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Empowering Your Health: Tips for Staying Healthy in the US

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Of course, each person and each body is unique, so talk with a doctor for medical advice. A doctor can also answer questions that are specific to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Look at the end of this article for suggestions about where to find a doctor in your neighborhood. The most important thing to know about your health in the United States is that you have the power! If you don’t feel well, it’s important to go to a doctor. If you don’t understand why you should have medical tests, or why you should take medicine, it’s important to ask questions until you understand. After all, it’s your body, and you will have your body for the rest of your life!

The United States is a constantly changing patchwork of nationalities, cultures, and languages. This is amazing, but when it comes to healthcare, cultural and language differences can sometimes mean losing out on important information. Here are some general tips for becoming, and staying, healthy in the United States. These tips are most relevant if you have medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the federal law under which Vox is offered, or if you think you might be eligible for this kind of insurance in the future.

Overview of Health Articles

You might be a young person who came to study in the United States from your home country, or you might be a young person who grew up in American culture but are planning to study abroad at a university in another country. In either case, you are a unique group of young people with distinctive health risks and concerns. To help you stay healthy and to succeed in your academic endeavors, you need specific information about the US health care system, the health care resources that will be available to you, and how to obtain effective medical care.

Welcome to Empowering Your Health (EYH), a new article series from Benjamin Rose that aims to provide comprehensive and accurate health information for international and expatriate students studying in the United States. This series is designed to inform both students and academic institutions about the unique health needs and resources for this population.

Understanding the US Healthcare System

Most international students and scholars who come to the US on an F or J visa are required to have health insurance coverage as a condition of their visa status. This is one way the US ensures that people are not left with unpaid medical bills that they cannot afford to pay. UNC offers health insurance as an option to all F and J students, but you may have your own health insurance as part of your scholarship. If that’s the case, OISS will waive the requirement to have UNC insurance for you – but you need to prove that you have the correct kind of coverage.

One of the first things to understand when you arrive in the US as a student or scholar is how the US healthcare system works. In the US, there is no federal healthcare system. Private insurance policies are commonly used to manage the high costs of illness and injury. So, if you need healthcare, understanding how to find a healthcare provider, what that provider will do, and how you will pay for these services is very important.

Key Components of the System

Multiple Roles of the Health Care Consumer. As a health care consumer, or potential consumer, you can fulfill multiple roles. You can function as an individual or proxy decision-maker (usually on behalf of a child, or a parent who is mentally incompetent). As an individual health care consumer, you have many consumer protection rights due to the health consumer protection laws of your state. You can also join with other consumers to protect and advance your interests on a collective basis. Both state and federal health laws protect your individual and collective interests. It is critical that you know what these laws are so that you can use them effectively. The HIPAA Privacy Rule is a key federal law that protects the privacy of your medical information while preventing its inappropriate use and disclosure. Familiarizing yourself with health laws can help you feel more comfortable in the health care setting.

Multifaceted Health Care Provider and Health Care Facility Context. Your health care needs can be met by a growing number of different types professionals and health care facilities. Many types of professionals deliver care that was only delivered by a family physician 100 years ago. Care is delivered in many different ambulatory and inpatient settings. If you are a relatively healthy person, you will likely receive a lot of your care from one type of professional, such as a general practice doctor or an advanced-practice nurse at one location, such as a solo family practice or community health center. But if you are a relatively unhealthy person, you can expect to receive care from, and keep track of, a larger number and greater diversity of health care professionals at a greater number of locations. Each type of health care professional and health care facility has its own unique role in the health system. Understanding who these professionals and facilities are will help you choose the right level of service, and the right type of professional, for your specific needs.

The health system in the United States is extraordinarily diverse, complex, and ever-changing. An individual patient can receive health care services from an almost unlimited array of professionals, including general practice physicians, advanced-practice nurses, specialists, emergency and hospital-based practitioners, and mental health professionals, to name just a few. Health care services can be provided by a range of health care institutions, including solo or small group practices; community health centers; large, medium, and small hospitals; long-term care facilities; laboratories; and outpatient surgical centers. Once you understand how all the elements of the system fit together, and the perspective through which policymakers and professionals approach health problems, you’ll be better able to feel empowered as a patient.

Nutrition and Diet

A balanced diet generally contains food from each of the following food groups. You can adjust the examples to fit your own food customs and the foods that are available at local markets. Examples of foods from each of these groups are given on the next page so you can be sure you find the nutrients you need. Your diet and the meals you eat should depend on a number of factors, including your gender, age, body size, level of physical activity, health, and the climate in which you live. Each person’s needs are different, but the following guidelines can be used by the majority of people in most situations.

Nutrition and diet are a critical part of staying healthy. Adequate nutrition is necessary to keep your body healthy and strong. People who don’t have enough calories or the right kind of food may suffer from malnutrition. Malnutrition can lead to long-term health problems, including reduced physical and mental growth, increased severity of disease, and even death. To help maintain your or your family’s health through good nutrition, learn the basics of nutrition and the typical food choices in the US.

Importance of Balanced Nutrition

Liquids, raw fruits, and bloody rare whole vegetables become a resultant appealing selection. High-powered wraps prepared naturally have more appeal than triple-decker cheese and supermarket cold cuts, unhealthy food. The execution of a meal plan should be managed by the individual whenever possible. The purchase of natural food should be preferred to manufactured food. All ingredients should be fresh and, if possible, graduated, locally distributed, and preferably organic. Only complete meals should be consumed. Drink only thoroughly cleansed steam-distilled water, fresh raw vegetable juices, and all your other desires must be diluted with natural tea from herbs, which are available commercially. High-powered vitamin supplements should be taken.

