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5 self-care tips to promote and maintain good health

International Self-Care Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of self-care and its role in leading a healthy life. Self-care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Prevent or manage chronic illness

Self-care is especially important for older adults in helping to prevent or manage chronic illnesses. More than 75% of Canadians 65 and older have one or more chronic conditions, says the Health Council of Canada. Practising self-care through lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, regular physical activity, not smoking and moderate use of alcohol could prevent up to 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and over one-third of cancers, according to the International Self-Care Foundation (ISF).

Self-management is a key part of effective self-care for people living with a chronic condition. This means eating right, exercising, monitoring symptoms, taking medications as prescribed and knowing when to seek professional help, which enables you to live well with one or more chronic conditions, advises the Health Council of Canada.

Self-care for caregivers

Family caregivers often spend so much time and energy helping and caring for others that it can be easy to neglect their own needs. To be an effective caregiver and maintain your own health, it’s important to seek support and take care of yourself.

Ask family members for help, share tasks, seek respite care, and make time for social activities and friends, Health LinkBC recommends. Put your own health first by having regular medical checkups, eating well, being physically active, getting enough sleep and trying stress reduction techniques like deep breathing and meditation.

The ISF offers these self-care tips to help you promote and maintain good health:

1) Boost your health literacy. Improving your health literacy and knowledge can help you to distinguish useful, accurate information from poor or misleading information and make healthier choices.

2) Be self-aware. Being aware of what your mind and body may need helps you to identify possible areas for improvement. Self-awareness is the first step to any self-care activity and allows you to attend to any needs before they worsen.

3) Make healthy lifestyle choices. Be physically active and eat healthy, nutritious foods each day.

4) Control modifiable risks. Use sunscreen, get your annual flu shot, limit alcohol use and avoid smoking.

5) Practice good hygiene. Regular washing of your hands and body, and sanitary food preparation and consumption, greatly reduce the risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.