Staying Healthy When You Have a Disability

@joefoodie and creative commonsWithout a disability, you might think people with a disability don’t need the same tools and habits as you to live a healthy lifestyle. You might think, for example, that exercise is impossible for someone with a leg disability.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

The author of “People with Disabilities as Social Outcasts, Shifting the Perspective from Victim to Advocate” writes:

“People who are not exposed to individuals with disabilities often do not realize that a disabled person, despite his or her disability, is just like a non-disabled person.”

Having a disability does not prevent someone from living a healthy life. While a disability might complicate these efforts, a person with a disability can still lead a healthy lifestyle which works for them, given the right tools.

The CDC and disability.gov offer some basic ideas we can all use to live a healthy lifestyle. The following suggestions are tailored specifically for those with disabilities.

Be physically active

  • Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activities, like walking fast or pushing yourself in a wheelchair—anything that will get your heart beating faster.
  • Do strengthening activities 2 days a week, especially working on muscles you use less often because of your disability.
  • Be active according to your needs and what your body can handle.

Eat the right foods in the right portions

  • Choosemyplate.gov is a website run by the Department of Agriculture with a lot of excellent resources for healthy eating. You can go to MyPlate and view each food group. You can also manage and track your weight and calorie intake. There are also healthy eating tips, such as vary your veggies and make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Don’t smoke, and if you drink alcoholic beverages, drink in moderation.

Get regular check-ups

  • Pay attention to your body’s signals and realize when you’re not feeling well.
  • Talk openly with your health care provider.
  • Bring questions with you to doctors’ visits and write down what your health care provider tells you.

Maintain mental well-being

  • Attend therapy and/or see a psychiatrist about medication.
  • Have a strong network of supportive friends and/or family. The times you feel like you should completely isolate yourself are the times you need the support of others the most.

As stated above, a healthy lifestyle doesn’t just pertain to those with a stereotypically-working body. Everyone should try to live healthily. The CDC explains,

“Being healthy means the same thing for all of us—getting and staying well so we can lead full, active lives. That means having the tools and information to make healthy choices and knowing how to prevent illness.”

Photo courtesy of @joefoodie and Creative Commons.