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 (Check up with your doctor)
- 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
- Drink lots of water
Exercise and Physical Fitness
Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
It can help:
- Control your weight
- Lower your risk of heart disease
- Lower your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Lower your risk of some cancers
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improve your mental health and mood
- Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you are an older adult
- Increase your chances of living longer
Immune System and Disorders
Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend against germs.
It helps your body to recognize these "foreign" invaders. Then its job is to keep them out, or if it can't, to find and destroy them.
If your immune system cannot do its job, the results can be serious. Disorders of the immune system include :
- Allergy and asthma - immune responses to substances that are usually not harmful
- Immune deficiency diseases - disorders in which the immune system is missing one or more of its parts
- Autoimmune diseases - diseases causing your immune system to attack your own body's cells and tissues by mistake
Your Body's Systems
Viruses are capsules with genetic material inside. They are very tiny, much smaller than bacteria.
Viruses cause familiar infectious diseases such as the common cold, flu and warts.
They also cause severe illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, smallpox and hemorrhagic fevers. Viruses are like hijackers.
They invade living, normal cells and use those cells to multiply and produce other viruses like themselves.
This eventually kills the cells, which can make you sick.
Viral infections are hard to treat because viruses live inside your body's cells. They are "protected" from medicines,
There are a few antiviral medicines available. Vaccines can help prevent you from getting many viral diseases.
Fungal Infections (also called Mycoses)
If you have ever had athlete's foot or a yeast infection, you can blame a fungus. A fungus is a primitive organism. Mushrooms, mold and mildew are examples.
Fungi live in air, in soil, on plants and in water. Some live in the human body. Only about half of all types of fungi are harmful.
Some fungi reproduce through tiny spores in the air. You can inhale the spores or they can land on you.
As a result, fungal infections often start in the lungs or on the skin. You are more likely to get a fungal infection if you have a weakened immune system or take antibiotics.
Fungi can be difficult to kill. For skin and nail infections, you can apply medicine directly to the infected area.
Oral antifungal medicines are also available for serious infections.
Bacteria are living things that have only one cell. Under a microscope, they look like balls, rods, or spirals.
They are so small that a line of 1,000 could fit across a pencil eraser. Most bacteria won't hurt you - less than 1 percent of the different types make people sick.
Many are helpful. Some bacteria help to digest food, destroy disease-causing cells, and give the body needed vitamins.
Bacteria are also used in making healthy foods like yogurt and cheese. But infectious bacteria can make you ill.
They reproduce quickly in your body. Many give off chemicals called toxins, which can damage tissue and make you sick.
Examples of bacteria that cause infections include Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and Ecoli,
Antibiotics are the usual treatment.
Also called: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, AIDS, HIV, Human immunodeficiency virus
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It kills or damages the body's immune system cells.
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is the most advanced stage of infection with HIV.
HIV most often spreads through unprotected sex with an infected person.
It may also spread by sharing drug needles or through contact with the blood of an infected person.
Women can give it to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth.
The first signs of HIV infection may be swollen glands and flu-like symptoms.
These may come and go a month or two after infection.
Severe symptoms may not appear until months or years later.
A blood test can tell if you have HIV infection. Your health care provider can perform the test.
There is no cure, but there are many medicines to fight both HIV infection and the
infections and cancers that come with it.
Living with HIV/AIDS
Infection with HIV is serious. But the outlook for people with HIV/AIDS is improving.
If you are infected with HIV, there are many things you can do to help ensure
you have a longer, healthier life. One important thing is to take your medicines.
Make sure you have a health care provider who knows how to treat HIV.
You may want to join a support group.
Learn as much as you can about your disease and its treatment.
Eat healthy foods and exercise regularly - things that everyone should try to do.
HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy
If you have HIV/AIDS and find out you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant,
you should let your health care provider know as soon as possible.
Some HIV/AIDS medicines that you may be currently taking may harm your baby.
Your health care provider may want you to take different medicines or change the doses.
It is also possible to give HIV to your baby. This is most likely to happen around the time you give birth.
For this reason, treatment during this time is very important for protecting your baby from infection.
Several treatments may prevent the virus from spreading from you to your baby.
Your health care provider can recommend the best one for you.
Your baby will also need to have treatment for at least the first six weeks of life.
Regular testing will be needed to find out if your baby is infected.
In the early 1980s, when the HIV/AIDS epidemic began, patients rarely lived longer than a few years.
But today, there are many effective medicines to fight the infection, and people with HIV have longer, healthier lives.
There are five major types of medicines:
- Reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors - interfere with a critical step during the HIV life cycle and keep the virus from making copies of itself
- Protease inhibitors - interfere with a protein that HIV uses to make infectious viral particles
- Fusion inhibitors - block the virus from entering the body's cells
- Integrase inhibitors - block an enzyme HIV needs to make copies of itself
- Multidrug combinations - combine two or more different types of drugs into one
These medicines help people with HIV, but they are not perfect.
They do not cure HIV/AIDS. People with HIV infection still have the virus in their bodies.
They can still spread HIV to others through unprotected sex and needle sharing, even when they are taking their medicines.