Your lifestyle can directly affect your health. Lifestyle changes may help you avoid illness or enable you to reduce the dose and/or the number of medicines that you take.
Regular exercise, a healthy weight, not smoking and reducing the amount of alcohol you drink (if it’s excessive) may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Depending on your circumstances, it is not always easy to make these changes alone, but seeking advice from a qualified health professional can often help.
Many chronic conditions are caused or made worse by smoking, and quitting can have immediate benefits for your body.
Nicotine replacement products work for some people. These include nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, tablets and inhalers. Some prescription medicines can help reduce the urge to smoke. Quitting smoking is tough and often requires additional support. Call the Quitline on 137 848 or speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
Eat a balanced diet
Healthy eating is a vital part of good health. A balanced diet means eating a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need.
Eat 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day.1 Choose wholegrain foods (e.g. bread, pasta and cereals), legumes (e.g. beans and lentils), lean meats, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products. Reduce your intake of salt, sugar and saturated fat. Drink at least 6–8 glasses of water a day.2 For more information, speak to your doctor or a dietitian about a balanced diet suited to your circumstances.
Alcohol in moderation
For adults, having no more than 2 standard drinks a day will reduce the lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm.3 If you drink alcohol, some alcohol-free days each week may help your body recover from the effects of alcohol.
Alcohol can affect your balance, leading to falls and serious injuries. Mixing alcohol and medicines can be harmful or make the medicines less effective.4 Check the consumer medicine information (CMI) for the medicine, or ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medicine interacts with alcohol. You can find your medicine's CMI using our Medicine Finder or ask your pharmacist or doctor for a copy.
Keeping physically active can reduce your likelihood of developing serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and helps prevent a range of other conditions. If you have a chronic condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or arthritis, you can improve the condition by exercising safely.5-7 If you are not currently exercising regularly and are not sure if exercise is safe for you, speak with your doctor. You can get more information from the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines.8
Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, either all at once or in 10 – 15-minute sessions. Moderate activity is equal in intensity to a brisk walk.5 Walking and using the stairs are good ways to keep active and maintain muscle strength.
Maintain a healthy weight
Almost two-thirds of Australian adults are overweight or obese.9 Carrying extra weight around your waist increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Recommended and risky waist measurements for these conditions are in the table below.8
Recommended waist measurements
Below 94 cm
Below 80 cm
Greatly increased risk
Over 102 cm
Over 88 cm
Body mass index (BMI) is another way of measuring how healthy your weight is. For more information, talk to your doctor, community nurse or other health professional.
Know your medicines
Once your health improves through a changed lifestyle, ask your doctor if your medicines should change. You may be able to reduce your dose or stop a medicine altogether.
It is important to know:
the active ingredient of your medicine
what your medicine is for
how much you take and how often
what times of day to take it
whether or not to take it with food
what to do if you miss a dose
possible side effects and interactions with food or other medicines. The CMI for your medicine lists all this information.