Health Topics

Wellness and lifestyle

Health Risks of an Inactive Lifestyle
National Library of Medicine
Sedentary Lifestyle
Sitting Disease
What is an inactive lifestyle?

Being a couch potato. Not exercising. A sedentary or inactive lifestyle. You have probably heard of all of these phrases, and they mean the same thing: a lifestyle with a lot of sitting and lying down, with very little to no exercise.

In the United States and around the world, people are spending more and more time doing sedentary activities. During our leisure time, we are often sitting: while using a computer or other device, watching TV, or playing video games. Many of our jobs have become more sedentary, with long days sitting at a desk. And the way most of us get around involves sitting - in cars, on buses, and on trains.

How does an inactive lifestyle affect your body?

When you have an inactive lifestyle,

  • You burn fewer calories. This makes you more likely to gain weight.
  • You may lose muscle strength and endurance, because you are not using your muscles as much
  • Your bones may get weaker and lose some mineral content
  • Your metabolism may be affected, and your body may have more trouble breaking down fats and sugars
  • Your immune system may not work as well
  • You may have poorer blood circulation
  • Your body may have more inflammation
  • You may develop a hormonal imbalance
What are the health risks of an inactive lifestyle?

Having an inactive lifestyle can be one of the causes of many chronic diseases. By not getting regular exercise, you raise your risk of

  • Obesity
  • Heart diseases, including coronary artery disease and heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain cancers, including colon, breast, and uterine cancers
  • Osteoporosis and falls
  • Increased feelings of depression and anxiety

Having a sedentary lifestyle can also raise your risk of premature death. And the more sedentary you are, the higher your health risks are.

How can I get started with exercise?

If you have been inactive, you may need to start slowly. You can keep adding more exercise gradually. The more you can do, the better. But try not to feel overwhelmed, and do what you can. Getting some exercise is always better than getting none. Eventually, your goal can be to get the recommended amount of exercise for your age and health.

There are many different ways to get exercise; it is important to find the types that are best for you. You can also try to add activity to your life in smaller ways, such as at home and at work.

How can I be more active around the house?

There are some ways you can be active around your house:

  • Housework, gardening, and yard work are all physical work. To increase the intensity, you could try doing them at a more vigorous pace.
  • Keep moving while you watch TV. Lift hand weights, do some gentle yoga stretches, or pedal an exercise bike. Instead of using the TV remote, get up and change the channels yourself.
  • Work out at home with a workout video (on your TV or on the internet)
  • Go for a walk in your neighborhood. It can be more fun if you walk your dog, walk your kids to school, or walk with a friend.
  • Stand up when talking on the phone
  • Get some exercise equipment for your home. Treadmills and elliptical trainers are great, but not everyone has the money or space for one. Less expensive equipment such as yoga balls, exercise mats, stretch bands, and hand weights can help you get a workout at home too.
How can I be more active at work?

Most of us sit when we are working, often in front of a computer. In fact, less than 20% of Americans have physically active jobs. It can be challenging to fit physical activity into your busy workday, but here are some tips to help you get moving:

  • Get up from your chair and move around at least once an hour
  • Stand when you are talking on the phone
  • Find out whether your company can get you a stand-up or treadmill desk
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Use your break or part of your lunch hour to walk around the building
  • Stand up and walk to a colleague's office instead of sending an email
  • Have "walking" or standing meetings with co-workers instead of sitting in a conference room

Sedentary Behavior
Wellness and Lifestyle
Fitness and Exercise
... may develop a hormonal imbalance What are the health risks of an inactive lifestyle? Having an inactive lifestyle can be one of ... feelings of depression and anxiety Having a sedentary lifestyle can also raise ... you are, the higher your health risks are.How can I get started with ...
Mental Health
National Library of Medicine
Emotional Health
What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and aging.

What are mental disorders?

Mental disorders are serious conditions which can affect your thinking, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting. They can affect your ability to relate to others and function each day. Mental disorders are common; more than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with one at some time in their life. But there are treatments. People with mental disorders can get better, and many of them recover completely.

Why is mental health important?

Mental health is important because it can help you to

  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Be physically healthy
  • Have good relationships
  • Make meaningful contributions to your community
  • Work productively
  • Realize your full potential

Your mental health is also important because it can affect your physical health. For example, mental disorders can raise your risk for physical health problems such as stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

What can affect my mental health?

There are many different factors that can affect your mental health, including

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems
  • Your lifestyle, such as diet, physical activity, and substance use

You can also affect your mental health by taking steps to improve it, such as doing meditation, using relaxation techniques, and practicing gratitude.

Can my mental health change over time?

Over time, your mental health can change. For example, you may be dealing with a difficult situation, such as trying to manage a chronic illness, taking care of an ill relative, or facing money problems. The situation may wear you out and overwhelm your ability to cope with it. This can worsen your mental health. On the other hand, getting therapy may improve your mental health.

What are the signs that I might have a mental health problem?

