Nutrition Physical Activity And Mental Health

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Australia over period has been identified been with National Health Priority Areas. This was in response to the World Health Organisation’s global strategy, Health for All by the Year 2000, which later became Health for All in the 21st Century ( changes and improvement in the population’s health trends, these areas were targeted. These areas include: cardiovascular health, cancer control, injury prevention and control and mental health. In recent years, diabetes mellitus, asthma, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions have been added to the priority areas. Evidently each priority area has been linked to poor nutrition and physical activity practices. As preventative action a healthy lifestyle can contribute to decreased risks of illness and disease. A healthy individual is associated with a balanced lifestyle, consisting of a balanced diet in conjunction with regular physical activity. However, not many Australian’s are aware of all the benefits a healthy lifestyle can provide in assisting the prevention and cure of the priority areas, cardiovascular health, cancer control, injury prevention and control, mental health, diabetes mellitus, asthma, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. Thus action at both societal and individual levels should be implemented to better the nutrition and physical activity practices.

Cardiovascular health involves coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease. “…The main underlying causal mechanism of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis, a process marked by abnormal build-ups of fat, cholesterol and other substances in the inner lining of the arteries. It is most serious when if affects the blood supply to the heart (causing angina or heart attack) or to the brain (causing a stroke)…” ( The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare government site also states that major preventable risk factors of cardiovascular disease include tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, insufficient physical activity, overweight and obesity, poor nutrition, diabetes and stress.

‘Synthesis of the International Heart Health Declarations’ addresses recommendations of five international cardiovascular disease declarations formed as the basis of action. These include adopting core values, defining health goals, selecting strategies and developing capacity. (Synthesis of the International Heart Health Declarations’ p.12)

As individuals it is important to adopt the correct attitude to a healthy lifestyle. A good balanced diet keeps positive nutrition at high levels allowing the individual keep at minimal risk of poor cardiovascular health. With less fatty build-ups the heart and blood flow is healthier and the body is happier. Simultaneously with increased attention on physical activity it will greater benefit one’s health and decrease risk of disease. The demand of children’s education and actions implemented could begin with parental enforcement. It could be as simple as limiting sedentary activities such as television, movies, videos and computer games to no more than two hours a day.

Sports and activities that appeal to children should be encouraged through development with lessons or by joining teams. Encourage walking or riding bicycles rather than driving to your destination when possible. The use of stairs instead of lifts and escalators is another simple step instigating physical activity. Ensuring children’s physical activities at school or in daycare is something we can help as a society. Volunteers to take on groups to educate physically and nutritionally.

