Roll up your sleeve
Immunization remains the best strategy for preventing many infectious illnesses. Besides the primary vaccination schedule of diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and hemophylus influenza, there are also vaccines for meningitis, pneumococcal disease, rota-virus, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and Hepatitis B. There are also new vaccines against human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer as well as influenza.
For a review of vaccine schedules visit the National Advisory Committee on Immunization at phac.aspc.gc.ca.
Many studies have shown that breakfast is important for learning and attention in the school setting. It is the best way to offer your body the varied nutrients it needs – from grains and fibre, to fruits, protein and low fat dairy. People who eat breakfast are more likely to control what they eat during the day.
Supplements and vitamins
Our foods are complex and offer us far more nutritional benefits than a supplement can. There are times, however, when supplements are critical – such as Vitamin D in breastfed babies, iron-fortified cereals, Vitamin D for essentially everyone (particularly in the sun-deprived winter months), and calcium to ensure growth and maintenance of healthy bones (if you are unable to get enough dietary calcium). If you are thinking of getting pregnant, sufficient folic acid is critical. Talk to your doctor about what vitamins or supplements you might need depending on your age and stage.
Get the right kind of fat in your diet
Not all dietary fats are created equal. Some fats such as hydrogenated and trans fats are unhealthy, while other fats are critical for brain development and growth and development. Unsaturated fats are important to keep you heart healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids can help to lower blood pressure.
Be a role model for your family! Exercise is not only critical for healthy hearts and healthy minds, but it is an essential step in disease prevention. Stop making those excuses and start any kind of physical activity. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy – brisk walking counts. Encourage your children to be active and make sure exercise is part of their daily routine.
Exercise your mind
Keep your brain fit and healthy by exercising your mind. Do a crossword puzzle, Sudoku, play a challenging game….all are great ways to keep mentally fit. Brain exercise at a young age has been shown to reduce the likelihood of brain cancer at a later age. We know that brains that exercise are less likely to develop cognitive changes with age.
Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands with soap and water for an adequate length of time. This is one of the most important tools we have to reduce the risk of transmission of communicable diseases. I make my kids sing Happy Birthday twice through to give them an idea of how long they should be washing.
Brush your teeth
Poor dental hygiene impacts your overall health. Bone loss in the lower jaw can be a sign of general bone loss in the skeleton. If you have poor oral hygiene you can be at risk for infections in the mouth. There is an association between oral infections and diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and pre-term low birth weight babies. Research hasn’t shown whether oral infections actually cause these health problems, but it argues for good oral hygiene.
You might be told you are stressed and the question is, does that impact on your health? The answer is a resounding yes. Even our children can feel stress – theirs and ours. Stress can impact on many aspects of our health such as weakening our immune system. Identify those things that make you feel stressed and develop strategies to cope. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, taking a break or having a laugh, find how you can identify and lower your stress level.
Get a good night sleep
The amount of sleep needed varies in children and adults, but we all need adequate sleep to ensure our mental and physical well-being. It is important from a very young age to develop good sleep hygiene. Simply put, that means develop a night time routine that allows you the time needed to turn off the day, and ensure you have a restorative sleep.
Published March 2010