What You Can Do to Maintain Your Health
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
Do my habits really affect my health?
Yes, very much so. All of the major causes of death (such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and injury) can be prevented in part by making healthy lifestyle choices.
Don’t smoke or use tobacco.
Smoking and using tobacco are very dangerous habits. Smoking causes more than 230,000 deaths in Canada every year. More preventable illnesses (such as emphysema, mouth, throat and lung cancer, and heart disease) are caused by tobacco use than by anything else. The sooner you quit, the better.
Limit how much alcohol you drink.
This means no more than 15 drinks per week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days, and no more than 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days. One drink is equal to 341 ml if beer (12 oz), a 142 ml (5 oz) glass of wine or a 43 ml (1.5 oz) distilled alcohol (rye, gin, rum, etc).
Too much alcohol can damage the liver and contribute to some cancers, such as throat and liver cancer. Alcohol also contributes to deaths from car wrecks, murders and suicides.
A healthy diet has many health benefits. Heart disease, certain cancers, stroke, diabetes and damage to your arteries can be linked to what you eat. By making healthier food choices, you can also lower your cholesterol and lose weight.
Lose weight if you’re overweight.
Many Canadians are overweight. Carrying too much weight increases your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, gallbladder disease and arthritis in the weight-bearing joints (such as the spine, hips or knees). A high-fiber, low-fat diet and regular exercise can help you lose weight and keep it off.
Exercise can help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression. It can also help prevent colon cancer, stroke and back injury. You’ll feel better and keep your weight under control if you exercise regularly. To achieve health benefits, adults aged 18-64 years should get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
Don’t sunbathe or use tanning booths.
Sun exposure is linked to skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer in Canada. It’s best to limit sun exposure and wear protective clothing and hats when you are outside. Sunscreen is also very important. It protects your skin and will help prevent skin cancer. Make sure you use sunscreen year round on exposed skin (such as your face and hands). Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 and one that blocks both UVA and UVB light.
Practice safe sex.
The safest sex is between 2 people who are only having sex with each other and who don’t have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or share needles to inject drugs. Use latex condoms. Contact your healthcare provider about being tested yearly for STIs.
Keep your shots up to date.
Adults need a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years. Your healthcare provider may substitute one Td booster with Tdap, which also protects you against pertussis (whooping cough). If you’re pregnant and have not had a Tdap shot before, you should be vaccinated during the third trimester of your pregnancy or late in the second trimester. Adults and teens who are in close contact with babies younger than 12 months and who have not received a Tdap shot before should get vaccinated as well.
Adults should also get a flu shot each year. Contact your healthcare provider and ask if you need other shots or vaccines.
Make time for breast health.
Breast cancer is one of the most common causes of death for women. Starting at age 40, women can start to have mammograms. Women who have risk factors for breast cancer, such as a family history of breast cancer, may need to have mammograms more often or start having them sooner.
Get regular Pap smears.
Unless your healthcare provider suggests otherwise, you should have Pap smears:
- Starting at 21 years of age or within 3 years of becoming sexually active
- How frequently they are done and until what age may vary by province, patient’s history and risk factors. Discuss how often you should have a pap smear with your healthcare provider
Certain things put you at higher or lower risk for cervical cancer. Your healthcare provider will consider these when recommending how often you should have a Pap smear.
Contact your healthcare provider about how often to have a Pap smear:
- If you’re older than 65-70 years of age. If you’ve been having Pap smears regularly and they’ve been normal, you may not need to keep having them.
- If you’ve had a hysterectomy with removal of your cervix.
- If you’ve never had a high-grade precancerous lesion or cervical cancer.
Contact your healthcare provider about other cancer screenings.
Adults should contact their healthcare provider about being checked for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Depending on your risk factors and family medical history, your healthcare provider may want to check for other types of cancer.
Should I have a yearly physical?
Health screenings are replacing the yearly physical. Instead of every person getting the same exams and tests, only the appropriate ones are given. Contact your family healthcare provider about your risk factors and what tests and exams are right for you.