Lifestyle choices for better health

Your lifestyle can directly affect your health. Changes to the way you live may help you avoid illness or let you and your doctor reduce the dose and/or the number of medicines that you take.


Quit smoking

Many chronic conditions are caused or made worse by smoking, and quitting can have immediate benefits for your body.

Nicotine replacement products work for some people. These include nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, tablets and inhalers. Some prescription medicines can help reduce the urge to smoke.

Quitting smoking is tough and often requires additional support.

Call the Quitline on 137 848 or speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Eat a balanced diet

Healthy eating is a vital part of good health. A balanced diet means eating a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need.

  • Eat 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit every day.
  • Choose wholegrain foods (e.g. bread, pasta and cereals), legumes (e.g. beans and lentils), lean meats, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Reduce your intake of salt, sugar and saturated fat.
  • Drink plenty of water.

For more information, speak to your doctor or a dietitian about a balanced diet suited to your circumstances.

Find out more about healthy eating

Drink alcohol in moderation

For adults, having no more than 2 standard drinks a day will reduce the lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm.

If you drink alcohol, some alcohol-free days each week may help your body recover from the effects of alcohol.

Alcohol can affect your balance, leading to falls and serious injuries. Mixing alcohol and medicines can be harmful or make the medicines less effective.

Find out if your medicine interacts with alcohol. You can check the consumer medicine information (CMI) for the medicine, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. You can find your medicine's CMI using our Medicine Finder or ask your pharmacist or doctor for a copy.

Find out more about safe drinking

Be active

Keeping physically active can reduce your likelihood of developing serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and helps prevent a range of other conditions.

If you have a chronic condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or arthritis, you can improve the condition by exercising safely. If you are not currently exercising regularly and are not sure if exercise is safe for you, speak with your doctor.

Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, either all at once or in 10- to 15-minute sessions. Moderate activity is equal in intensity to a brisk walk. Walking and using the stairs are good ways to keep active and maintain muscle strength.

Find out more about staying active

Maintain a healthy weight

Almost two-thirds of Australian adults are overweight or obese. Carrying extra weight around your waist (circumference) increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The waist circumference values listed below are for people of European origin, and may not be as relevant for estimating a healthy weight for Asian or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Recommended and risky waist measurements for these conditions are in the following table:

Adapted from Australian Government Department of Health, About overweight and obesity, Canberra: 2009.
Male Female
Recommended waist measurements Below 94 cm Below 80 cm
Increased risk 94–102 cm 80–88 cm
Greatly increased risk Over 102 cm Over 88 cm

Find out more

Healthy weight and body mass index (BMI)

A healthy body weight and regular physical activity are important for everyone. Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of how healthy your weight is. Your BMI is calculated using your height and your weight:

BMI = weight (kg) divided by height squared (m2)

For example: the BMI of someone who is 175 cm tall (i.e. 1.75 m) who weighs 100 kg is worked out as follows:

BMI = 100 [weight in kg]/1.75  x 1.75 [height in m2] = 100/3.06

BMI = 32.6

BMI categories for people of European descent:

  • Underweight: lower than 18.5
  • Healthy: 18.5–24.9
  • Overweight: 25–29.9
  • Obese: 30 or higher

Different criteria apply to other ethnic groups; for example, Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. This is because of different genetic, physical and lifestyle factors. Aboriginal Australians (but not necessarily Torres Strait Islanders) may have lower BMI cut-off values.

For more information, and to calculate your BMI, see the BMI calculator available the Heart Foundation.

An approximate way to work out a healthy weight for your height is to subtract 100 from your height measured in centimetres (cm):

Height in cm – 100 = healthy weight in kg

For example, for someone 175 cm tall:

175 [height in cm] – 100 = 75 [healthy weight in kg]. 

Waist circumference (measured in cm) can also be used as an approximate measure of a healthy weight.


  • Healthy: less than 94 cm
  • Overweight: 94–101.9 cm
  • Obese: 102 cm and above


  • Healthy: less than 80 cm
  • Overweight: 80–87.9 cm
  • Obese: 88 cm and above

Find out more about healthy weight and BMI

Know your medicines

Once your health improves through a changed lifestyle, ask your doctor if your medicines should change. You may be able to reduce your dose or stop a medicine altogether.

It is important to know:

  • the active ingredient of your medicine
  • what your medicine is for
  • how much you take and how often
  • what times of day to take it
  • whether or not to take it with food
  • what to do if you miss a dose
  • possible side effects and interactions with food or other medicines.

The Consumer Medical Information (CMI) for your medicine lists all this information. You can find the CMI on our Medicine Finder.

Keep an up-to-date medicines list to help keep track of your medicines. Take your medicines list with you each time you visit your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. 

NPS MedicineWise also has a smartphone app, called the MedicineWise app, where you can keep records of your medicines, tests, questions for your doctor and more. 

Find out more about keeping a medicines list or about the MedicineWise app.