“You can’t join a gym for three months and then do nothing for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, it’s not like a bank account. You can’t deposit a lot and then spend it up later!” – Dr Nancy Huang.
Imagine if you could take simple steps today that could help you stay healthier for longer and prevent illness in the future. The great news is you can – and you don’t have to develop a taste for kale or kombucha to do so. It’s all about shifting your healthcare approach from exclusively focusing on treating illnesses to also encompassing preventative care.
“There’s been some great evidence-based development in preventative healthcare for more than 20 years now,” says Dr Nancy Huang, Australian Unity’s Chief Medical Adviser for Independent and Assisted Living. She should know. In her 35-year career, Nancy has researched and implemented programs relating to preventative healthcare for governments, not-for-profits and universities.
Here’s just one example of a preventative action you can commit to this week that has huge returns: “Being moderately active – so that could be 30 minutes of fast-paced walking, five times a week – can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by 50 percent. There’s no other drug, test or intervention we know of that can actually reduce the risk like that,” says Nancy.
“Regular physical activity is one of the best actions we can take as a preventative measure, but it has to be ongoing,” Nancy emphasises. “You can’t join a gym for three months and then do nothing for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, it’s not like a bank account. You can’t deposit a lot and then spend it up later!”
Especially when the notion of “later” can cover quite a lot of time. According to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics, men in their mid-60s can expect to live another 19.9 years, while women of the same age can expect to live another 22.6 years. On the whole, Australians are living longer than ever before, which makes preventative care even more important.
Are you ready to take control of the future of your health – and, as a result, your overall wellbeing? Our experts show you how.
Focus on lifestyle choices
“The key thing is, the small choices that we make on a day-to-day or a week-to-week basis are what add up to having the greatest impact,” says Dr Jeannie Yoo, Clinical Director at Remedy Healthcare, Australian Unity’s health partner. For Jeannie, this comes down to lifestyle choices. “So many of our common diseases are related to lifestyle factors,” she says.
So honestly ask yourself: are you being physically active? This means getting in a total of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. Are you eating a balanced, nutritious diet, one that’s filled with plenty of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, a moderate amount of dairy, and only a small amount of lean meat, poultry or fish?
Are you contributing to your wellbeing by getting enough rest at night, maintaining a healthy weight and creating space to do things that bring you joy, while avoiding the things that won’t, such as drinking too much alcohol or smoking?
“It’s nothing different to what we already know is good for us,” says Jeannie. “But after the age of 50, it’s very important to focus on those things to prevent the kinds of illnesses and conditions that become more common with age.”
Create a support team
When you’re on this journey of preventative care, you don’t have to take it alone. “It's a matter of making it a focus and then talking to the right people about making changes and finding out what kind of support is out there for you,” says Jeannie.
Nancy says the first person you need to add to your support team is your GP. “Whether you’re an Olympic athlete or a couch potato by nature, it’s really important to have a good, trustworthy relationship with your GP, who can monitor, assess and then advise you on your individual risk factors,” says Nancy. “This relationship, especially from middle-age onwards, can help us filter all of the information out there, and give us individualised advice about what it is that we can do [for our health]. Regular check-ins with your trusted GP are invaluable.”
Rebecca Windsor, Australian Unity’s General Manager of Health Management (Health Insurance), says this is crucial in helping to prevent the need for more serious treatments in the future too. “Making sure you’re on top of your regular checks means if a condition is found early, the interventions that you need to help you with your condition are likely to involve more conservative and non-invasive treatment options,” says Rebecca.
Then there’s a whole range of support options, no matter what your health goal. “Depending on your health insurance, extras can cover things like dental – because good oral health is linked to better overall health outcomes – plus physiotherapy and osteopathy, which are all really good preventative treatments,” says Rebecca.
“At Australian Unity, we have products that pay benefits to help you quit smoking, lose weight or have health checks that aren’t always covered by Medicare, such as bone density scans and health management programs to treat an underlying condition.”
When it comes to mental health, Rebecca adds, “We have a program to help members manage depression and anxiety, called MindStep, which is based on cognitive behavioural therapy. Our view as a fund is that we want to support you as best we can. We want to help you manage your physical and mental wellbeing, so you stay healthier for longer.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of changes you’d like to make, just commit to one action this week. Then, when it has become a habit, add another step. As Jeannie says, “You’re still quite young at 50. If you’re in good health, maintain that. Or, if you’re in not-so-good health, it’s not too late – there’s still plenty of time to make a difference.”
It goes to show that by shifting your healthcare regime to a more holistic preventative approach, you can help offset – or at least catch earlier – some of the more common ailments that you may experience as you age.
Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.
Remedy Healthcare Group Pty Limited and Australian Unity Health Limited are wholly owned subsidiaries of Australian Unity Limited.
An Australian Unity health partner, Remedy Healthcare provides targeted, solution-oriented healthcare that is based on clinically proven techniques. For more than 10 years, Remedy Healthcare has worked with more than 100,000 Australians – helping them to manage their health through caring, coaching, empowerment and support.