6 simple habits you need to avoid getting sick

Combine a sensible lifestyle with a few daily habits to help reduce your chance of developing ill-health.

By Citro partner nib

If someone offered you a magic pill that could help you live a longer, healthier life you’d take it, wouldn’t you? While that amazing pill doesn’t exist, there is something that can take you a very long way in getting as close to that result as possible…

It’s called prevention.

A proactive approach to health not only enhances longevity but also safeguards against the many illnesses and injuries. With that in mind, here are our top 6 steps to taking control of your wellbeing, vitality and resilience.

Prevention is better than a cure

To put it simply, looking after yourself can dramatically reduce your chances of getting sick. We have a great deal of control over the state of our health through the lifestyle decisions we make.

We’d all prefer to enjoy a long and happy life rather than face the challenges and discomfort that can come with ill-health. Unfortunately, lifestyle factors such as poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption and not enough exercise continue to be some of the leading causes of ill-health across the country.

While Australia has come a long way in life expectancy rates, we have the potential to do so much more when it comes to warding off disease. Although we are living longer, the number of years we spend living with illness hasn’t changed over the past decade according to the 2023 Australian Burden of Disease Study.

Good daily habits can prevent chronic illness

“Nearly half of all Australian adults now have a chronic health condition, and over a quarter of us live with more than one condition,” says nib foundation Executive Officer Amy Tribe. 

These conditions (all of which can have a serious impact on our quality of life over many years) include:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Asthma
  • Back problems
  • Arthritis
  • Mental health conditions

Although genetic and environmental factors contribute to these conditions, Amy says more than a third of Australia’s total burden of disease comes from preventable risks, such as smoking, alcohol, poor diet and physical inactivity.

As aware as we may be of what we should be doing to live healthier lives, turning things like eating well and exercising regularly into daily habits can be a challenge.

“Human nature tends to favour visible issues that present an immediate and compelling need, and where progress is tangible,” explains Amy. “Success can be less obvious when the desired outcome is the absence of a visible problem.”

6 steps to prevent ill-health

Fortunately, even minor lifestyle changes can make a big impact when it comes to preventing disease. Follow these steps to keep your body and mind in the best possible shape and ward off ill-health in the process:

1. Quit smoking (for real this time)

Despite a decline in smoking rates, vaping has tripled in the past few years, according to research from the Australian Government Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Vaping products contain harmful substances like carcinogens which can potentially elevate your risk of cardiovascular diseases, lung disorders and poisoning.

Are you looking for support to quit smoking or vaping now? Check out these resources and information from the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.

2. Keep your weight in range

Bodies come in all different shapes and sizes, however carrying increased internal fat deposits that coat your heart, kidneys, liver, digestive organs and pancreas can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. A waist measurement is a simple check to tell if you’re carrying excess body fat around your middle.

The Heart Foundation recommends that men have a waist circumference of less than 94 cm and women less than 80 cm, and that we stay in a healthy weight range for our height. The Heart Foundation’s Body Mass Index calculator is a good starting point to get an indication, but it’s suggested you speak with your doctor about weight management to ensure you’re getting advice tailored to your specific health needs.

3. Eat well across a wide range of health foods

With so much conflicting advice out there about what to eat, it can be overwhelming. Aiming for a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein is a good place to start.

The University of Newcastle’s No Money No Time website is helpful. It’s a personalised nutrition platform that helps motivate and support Australians to adopt healthy eating behaviours in simple and affordable ways, reducing the risk of preventable chronic diseases.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines also offer valuable advice on how much to eat from each of the five food groups every day.

4. Get real about alcohol

Alcohol use is estimated to be responsible for 4.5% of the total burden of disease and injury in Australia. 

Hello Sunday Morning’s Daybreak app is a useful tool for people wanting to find ways to change their relationship with alcohol. Their online self-assessment can help you assess your drinking habits and find support to improve your relationship with alcohol.

The National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines recommend adults have no more than two standard drinks on any given day and include two alcohol-free days per week.

5. Keep moving

If you’re under 65, the Australian Government guidelines recommend that you’re active on most, preferably all days with at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week. You should also aim to do muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week.

Over 65 and you should also be incorporating some kind of strengthening activity (body weight exercises, climbing stairs or heavy yard work all fit the bill). The recommendation is also to be active on most, preferably all, days with at least 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. Moderate intensity exercise causes a noticeable increase in the depth and rate of breathing while still being able to talk comfortably.

How your exercise depends on your health and lifestyle, so always chat with your GP before starting a new exercise regimen.

6. Book in for regular health checks

Having regular health check-ups is important, no matter how old you are. Download Citro’s printable checklist and make an appointment at your nearest GP.

Vital health checks for Australians aged 50 to 60 - a Citro guide

Try to be consistent with the doctor you see to get a better overview of your health journey. You have the option of signing up with My Health Record, so that if you do visit a different GP, they’ll be able to access important information from your past appointments.

What’s involved in a regular check-up? During the session, your doctor is likely to:

  • Ask you about your current health, and both your personal and family medical history
  • Examine you carefully, looking for any signs of illness
  • Ask you to do relevant urine and blood tests
  • Ask you about lifestyle habits

This assessment will help your doctor to know if you have or are at risk of developing any chronic diseases. This is a great chance for you to ask your doctor about your health and current recommendations and guidelines. 

It is best for adults to have a check-up every two years and every year after age 40. By knowing what's normal for you early on, you'll be able to detect any serious changes later.

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