When it comes to your emotions, it can be hard to know what is normal and what is not. There are warning signs that you may have a mental health problem, including

  • A change in your eating or sleeping habits
  • Withdrawing from the people and activities you enjoy
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Having severe mood swings that cause problems in your relationships
  • Having thoughts and memories that you can't get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Not being able to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
What should I do if I think I have a mental health problem?

If you think that you may have a mental health problem, get help. Talk therapy and/or medicines can treat mental disorders. If you don't know where to start, contact your primary care provider.


Mental Health
Mental Health and Behavior
Wellness and Lifestyle
... as trauma or abuse Family history of mental health problems Your lifestyle, such as diet, physical activity, and substance use You can also affect your mental health by taking steps to improve it, such as ...
Healthy Living
National Library of Medicine
Prevention
Staying Healthy

Many factors affect your health. Some you cannot control, such as your genetic makeup or your age. But you can make changes to your lifestyle. By taking steps toward healthy living, you can help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and other serious diseases:

  • Get the screening tests you need
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods, and limit calories and saturated fat
  • Be physically active
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Don't smoke
  • Protect yourself from too much sun
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, or don't drink at all
  • Get enough sleep every day
  • Work on improving your mental health, for example by practicing mediation, relaxation techniques, or gratitude

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality


Healthy Lifestyle
Wellness and Lifestyle
Many factors affect your health. Some you cannot control, such as your genetic makeup or your age. But you can make changes to your lifestyle. By taking steps toward healthy living, you can help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and other serious ...
Health Checkup
National Library of Medicine
Annual Physical Examination
Annual checkup
Routine physical examination

Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. Which exams and screenings you need depends on your age, health and family history, and lifestyle choices such as what you eat, how active you are, and whether you smoke.

To make the most of your next check-up, here are some things to do before you go:

  • Review your family medical history
  • Find out if you are due for any general screenings or vaccinations
  • Write down a list of issues and questions to take with you

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Physical Examination
Wellness and Lifestyle
... and screenings you need depends on your age, health and family history, and lifestyle choices such as what you eat, how active ...
Healthy Aging
National Library of Medicine

People in the U.S. are living longer, and the number of older adults in the population is growing. As we age, our minds and bodies change. Having a healthy lifestyle can help you deal with those changes. It may also prevent some health problems and help you to make the most of your life.

A healthy lifestyle for older adults includes

  • Healthy eating. As you age, your dietary needs may change. You may need fewer calories, but you still need to get enough nutrients. A healthy eating plan includes
    • Eating foods that give you lots of nutrients without a lot of extra calories. This includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts, and seeds.
    • Avoiding empty calories, such as foods like chips, candy, baked goods, soda, and alcohol
    • Eating foods that are low in cholesterol and fat
    • Drinking enough liquids, so you don't get dehydrated
  • Regular physical activity. Being physically active may help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid chronic health problems. If you have not been active, you can start slowly and work up to your goal. How much exercise you need depends on your age and health. Check with your health care provider on what is right for you.
  • Staying at a healthy weight. Being either overweight or underweight can lead to health problems. Ask your health care professional what a healthy weight for you may be. Healthy eating and exercise can help you get to that weight.
  • Keeping your mind active. Lots of activities can keep your mind active and improve your memory, including learning new skills, reading, and playing games.
  • Making your mental health a priority. Work on improving your mental health, for example by practicing mediation, relaxation techniques, or gratitude. Know the warning signs of a problem and ask for help if you are struggling.
  • Participating in activities that you enjoy. People who are involved in hobbies and social and leisure activities may be at lower risk for some health problems. Doing things that you enjoy may help you feel happier and improve your thinking abilities.
  • Playing an active role in your health care. Make sure that you get regular checkups and the health screenings that you need. You should know which medicines you are taking, why you need them, and how to take them properly.
  • Not smoking. If you are a smoker, quitting is one of the most important things that you can do for your health. It can lower your risk of several different types of cancer, certain lung diseases, and heart disease.
  • Taking steps to prevent falls. Older adults have a higher risk of falling. They are also more likely to fracture (break) a bone when they fall. Getting regular eye checkups, getting regular physical activity, and making your house safer can lower your risk of falling.

Following these tips can help you to stay healthy as you age. Even if you have never done them before, it's never too late to start taking care of your health. If you have questions about these lifestyle changes or need help figuring out how to make them, ask your health care provider.


Healthy Aging
Older Adults
Wellness and Lifestyle
... figuring out how to make them, ask your health care provider.
Family History
National Library of Medicine

Your family history includes health information about you and your close relatives. Families have many factors in common, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle. Looking at these factors can help you figure out whether you have a higher risk for certain health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Having a family member with a disease raises your risk, but it does not mean that you will definitely get it. Knowing that you are at risk gives you a chance to reduce that risk by following a healthier lifestyle and getting tested as needed.

