Better health can be achieved by most of us. It doesn’t matter where we start. In COVID-19 times and at other stressful periods in life, however, we can take extra care. The better our general health, the more likely our immune systems are to work efficiently when called on.
Australians have been relatively lucky. Until the past month or so, case numbers and the numbers of deaths of people with COVID-19 have been lower than elsewhere. Western Australians are continually blessed, but this may change when our borders open to the rest of the world.
Of course, no one wants to get ill. We want to prevent infection spreading to the people we care about. For example, my husband is old and, like me, vulnerable. My great-grandchildren are mostly too young to be vaccinated. I hate the idea of any of my children or grandchildren being ill, or worse, dying of coronavirus of whatever strain. I also have two siblings whom I love dearly, and many friends, some of whom are in their eighties. They could be especially vulnerable.
Even if everyone survives the virus, there is still the possibility they may suffer from long-COVID.
While most of us take good care of ourselves, it feels timely to list some of the things we can do to ensure we are in the best possible shape to face the future.
Ten tips for better health
My list of tips ranges widely and I’m sure there are things I could add.
1. Be fully vaccinated
Be vaccinated against COVID-19. Doubled dosed at least, ideally with a booster shot. COVID-19 vaccines provide good protection and reduce the risk of serious illness and hospitalisation. More information here.
Remember other vaccinations: Influenza, Shingles, Pneumonia, Whooping Cough, etc.
2. Take sensible precautions as necessary
- Wear a mask if directed. Properly constructed masks are recommended, to N95 standard. These provide considerably better protection than cloth or poorly fitted masks
- Enjoy out door gatherings of friends and family rather than meeting indoors
- Shop early in the day
- Avoid large crowds
- Think social distance when moving in the community.
3. Eat as well as possible
Eat a wide variety of food every day. Include the following:
- Fruits and vegetables. Think lots of colour and variety
- Lean protein, including fish, beans, small amounts of meat
- At least three servings of whole grain cereals, bread, rice or pasta
- Three servings of dairy such as milk, yoghurt or cheese
- Healthy fats, including nuts, oily fish, vegetable oils and avocados
- Snack healthily on nuts, vegetables or fruit
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
- Cut back on processed and refined foods including sugary drinks.
Include fun foods, perhaps as an occasional snack or treat. Life can be very boring without them. (Confession: I have ice cream almost every day.) Below is a photo of one lunch, prepared by my husband, which is both colourful and fun.
4. Get moving
Aerobic exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health.
Walk, swim, run, cycle, dance, surf, sail, attend aquarobics, play a team sport. Perform strength and balance exercises. Walking can be an easy way to stay active because it can be combined with socialising, shopping, doing errands, visiting.
Think strength, endurance, balance and flexibility.
If you are an older person, it might help to read my blog, ‘Walking speed predicts seniors life expectancy’.
5. Spend time in fresh air
Some things to think about
- Remember to be sun safe
- Parks, beaches, rivers and the bush are all free and fun
- Good ventilation of homes and work places. Remember the adage of your grandmother: Fresh air and sunlight kill germs!
- Vitamin D is produced by the action of sunlight on bare skin.
6. Manage your stress
Stress has a negative effect on our health in many ways. For example, it increases cortisol levels so that we are in a constant state of flight, fight or freeze. It affects blood sugar levels, food choices, susceptibility to sickness, increased weight and fat distribution.
Some ways to reduce stress include
- Deep breathing
- Relaxation exercises
- Changing negative thinking to more positive ideas
- Being grateful
- Talking about problems
- Doing activities you enjoy
More ideas? Here’s a link to a Webmed site about stress management
7. Get enough sleep
Most adults need at least seven hours sleep a night. If you have difficulty sleeping, or think you need more sleep, here are some suggestions:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This helps to reinforce the sleep-wake cycle
- Don’t go to bed over-full or hungry
- Beware of the affects of alcohol, smoking and caffeine on your sleep pattern
- Create a restful environment. This usually means cool, dark and quiet, and limiting the use of screens an hour before bedtime
- Calming activities such as using relaxation techniques or deep breathing may help
- Limit daytime naps
- Include exercise and spending time outdoors in your daily activities
- Manage worries. This might need more space!
8. Limit alcohol intake; stop smoking
These need no explanation.
9. Socialise for better health
- Maintain old and nurture new friendships
- Keep in touch regularly with family
- Enjoy activities with others
- Contribute (safely) to the community.
- If you feel lonely or isolated, find ways to connect with others. My blog, ‘Is loneliness the next big health threat‘ might be of interest.
10. Have fun
- Do things you enjoy, alone or with other people
- Create things, like music and art; a garden; meals; a home, a special corner. Write a book or a love letter. As Einstein is supposed to have said, ‘Creativity is intelligence having fun’
- Learn new things: be curious
- Have something to look forward to.
Photo below, of me having fun with a much-loved granddaughter. So blessed!
This has been a fun blog to write. It has prompted me to think again about my own health and life-style. I hope you enjoy challenging yourself to do one or two things you haven’t done recently to improve your health and immune system.
I’d love to read your comments and suggestions for what else might be important to you. Stay safe and well.