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A Beginner’s Guide To Staying Healthy

All the information you need for staying healthy, from recommended alcohol intake to how much sleep to get each night. 

In today’s digital world, we’re inundated with information about what we need to do to be healthy – unfortunately, much of it conflicting. In this environment, it can be hard to distinguish between what’s true and what’s fake.

To make your life easier, we’ve done the research for you. Here is a guide to the facts and figures you need to stay on top of your health.

 

Alcohol consumption

There’s nothing quite like unwinding with a wine – in moderation, of course. The NHMRC Alcohol Guidelines recommend healthy men and women drink no more than two standard drinks on any one day. Try to have two alcohol free days each week. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid alcohol altogether.

It’s important to remember that a serving size doesn’t always equal a standard drink – a bottle of beer, for example, may contain 1.2 or more standard drinks. As a rule, one standard drink equals 100ml of wine, a 285ml full strength beer, 30ml of spirits and 60ml of port or sherry.

 

 Dieting

You’ve heard it before – it’s super important to eat a balanced diet. But what does a balanced diet look like exactly?

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, each day healthy adults should eat a range of foods from the five food groups:

  • Four to six serves of grain-based foods
  • Two to three serves of dairy or other calcium-rich foods
  • One to three serves of lean meat, poultry, seafood, nuts or legumes
  • Five serves of vegetables 
  • Two serves of fruit

What constitutes a serving is probably smaller than you think. One serving equals one cup of raw salad veg, half a cup of cooked veg, one slice of bread, 65g cooked red meat, one cup of milk or one medium-sized apple. Check the Eat for Health website for more detailed information about serving sizes.

 

 Exercise

Being active is one of the surest ways to improve cardiovascular health, reduce weight gain and protect against cancer. The World Health Organisation recommends we do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity per day, such as walking, swimming or dancing. Australian guidelines recommend that each week we do between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise, like jogging, cycling or aerobics.

Don’t forget strength training – particularly important once you hit 35, when muscle mass starts to decline. Try to do two sessions of strength training each week.

 

 Sugar and salt intake

Sugar should provide up to 10% of your total energy intake per day, which equates to roughly 25g or 6 teaspoons. Check the nutrition panel to see how much sugar a product contains: a low-sugar item has 5g or less per 100g, while more than 15g per 100g is considered high in sugar. It’s surprising how much sugar is hiding in seemingly healthy products – a muesli bar, for example, contains around 1.5 teaspoons of sugar, while a glass of fruit juice holds 6 teaspoons. A 600ml bottle of sports drink packs 9 teaspoons of sugar and a frozen slushie can have as much as 12 teaspoons of sugar – double the amount you should consume in one day.

It’s also important to watch your salt consumption – too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease. The daily recommended intake for salt is 6g or less (2300mg or 2.3g of sodium). Nutrition panels often refer to sodium, not salt. As a rule, look for products that contain 120mg or less of sodium. To work out how much salt is in a product, multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5.

 

 Tests and check-ups

If you’re healthy, an annual check-up at the doctor to test for things like blood pressure and cholesterol is all you need, but there are a range of other important tests you should make sure stay up to date. Women should have five-yearly cervical screening tests and do monthly self-checks of their breasts, while men should perform regular testicular self-examinations. Both men and women should regularly check their skin for any moles or spots that change size, shape or colour.

A number of tests are recommended once you turn 50, including mammograms for women prostate checks for men, and the faecal occult blood test (FOBT), which checks for bowel cancer symptoms.

 

 Drinking water

Staying hydrated and consuming enough fluids is very important for your health and wellbeing. It helps balance your blood sugar, helps relieve headaches and promotes healthy skin. If you are not drinking enough water everyday and your body becomes dehydrated, it can cause tiredness, dizziness, dry eyes and skin, muscle cramps, low energy and more. 

Health specialists commonly recommend eight glasses, which equals closely to 2 litres or half a gallon of water per day.

 

 Getting enough sleep

If there’s one thing you shouldn’t scrimp on, it’s sleep. It changes from person to person, but an adult needs seven or eight hours of sleep each night. A healthy sleeping routine will help you get a good night’s sleep: try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, go screen-free for 30 minutes before you hit the sack and steer clear of caffeine and alcohol in the evening.

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