Take charge of your health

September was a very busy month on the national health calendar with many important diseases being highlighted. National Heart Awareness Month, Stroke Awareness Week and Lymphoma and Leukaemia Awareness Month are just a few of them. All of these campaigns aim to create awareness and educate the public as early detection can make a huge difference to treatment and outcome. 

What all these health awareness initiatives have in common, is the fact that they are not spreading doom and gloom, but messages of hope. The amazing advancements made in medicine and science have made many diseases treatable and managable, with patients still being able to lead a quality life. Just look at the inspiring story of Trevor Steyn who has been living a good life with leukaemia for the last 22 years, or learn how thirteen-year-old Bilal Teladia beat Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma cancer.

Though many illnesses such as heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and certain cancers may have a genetic aspect making some people more genetically prone to getting them, and there are environmental factors claimed to cause illness, the majority of people can avoid them altogether by leading a healthy and active lifestyle.

Never underestimate the power of nutrition: the basic rules of eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, cutting your intake of salt, saturated fats and sugar, and limiting caffeine and alcohol can make a world of difference. You'll also never be able to reason your way out of throwing those ciggies away - smoking is the number one offender on many diseases' "don't" lists.

Furthermore, you can't ignore exercise. Exercising keeps your body fit and toned, your heart healthy, lowers blood pressure, strengthens your bones, helps to keep excess weight down, boosts your immune system and counters the effects of stress. The benefits are endless and, thankfully, you don't have to be a gym bunny or fitness fanatic to stay fit. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week (such as walking, dancing or swimming), is enough.

Follow these simple guidelines and you'll help your body to stay strong and healthy. We have no guarantees that we won't get seriously ill one day, but by doing all we can to optimise our health, we'll have a better chance to fight illness. 

- (Birgit Ottermann, Health24, Nutrition Newsletter, September 2011)

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