get more sleep: avoid sleep deprivation, which may in turn negatively affect your appetite. Get back into a healthy, eight-hour nightly sleep pattern.
- Get active: regular exercise is non-negotiable. If you don’t have time for gym, walk, run, swim, or play with the kids in the garden or walk the dogs for 45 minutes a day. On weekends, go hiking or play sports.
- Always have breakfast: oats is a great source of slow release carbs and will keep you going until lunchtime. Sprinkle raw nuts, seeds or fruit on top. Alternatively, try a boiled egg on rye toast. These meals keep your blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day.