This time of year, you’re probably thinking about fertilizing your lawn and weeding and mulching your flowerbeds for a healthy yard.
But what about a healthy you?
In honor of protecting and improving health, the Montgomery County Health Department is celebrating the annual Public Health Week, “A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement,” April 2-8. Communities and health departments have celebrated National Public Health Week every April since 1995 to encourage people to take preventive measures to improve their health and their lives.
The MCHD urges you to take these four simple steps towards a healthier lifestyle:
- Change your diet – A very simple and easy step to take. Start by cutting out more of the fatty foods that you already know you shouldn't be eating. Replace these with fresh fruit and vegetables in your everyday cooking. Then gradually cut down on the starchy stuff, like potatoes, bread, rice, and pasta. Within just a few weeks you will start to notice that you feel more energetic! Visit www.myplate.org for more information about food group recommendations and portion sizes.
- Exercise – Regular physical activity helps improve your overall health and fitness and reduces your risk for many chronic diseases. Adults need 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms). The body will burn off those extra calories and the blood will circulate around the body carrying vital oxygen where it is needed. Doing activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people. But if a chronic health condition exists, such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, or if you experience other symptoms, be sure to talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you.
- Cut down on alcohol and eliminate tobacco – By reducing your alcohol intake and eliminating tobacco use your internal organs will start to work more efficiently. In turn, your entire body will feel healthier. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation, which is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. Compared with nonsmokers, smoking is estimated to increase the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by two to four times. For quitting support and resources: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669); TTY 1-800-332-8615.
- Rethink your drink – Probably the easiest step to take when wanting to achieve a healthier lifestyle is to drink more water. Water is essential for all systems in the body. It will not only make you feel better, it will improve the appearance of your skin and help your body’s systems work better. Try having a glass of water instead of coffee or tea at least twice a day. The body needs water to repair damaged tissues and remain hydrated. Adults should consume eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid each day and avoid sugary drinks.
Need a little help or motivation to follow these directives?
Check out local farmer’s markets and produce stands, which will start popping up any day now as local fruit and vegetables come into season. The American Public Health Association reports that about 85 percent of adults and 90 percent of adolescents fail to consume the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables every day. Save on fresh produce by shopping locally, and help sustain your local economy as well! Click here to find the farm market or farm stand closest to you, brought to you by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Many local libraries offer free, or low-cost Zumba, yoga or other exercise classes, as well as smoking-cessation programs. Check the Patch calendar, or contact your local library for upcoming events.
The Montgomery County Health Department isn’t just here to tell you how to be and stay healthy. They have lots of programs and services to help you get there. For example, if your family doesn’t have insurance, you can visit an MCHD clinic in Norristown, Pottstown and Willow Grove for free childhood, adolescent and adult immunizations.
Although it is operated by a private non-profit organization and not MCHD, the Norristiown Regional Health Center offers a full range of health care services to people who are underinsured and uninsured.
“Anybody can walk in there and get treated, and on a sliding scale of payment,” said Montgomery County Communications Director Frank. X. Custer. “That was created 10 or 12 years ago to service those people who are underinsured and uninsured in the community.”