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Taking Charge of Your Health

Taking Charge of Your Health
Discover how proactive steps like skin protection and quitting smoking can enhance your health as you age, by Jon Warner, ECHAlliance US Ambassador.
Healthy Ageing
ECHAlliance

As we get older, maintaining our health and wellness becomes increasingly important. Taking proactive or preventive steps are therefore critical -after all we should all be “captains of our own health ship!”. 

Given it is a global focus for both this month 2 good examples of such wellness side behavior that many of us can engage in is preventing skin cancer and quitting smoking (assuming that we do) as these can pay big dividends for our quality of life down the road. While making lifestyle changes can be challenging, focusing on small, achievable goals is the key to long-term success. Let’s therefore look briefly at what is involved in setting a goal to address each of these changes one by one. 

Skin Protection

One important aspect of aging well is protecting your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Did you know , for example, that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States? In fact, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Fortunately, most cases can be prevented. Wearing sunscreen, seeking shade, and covering up with protective clothing are simple habits that can significantly reduce your risk. In simple terms this means that when we spend time outdoors, we should regularly apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to all exposed skin (and not forget our ears, lips, scalp and back of our neck!  We should also reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days, as UV rays can penetrate clouds. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are strong enough to burn. Of course, we can also wear protective clothing like a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

In addition to prevention, scheduling regular skin checks with a dermatologist is important. They can examine your skin thoroughly and detect any abnormal moles or lesions early. Early detection is key to successful skin cancer treatment. We can therefore all commit to a skin self-exam every month, so you know what’s normal for your skin.  Taking these simple steps will significantly reduce your chances of developing skin cancer as you age.

Quitting Smoking

Another important health behavior is quitting smoking tobacco (or quitting vaping for that matter). Did you know cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable death worldwide? It’s never too late to quit – people who stop smoking, even after decades of use, significantly reduce their risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and more. Simply put, when you’re ready to quit, you can set a specific “quit date” and tell your friends and family of your plan. Get support by talking to others who have quit successfully and also consider using nicotine replacement products like gum, patches or lozenges, which can help manage cravings as you kick the habit. Apps like QuitPal and QuitSure provide motivational tips, tracking and local support resources right on your phone. The National Cancer Institute offers a free coaching program to help you develop a customized quit plan at smokefree.gov or 1-800-QUIT-NOW. The benefits of quitting smoking are almost immediate. Within 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. After a year, the risk of heart disease is cut in half. People’s lung function improves up to 10% within 9 months and they save money and feel more energetic too. 

 

Making lifestyle changes for healthy aging does require effort, but the payoffs are immense. By taking proactive steps like protecting your skin from UV damage and quitting smoking (as two of many wellness side examples we could have described) you significantly reduce your risks of cancer, heart and lung disease. Your future self will thank you.

NEWS​

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