Some government initiatives in place aimed at increasing physical activity and nutritional balance follow:
Sample of Current Initiatives Relating to Cardiovascular Health
Source of Initiative Initiative Features
Department of Human Services in conjunction with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation Active for Life Program and Physical Activity Strategy Aims to encourage adults to include 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity into their daily lives. The program involves a broad media campaign and a program of community-based and other activity, including sponsorships of high-profile events, a community grants scheme, local government grants, setting group activities, an Infoline and database of community physical activity opportunities.
Health Promotion Unit of the South Australian Health Commission’s Public and Environmental Health Service South Australian Food and Health Policy The goal of the policy is to reduce the incidence of diet-related illness, disability and early death among South Australians from diseases such as cardiovascular disease. It provides a framework for coordinated intersectoral action, which includes Aboriginal people, infants, children, young people and their families and older people.
Queensland Health Queensland’s Lighten Up Program The program is a community-based weight management project that provides nutritional advice and structured exercise programs in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also produces, sells and distributes resources. Involves community and hospital-based nurses and relevant allied health staff.
Territory Health Service Territory Food Project Collaborative initiative by the Aboriginal community, health organisations, government agencies and the food production and supply industry. Aims of the program include the improvement of the quality, quantity and affordability of the food supply in remote Aboriginal communities; encouragement of the food industry to adopt nutrition policies consistent with national nutrition guidelines; increased access to nutrition education for consumers, educators and health professionals and provision of training.
Tasmanian Government Tasmanian Food and Nutrition Policy Aims to reduce the proportion of preventable early death, illness and disability that is diet-related including cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and diabetes, as well as several other diet-related conditions.
Source: DHAC & AIHW National Health Priority Areas Report, Cardiovascular Health 1998: A Report on Heart, Stroke and Vascular Disease. (The National Health Priorities Areas Initiative (Current Issues Brief 18 1999-2000)
Cancer control refers to sustaining cancer spread. Cancer is a disease defecting the cells and if not caught at early stages of the disease’s growth, metastesises throughout the body damaging tissue and causing all sorts of other serious health issues. In response to high morbidity and mortality rates caused by cancer, it is now classified as a National Health Priority Area. The main types of cancers that are targeted include lung cancer, melanoma, non-melanocytic skin cancers, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cervical cancer and breast cancer.
The society looks at primary prevention. This involves public health programs to reduce tobacco smoking, exposure to tobacco smoke and cancer-causing agents in the environment, and excessive exposure to ultra-violet radiation (The National Health Priorities Areas Initiative (Current Issues Brief 18 1999-2000).
Cancer can be hereditary, past on within our families or in our genes, but most cancers are related to the individual’s lifestyle. Consequently it is modifiable. A proper balanced nutritional diet will not benefit the individual, but if all individuals were on a nutritional diet it will limit the cancer in the population. The diet should be inclusive of five servings vegetables per day and two servings of fruit. Vegetables and fruit contain natural substances that can destroy cancer causing agents and slow down the growth of cancer cells. Also, having a variety or vitamins and minerals, red meat three times a week, reducing the intake of processed meats and products like salami, bacon, etc., regular serving of carbohydrates and protein. It also, is a fact that milk products are beneficial for the growth and strength of the bones. At societal levels this can be implemented and enforced upon the individual. Reducing the availability of fast food products, processed foods and increasing the availability of high nutritional products, fresh and organic, healthy foods.
A regular physical activity based programme reduces the risk of cancer. It is of greater benefit if the individual has been engaging in physical activity over a long period of time. However it is not late for any individual who has never been involved in regular physical activity to start being active. It could involve the simple movements of walking rather than driving, getting up to change the channel on the television, use of stairs instead of escalators. It is known that 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity, that will make you huff and puff, reduces the risk of cancer.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website, Mental Health is ‘the capacity of individuals and groups to interact with one another and the environment, in ways that promote subjective well-being, optimal development and the use of cognitive, affective and relational abilities’. A diverse range of social, environmental, biological and psychological factors can impact on an individual’s mental health. In turn, people can develop symptoms and behaviours that are distressing to themselves or others, and interfere with their social functioning and capacity to negotiate daily life. This involves social isolation and disclusion. Cures and counseling action to attend the needs of mental health are addressed. Though emphasis is required on the preventative action to stop occurring mental illnesses. Studies show that individuals with serious mental illness are at high risk of chronic diseases associated with sedentary behavior, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Further, it is suggested that exercise is well accepted by people with serious mental illness and is often considered one of the most valued components of treatment.
People who have serious mental illness, including major depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, often have poor physical health and experience significant psychiatric, social, and cognitive disability. Physical activity has the potential to improve the quality of life of people with serious mental illness by improving physical health and by alleviating psychiatric and social disability.
Ways in which physical activity at societal levels can help mental health can be through structured, supervised, facility-based exercise programs and lifestyle physical activity interventions that encourage participants to incorporate physical activity in their daily lives. Structured exercise programs are appealing because it is easier to ensure safe and appropriate levels of physical activity in a supervised setting and because adherence can be more easily verified than with a lifestyle intervention. Also, individuals may benefit from a home-based program rather than traveling to an exercise facility three or more times a week. Walking, either in the form of supervised group walks or at home individual walking, is a simple type of exercise to promote, and it is also one of the most popular forms of exercise among those with and without chronic illness. For example, a majority of people with type 2 diabetes who are active choose walking as their primary form of exercise. Mental strategies such as, goal setting with each individual’s physical activity levels is beneficial. Individual ability to change their mindset and outlook on the benefits of physical activity and the impact it may have on their life is also crucial.

The individual’s food intake affects their mood, behavior and brain function. The body is in need of high energy and nutrients. Insufficiency can result to the brain and body not to function properly. Therefore a good balanced and high nutritional valued diet is required.

The National Health Priority Areas, cardiovascular health, cancer control, injury prevention and control, mental health, diabetes mellitus, asthma, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, are strongly associated with poor nutritional and physical activity practices. Over time with societal and individual guidance and assistance the occurrences of diseases are able to be diminished. With a balanced diet and sufficient physical activity the risks will decrease.

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