Tips to improve health and reduce risk factors

A new report has revealed the impacts of COVID-19 on our health, so we've compiled some tips and resources to support steps to improve your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease.

Tip 1. Drink more water

It’s an obvious choice but for good reason. Switching to water instead of sugary drinks is a great way to boost your health and cut your sugar intake in 2022. Each year, Australians drink around 86L of sugary drinks each. That includes soft drinks, slushies, juices and sports drinks. A single 600mL bottle of soft drink contains around 16 teaspoons of sugar, while a slushie contains a whopping 23 teaspoons of sugar.

All this sugar contributes to unhealthy weight gain, tooth decay and chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes. Plus, it is a costly habit when you consider the alternative is free. Switching to water is a quick and easy fix. It is better for your health and costs nothing, especially if you remember to bring your own water bottle to refill when you go out.

Unsure of how much sugar you're drinking? Here's a handy calculator to help you work it out.

Tip 2. Shop smart to eat healthier

With rising grocery prices, we've compiled some simple tips to keep costs down while eating healthy meals.

Firstly, write and stick to a shopping list. It's so easy for the costs to add up when you are browsing the aisles.

Secondly, an oldie but a goodie - try not to shop when you're hungry to avoid impulse buying.

Finally, tinned and frozen vegetables, fruit and legumes are great alternatives for healthy eating, as they are relatively cheap and minimally processed to retain their nutrients. Other tips include making bulk meals and freezing them for later.

There’s a common misconception that it is expensive to eat healthy meals, but with a little planning, you can eat well and reduce your risk of unhealthy weight gain, which is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, cancers, and type 2 diabetes. If you're looking for inspiration, here are some delicious winter recipes to get you started.

Tip 3. Pop on your sneakers and go for a walk

Walking is a great way to boost your health. And it’s free! All you need is a pair of shoes or choose to go barefoot in the park or on the beach. As an alternative to costly gym memberships, walking for around 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes by a whopping 30 to 40 per cent.

Why not grab a buddy and go for a walk together? Or even look for a walking group near you to boost your connection to others in the community and benefit your mental and physical health together.

Looking for some added motivation? Why not develop a 6-week personal walking plan to get started and feel the benefits.

Tip 4. Drink less alcohol

During the pandemic, some of us found we were drinking more. With everyday living costs rising, now is a good time to cut down on how much alcohol you drink and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like cancers, while saving hundreds or thousands of dollars over the next year.

There are a range of steps you can take to drink less alcohol. Switching to non-alcoholic options when you’re out (or even for every second drink) is a good way to start and it can be helpful to steer clear of buying rounds of drinks, as there is often an expectation from the group to drink more. If you’re home, test your creativity by making your own mocktails or other drinks without alcohol. Find some recipes to get you started. Not only will your bank balance thank you, your health and body will too!

Tip 5. Quit smoking

Smoking is still the leading cause of chronic disease in Australia. But the good news is you can start reaping the benefits as soon as you quit, with improvements to your overall health and fitness starting right away. And you could start seeing the financial benefits as soon as you quit. The Quit online calculator can help you work out exactly how much you could save by giving up smoking.

 

Importantly, you don’t have to do it alone. Quitline (13 7848) has trained counsellors who will listen to you and provide support and tips to help you quit. Even if you have tried to quit in the past, it is never too late to try again.

Tip 6. Get a health check or cancer screening

For many of us, we don't think too much about our health until we're sick. But there are some simple steps you can take to understand and reduce your risk of disease. 

If you're 40 years and over, here's a list of health checks to keep you on track - including knowing your blood pressure, discussing family history, and asking about your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and kidney disease, as these conditions share risk factors and interact to increase risk.

Cancer screening for bowel, breast and cervical cancers is an important way of detecting cancers early and improving treatment options and outcomes, so it's important to keep up to date. If you're 50 years and over, a simple bowel cancer test screening kit could save your life, as bowel cancer often starts without any symptoms. 

And if you're looking to find out more about other conditions, there are quick online calculators and tools to help you understand your risk of kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.

Find out more about chronic disease risk factors here.