You can improve your health and prevent or lessen the effects of chronic diseases through diet and exercise. By investing a little time in your health, you can live a longer, healthier life.

Live Like Your Life Depends On It is a statewide health campaign to improve the health of Missouri citizens. Contributors include University of Missouri Extension, the Missouri Council for Activity and Nutrition (MOCAN) and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The campaign’s four main messages are:

  1. Eat smart
  2. Move more
  3. Be tobacco-free
  4. Get recommended health screenings

The goal of the campaign is to reduce the risk for chronic disease. A chronic disease is defined as a prolonged course of illness for which a complete cure is rarely achieved, such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis or cancer.

Risk factors for multiple chronic diseases include poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, being overweight, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, not receiving screenings for chronic diseases and lack of health insurance.

Even after being diagnosed with a chronic disease, you can live a long and satisfying life. Your attitude about the diagnosis and healthy lifestyle changes can impact your ability to fight the disease and lead to a higher quality of life.

Here’s a summary of four primary actions you can take to improve your health.

Eat smart

Choosing the right variety of foods will help maintain a high quality of life and prevent many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

  • Make healthy food and beverage choices from the five food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy — to get all the nutrients you need.
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Fresh, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are all good choices.
  • Snack on grapes, raisins, bananas, apples, raw carrot sticks, low-fat yogurt, nuts and cheeses to get the servings and nutrients that you need, and to replace the junk food that you don’t need.
  • Use the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list to find foods and drinks that are lower in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar.
  • Eat smaller portions. One tip for keeping portions small is to use a smaller plate.

Move more

Activity can help to maintain a healthy weight. It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke. Moving more can also help to manage diabetes, prevent osteoporosis and ease aches and pains associated with arthritis.

Health experts recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Physical activity can be fun at any age. Choose an activity and start today. Begin by dancing, gardening, exercising in water, playing with kids, pedaling in the park, or walking and talking.

Be tobacco-free

If you’ve smoked for years and think it’s too late to quit, consider this — if you stopped smoking today, your health would begin to improve almost immediately. Here are some tips to help you quit tobacco:

  • Set a stop date.
  • Have a plan.
  • Remove temptation.
  • Talk to your doctor or health care provider.

In addition to improving your health, there’s another benefit to quitting smoking — the health of your family and friends will improve when they are no longer exposed to your secondhand smoke.

Get recommended health screenings

Health screenings can’t exactly predict the future, but they can provide information about health issues you might face as you get older.

Screenings can warn you about possible health hazards down the road. Screenings can help you make choices now to prevent health problems later that might impact the quality of your life. Talk to your doctor about the health screenings you need.

Recommended screenings for both men and women include obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, colorectal cancer and depression. Additional screenings for women include breast cancer, cervical cancer and osteoporosis.

In summary, you can make lifestyle choices that will help you live a longer, healthier life. Work on one small change at a time, until it becomes routine, and then work on the next change. Remember to Live Like Your Life Depends On It!