The controversy between natural food and manufactured food reflects the trend in cultural deviation and is further evident when the quality of food undergoes changes during baking, boiling, and frying. Cooking easily disturbs the internal environment of the food, so the habit should be minimized.

The stable equilibrium, in the body as well as the mind or soul, will be achieved by the individual if he or she learns to understand his or her own nature, its potentials, and capacities. He or she will make the adjustments necessary to move in the direction of optimal normality, with nourishment being integrated with the mind and character at the center of the complete living process.

Total health is a state of equilibrium and harmony in both the realms of body and mind. It means a state of stable internal environment. The concept of wellness is now in vogue, and wellness in the body leads to wellness in the mind or soul.

Before addressing the question of nutrition, we need to understand its place in the whole structure of mental and physical health, which is derived from the mind.

Physical Activity and Exercise

Tailoring your physical activity program to your individual level of fitness is highly recommended and makes smart sense. Only you can judge how much exercise you can handle and tolerate. At whatever level you begin, now is the time to become more active. Everything counts. Adding more active minutes daily or weekly is a good way to gradually increase your physical activity and improve your health while minimizing the risk of muscle, bone and/or joint injuries. Some potential movements can be reached by taking the stairs, walking moderate intensity aerobic level 2 minutes several times a day, house/yard work, or swimming. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, in order to achieve even greater health benefits, doing more than what is recommended and preferably moderate to high levels of physical activity can be enjoyed. Before proceeding to your preferred increased level of physical activity, for those individuals who have any existing medical conditions it is wise to first consult with an expert health care provider for further advice.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that regular physical activity is one of the most powerful, yet simple, things a person can do to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Both aerobic (like walking, swimming, or cycling) and muscle-strengthening activities (mainly for those at risk for age-related impacts such as a loss of bone density or for those who are not taking part in more traditional aerobic activities) are beneficial to maintaining good health. For overall health and disease prevention, the key is to combine at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (e.g. brisk walking, mowing the lawn, jogging, class exercise, etc.) every day. And to build and maintain muscle mass and strength, include activities that work all the major muscles (the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on 2 or more days a week.

Types of Exercises

Aerobic exercise is any prolonged, repetitive physical activity that raises your heart rate and makes your lungs work harder. It includes activities like brisk walking, swimming, and jogging. The goal is to raise your heart rate and keep it up for at least 20 minutes, about 3 to 4 times per week. This type of activity strengthens your heart muscle and improves your cardiovascular system. Exercises that make you work hard enough to sweat will help burn body fat. Aerobic exercise also can help you control body weight and reduce high blood pressure, excess body fat, and high blood sugar levels. Regular exercise also can improve your health, reduce your risk of chronic diseases, and improve your quality of life.

As we mentioned before, a regular routine of exercise will help you achieve your fitness goals. Just remember that many factors can affect your ability to exercise. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Different types of exercises are good for different parts of your body. It’s best to do a combination of different types of exercises that work different parts of your body to keep from overusing any given area.

Mental Health and Well-being

Remember: Your mental and emotional well-being is equally important as your physical health. Manage and cope with stress by doing regular exercise, eating healthy, talking with friends, and focusing on things that you enjoy. Understand when you need to ask for help and talk with a counselor or therapist. Always make your mental health a priority.

Maintaining your mental and emotional well-being is equally important as keeping your body healthy. Long-term and even short-term stress can lead to serious health issues. It is okay to feel stressed, but it is important to find ways to cope with stress and manage your emotional well-being to stay healthy. Exercise and nutrition are an important part of mental well-being. Exercising and eating well can improve emotional health and help with mental stability. Other strategies include: talking with friends and family, writing in a journal, getting enough sleep, and making time to do things you enjoy. Furthermore, it is okay to ask for help, especially when you are feeling more stress than you can handle. Do not be afraid to talk with a counselor or therapist. Overall, understanding and managing stress can help you feel better and improve your quality of life.

Strategies for Stress Management

Recognize the signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy. Talk to your healthcare provider or a professional to get necessary help. Get moving! Physical activity is critical to stress management and can also lower your risk of developing other health problems, such as heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Register for a yoga, pilates, or qigong class. Meditate daily. It is an easy and typically low-cost way to help reduce stress and aid you in managing your body’s response to stress. Get involved with a sports team, club, or group. Set a walking date with a friend. Spend time in nature. Go camping, hiking, or to a garden or arboretum for a peaceful walk. Take a break! Do things you enjoy. Take an art class or write poetry. To make sure you have time for relaxation, set priorities and delegate tasks as needed. Use relaxation techniques, such as meditation, visualization, and deep breathing. There are many options, and you may have to experiment until you find a relaxation method that works for you. Exercise and meditate. They are two essential ways to help you reduce and manage stress. Personal development may help you better cope with your body’s response to stress. Psychological and spiritual wellness can ease the stress and increase resilience.

Taking time for ourselves can help reduce the risk of developing stress-related illnesses—specifically heart disease and diabetes. Taking steps to reduce the impact that stress has in our lives is also important to keep our mind and body healthy and in harmony. Here are some stress-busting activities and techniques to incorporate into your life to help make them a permanent part of your schedule.

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