You can get started by talking to your relatives about their health. Draw a family tree and add the health information. Having copies of medical records and death certificates is also helpful.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Medical History Taking
Genetics/Birth Defects
Wellness and Lifestyle
Your family history includes health information about you and your close relatives. Families have many factors in common, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle. Looking at these factors can help you figure out whether you have a higher risk for certain health problems, such ...
Health Literacy
National Library of Medicine
What is health literacy?

Health literacy involves the information that people need to be able to make good decisions about health. There are two parts:

  • Personal health literacy is about how well a person can find and understand the health information and services that they need. It is also about using the information and services to make good health decisions.
  • Organizational health literacy is about to how well organizations help people find the health information and services that they need. It also includes helping them use that information to make good health decisions.
Which factors can affect health literacy?

Many different factors can affect a person's health literacy, including their

  • Knowledge of medical words
  • Understanding of how the health care system works
  • Ability to communicate with health care providers
  • Ability to find health information, which may require computer skills
  • Reading, writing, and number skills
  • Personal factors, such as age, income, education, language abilities, and culture
  • Physical or mental limitations

Many of the same people who are at risk for limited health literacy also have health disparities. Health disparities are health differences between different groups of people. These groups may be based on age, race, gender, or other factors.

Why is health literacy important?

Health literacy is important because it can affect your ability to

  • Make good decisions about your health
  • Get the medical care you need. This includes preventative care, which is care to prevent disease.
  • Take your medicines correctly
  • Manage a disease, especially a chronic disease
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle

One thing that you can do is to make sure that you communicate well with your health care providers. If you don't understand something a provider tells you, ask them to explain it to you so that you understand. You can also ask the provider to write down their instructions.


Health Literacy
Wellness and Lifestyle
Personal Health Issues
... your ability to Make good decisions about your health Get the medical care you need. This includes preventative care, which is care to prevent disease. Take your medicines correctly Manage a disease, especially a chronic disease Lead a healthy lifestyle One thing that you can do is to ...
Evaluating Health Information
National Library of Medicine

Millions of consumers get health information from magazines, TV or the Internet. Some of the information is reliable and up to date; some is not. How can you tell the good from the bad?

First, consider the source. If you use the Web, look for an "about us" page. Check to see who runs the site: Is it a branch of the government, a university, a health organization, a hospital or a business? Focus on quality. Does the site have an editorial board? Is the information reviewed before it is posted? Be skeptical. Things that sound too good to be true often are. You want current, unbiased information based on research.

NIH: National Library of Medicine


Internet
Wellness and Lifestyle
Personal Health Issues
Millions of consumers get health information from magazines, TV or the Internet. Some of the information is reliable and up to date; some is not. How can you ...
Sexual Health
National Library of Medicine
Sex

Sexuality is a big part of being human. Love, affection and sexual intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships. They also contribute to your sense of well-being. A number of disorders can affect the ability to have or enjoy sex in both men and women.

Factors that can affect sexual health include

  • Fear of unplanned pregnancy
  • Concerns about infertility
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Chronic diseases such as cancer or heart disease
  • Medicines that affect sexual desire or performance

Sexual Health
Women
Men
Wellness and Lifestyle
Sexual Health Issues
Female Reproductive System
Male Reproductive System
Sexuality is a big part of being human. Love, affection and sexual intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships. They also contribute to your sense of well- ...
Exercise and Physical Fitness
National Library of Medicine
Fitness
Physical Fitness
Weight Training

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. It has many benefits, including improving your overall health and fitness, and reducing your risk for many chronic diseases. There are many different types of exercise; it is important that you pick the right types for you. Most people benefit from a combination of them:

  • Endurance, or aerobic, activities increase your breathing and heart rate. They keep your heart, lungs, and circulatory system healthy and improve your overall fitness. Examples include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and biking.
  • Strength, or resistance training, exercises make your muscles stronger. Some examples are lifting weights and using a resistance band.
  • Balance exercises can make it easier to walk on uneven surfaces and help prevent falls. To improve your balance, try tai chi or exercises like standing on one leg.
  • Flexibility exercises stretch your muscles and can help your body stay limber. Yoga and doing various stretches can make you more flexible.

Fitting regular exercise into your daily schedule may seem difficult at first. But you can start slowly, and break your exercise time into chunks. Even doing ten minutes at a time is fine. You can work your way up to doing the recommended amount of exercise. How much exercise you need depends on your age and health.

Other things that you can do to make the most of your workouts include

  • Choosing activities that work all the different parts of the body, including your core (muscles around your back, abdomen, and pelvis). Good core strength improves balance and stability and helps to prevent lower back injury.
  • Choosing activities that you enjoy. It's easier to make exercise a regular part of your life if you have fun doing it.
  • Exercising safely, with proper equipment, to prevent injuries. Also, listen to your body and don't overdo it.
  • Giving yourself goals. The goals should challenge you, but also be realistic. It's also helpful to reward yourself when you reach your goals. The rewards could be something big, like new workout gear, or something smaller, such as movie tickets.

Exercise
Physical Fitness
Wellness and Lifestyle
Fitness and Exercise
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. It has many benefits, including improving your overall health and fitness, and reducing ...