Minority Health – General Tips for Healthy Living
We are fortunate in the U.S. to have access to clean water and a safe food supply. Vaccines have become routine and have lowered or eliminated small pox, mumps, measles, polio and other childhood diseases. New and improved drugs help us recover from infections more quickly, slow the progression of chronic diseases, and ease our aches and pains. The quality of our lives has improved enormously in the 20th century.
However, there are other things we can do to live longer and healthier lives. It calls for making good choices and taking care of ourselves on a daily basis – like choosing to exercise regularly, eating a good diet, not smoking, having your children immunized, wearing proper protective equipment when exercising. Our behavior is a key to staying healthy.
The Healthy Living Tips listed can guide you and your doctor in developing the best program to help you be, and stay, healthy. Check them out.
- Eat a healthy diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables. Look at the Food Plate for guidance on amounts and portion sizes.
- Begin a regular exercise program. Talk to your health care provider about starting a walking program. Find someone to walk with to help you stay motivated. It’s a cheap and effective way to control your weight and your blood pressure.
- Use safe food handling techniques when cooking to prevent salmonella, E. coli and other infections. See the Food and Drug Administration’s site for more information on food preparation and foodborne illnesses.
- Have your blood pressure checked regularly. The American Red Cross, your County Health Department, local pharmacy, or fire department may offer free screenings.
- Wear a seat belt at all times, and don’t drink and drive or ride with someone who is under the influence of alcohol.
- If you smoke or use other tobacco products (like snuff or chew), try to quit. Talk to your health care provider about using the nicotine patch, gum or prescription drugs available to help you quit. If you can’t quit, try to cut back on how much you smoke or chew. Give yourself some incentives. Put the money you save into an account for something special.
- If you’re pregnant, or thinking about getting pregnant, get early prenatal care. Take a good multivitamin every day. Adequate intake of folic acid (0.4 mg/day) helps prevent spinal cord defects, like spina bifida. Try not to smoke, drink alcohol, or use other drugs that may affect the health of your baby. Talk to your health care provider before you take any drugs, even over-the-counter drugs like aspirin or cold/flu preparations.
- If you are a woman of childbearing age and not using a reliable birth control method, you should consider taking a prenatal vitamin or multivitamin every day to make sure you get enough folic acid. Half of all pregnancies are unplanned. It takes your body time to build up the folic acid it needs to support a pregnancy, and by the time you know you are pregnant your baby could already have a neural cord defect.
- Women should do monthly breast self-exams. See the information on this site or ask your health care provider how to do one.
- Men should do monthly testicular self-exams. Ask your health care provider to show you how to do one.
- Practice safer sex. Know your partner’s history. Use a condom to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector (near the bedrooms) and smoke detectors in your home. Smoke detectors should be installed on each floor of your home and outside each sleeping area. Get into the habit of testing both monthly and changing the batteries once a year. Replace smoke detectors every 10 years.
- Teach your children what to do in case of a fire or other emergency and practice it at least twice a year. Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning (levels less than 10%) may make you feel like you have a cold or the flu – headache, nausea, and shortness of breath. At higher levels it can cause confusion, unconsciousness, and even death.
- Try to use the same pharmacy for filling prescription drugs so that the pharmacist can help you prevent drug interactions. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all drugs (even those you buy over-the-counter like aspirin, acetominophen, vitamins, herbs or alternative supplements) you take.
- If you are over 50, talk to your doctor about having a screening test for colon cancer.
- If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. The recommended limits are two beers per day or 10 ounces of wine per day for men, and one beer or one glass of wine for women per day. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD NEVER DRINK ALCOHOL. Your baby could end up with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or other problems.
- See your health care provider for routine health screenings (like mammograms, prostrate exams and Pap smears), immunizations, and dental and eye care.
- Establish a good relationship with a doctor or other health care provider. Know your family history and how that relates to your risk factors for various diseases. Is there a history of high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, or breast cancer in your family? Learn the risk factors and what you can do to prevent these problems or reduce your risk.
- Write down what you want to talk to your health care provider about before you go for the visit so you don’t forget anything. If you have a chronic health problem and tend to have trouble remembering the doctor’s instructions, have a relative or friend come with you, or ask the nurse to write it down. Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions if you’re unsure of something. It’s your health.
For more information:
Go to the African American Health health topic.