In the Spotlight

What is Healthy Living?

Contributed by Richard Harvey, Ph.D.

man playing ball with grandchild

When people meet someone who looks good and seems very energetic for his/her age, they often say, "It must be because of all that healthy living." There may be some truth to that observation. Practicing healthy living generally makes people feel good and have more energy than people who do not practice healthy habits. Do people who practice healthy living actually look younger than their age - who knows? However, it is clear that healthy living habits do bring benefits for one's health. So what are these healthy living habits? Here are some of the main ones:

Be Tobacco Free - smoking harms nearly every organ of your body, and all forms of tobacco and second hand smoke are harmful. The good news is that the VA offers you help to quit! After quitting, you can expect to breathe more easily and have more energy. Food smells and tastes better too. Besides many other health benefits, you will also have money to spend on other things.

Eat Wisely - eating a healthy diet goes a long way towards making you stay healthy and feel healthy. Eat a variety of foods each day including lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat or fat-free dairy products. It is best to limit foods that have a lot of fat, sugar, and salt. Your VA health care team can help you learn more about a healthy diet.

Be Physically Active - physical activity makes you feel good and can improve your health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity that requires moderate effort each week, such as walking, bicycling, swimming, or playing sports. You can do this in as little as 10 minutes at a time. It all adds up! Also, do muscle strengthening exercises (PDF) twice each week.

Get Involved in Your Health Care - taking an active role in your health care means you become a real partner with your VA health care team. It is a good idea to make a list of your questions. Talk about any concerns you have. Know what medications you take and why. It is your life, so be an active partner with your health care team.

Strive for a Healthy Weight - if you need to lose weight, losing even a little will help improve your health. The VA MOVE! program is available to help you lose any extra weight. If you are already at a healthy weight, be sure to maintain it. Eating a healthy diet, doing regular physical activity, and only eating the number of calories your body needs to maintain a healthy weight are important things to do.

couple walking their bikes

Manage Stress - pay attention to how much stress you feel. Work to keep it at a comfortable level. Your VA health care team can help you find ways to reduce your stress. Things you can do include physical activity, relaxation, and meditation. Try problem-solving techniques, participating in recreation and leisure activities, and stress and time management classes.

Get Recommended Vaccines and Screening Tests - find out from your VA health care team which vaccines, screening tests, and preventive medications are right for you. Every person is different. The pros and cons of receiving vaccines, screening tests and preventive medications depend on your age, gender, and health status. Ask your health care team what is right for you.

Limit Alcohol - if you choose to drink alcohol, women should have no more than one drink a day, and men should have no more than two drinks a day. Be sure not to drink large amounts at any one time (binge drinking). If you are concerned about your drinking, talk with your VA health care team about getting help.

Be Safe - personal safety is important to avoid harm. Use safe sex practices, always wear seat belts in a moving vehicle, and be sure to wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear when riding a bicycle or a motorcycle. Do not drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and do not ride with anyone who is. Your VA health care team can give you details on these safety practices and more.

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Updated/Reviewed: January 11, 2016