Watch Your Weight

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

To stay at a healthy weight, balance the calories you eat and drink with the calories you burn (use up). Calories are a measure of the energy in the foods you eat. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat.

A healthy diet and physical activity can help you control your weight. You burn more calories when you are physically active.

How do I know if I’m at a healthy weight?
Finding out your Body Mass Index (BMI) is an easy way to learn if you are at a healthy weight. Use this Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to find out your BMI and what it means for you.

  • If you are overweight and have heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or if you are obese, try to lose weight. You can lose weight by eating fewer calories and getting more physical activity.
  • If you are at a healthy weight, or if you are overweight but don’t have any heart disease risk factors, keep getting regular physical activity and eating the right number of calories to stay at the same weight.
  • If you think you might be underweight, talk to your doctor or nurse about how to gain weight in a healthy way.

How do I know if I’m eating the right number of calories?
Use the MyPlate Daily Checklist calculator to get an idea of how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.

  • If your weight stays the same for several months, you are eating the right number of calories to maintain your weight.
  • To lose weight, try cutting back by 500 to 750 calories each day.
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The Basics: Health Benefits

What can losing weight do for me?
Being overweight or obese can raise your risk for serious health conditions like:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure

Losing weight can:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Lower your blood sugar
  • Raise your HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol

You may start to see these health benefits by losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, this would mean losing 10 to 20 pounds.

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Take Action!

Take Action: Set Goals

Start by making a promise to eat well, move more, and get support from family and friends.

Set realistic goals.
If you need to lose weight, do it slowly over time. Start out by setting small goals, like:

  • I want to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.
  • I will start by adding 10 minutes of physical activity to my daily routine.
  • I will cut back on second helpings of meals.

Keep a food and activity diary.
When you know your habits, it’s easier to make changes. Write down:

  • What you eat
  • When you eat
  • Where you eat
  • How much you eat
  • Your physical activity
  • How you are feeling

Print this food and activity diary or make your own.

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Take Action: Get Active

Get more physical activity.
Remember that to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Get active to balance the calories you take in with the calories you use.

  • Aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of aerobic (“air-OH-bik”) physical activity a week. For example, try going for a brisk walk.
  • Try to do aerobic activity for 30 minutes 5 times a week.
  • Do muscle-strengthening activities twice a week. Try lifting weights or doing push-ups.

Even some physical activity is better than none. If you don’t have time for 30 minutes of activity, get moving for shorter 10-minute periods throughout the day.

How much activity you need will depend on your weight goals. You may need to do 5 hours of moderate-intensity activity a week to meet your goals.

Check out these resources for more information:

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Take Action: Eat Healthy

Eat healthy.
Eating healthy is good for your overall health. Making healthy food choices that are lower in calories can also help you manage your weight.

Here are a few healthy eating tips:

  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and a variety of foods with protein, like eggs and beans.
  • Drink water or fat-free milk instead of soda or other drinks with added sugars.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts label and choose healthier versions of your favorite foods that have fewer calories and less added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
  • Bring this shopping list of heart-healthy foods the next time you go food shopping.

Check out these links to learn more:

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Take Action: Portion Sizes

Eat smaller portions.
Eating a healthy diet is important, but you also need to pay attention to how much food you eat and limit portions of high-calorie foods.  Take the Portion Distortion Quiz to test your knowledge.

Here are some ideas for watching your portions:

  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast. Try whole-grain cereal with fruit and low-fat milk, or 2 scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast and 100% juice.
  • Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. Stick to an eating schedule that works for you.
  • Read the label to find out how many servings are in a package. There may be more than one!
  • Put a serving of food in a bowl instead of eating out of the package or container.
  • Serve yourself a portion that’s the right amount of calories for you and commit to not having more. Leave serving dishes on the stove or countertop rather than bringing them to the table so you will be less tempted.
  • Eat slowly – this will give you time to feel full.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV. It’s harder to keep track of how much you are eating.

Try these tips when you eat out:

  • If you are eating out, only eat half of your meal. Take the other half home.
  • Ask for sauces or dressings “on the side” so you can control how much you use.

You don’t have to give up all of your favorite foods to lose weight! Get tips to help you enjoy your food while eating less.

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Take Action: Get Help

Ask your doctor for help.
You may also want to talk to a doctor or nurse about different ways to lose weight. Your doctor can tell you about your options, like joining a weight-loss program. Check out these questions to ask your doctor about losing weight.

Find out if you need to get tested for diabetes.
If you are age 40 to 70 and overweight or obese, ask your doctor to test you for diabetes. You may also need to get tested if you have other risk factors for diabetes, like having high blood pressure or having family members with type 2 diabetes. Learn more about type 2 diabetes.

What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover screening and counseling for obesity. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out more.

To learn about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

Losing Weight: Questions for the doctor

Losing Weight: Questions for the doctor Losing Weight: Questions for the doctor

If you are an adult who needs to lose weight, it can be challenging. Talk to your doctor or nurse about how to lose weight in a healthy way that’s right for you.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform act passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover screening and counseling for obesity for adults. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to learn more.

What do I ask the doctor?

It helps to write down questions for the doctor or nurse ahead of time. Print out this list of questions and take it to your appointment with a pen or pencil for taking notes.You may also want to ask a family member or close friend to go with you.

  • How does my weight affect my health?
  • Do I have a health problem that is causing me to be overweight?
  • How will losing weight help me?
  • What is a healthy weight for me?
  • How much weight do I need to lose?
  • How long should it take me to lose weight?
  • What are healthy ways to lose weight and keep it off?
  • How can I change my eating habits?
  • What kinds of physical activity do I need to do? Are there any kinds of physical activity I need to avoid because of my health conditions?
  • Could a weight-loss program help me?
  • What type of weight-loss program would you recommend for me?

Add your own questions after learning how to watch your weight.

Losing Weight: Conversation starters

Talking to an adult family member or friend who needs to lose weight can be hard. Use these tips to start the conversation.

Begin by saying, “I care about you.”

  • “You are important to me, and I want you to be around for a long time.”
  • “I want you to have more energy and not worry about your health. That’s why I want to help you reach a healthy weight.”
  • “I’m here for you. Let’s find ways to get healthy together.”

Share what has worked for others.

Here are some ideas for losing weight in a healthy way:

  • Try to lose about 1 to 2 pounds each week.
  • Weigh yourself regularly.
  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Start a food diary to keep track of what and how much you eat and drink.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast every day.
  • Don’t eat foods and drinks that are high in calories from added sugars or saturated fats.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda or energy drinks.
  • Be active your way. Find activities you like and do them often.
  • Do something active every day – take the stairs, go for a walk at lunch, or enjoy a family bike ride.
  • Join a walking club or support group to keep you motivated.

If you have friends, family members, or co-workers who have lost weight by eating healthy and getting active, ask them to share what worked for them.

Do more than talk.

Find ways to get active and eat healthy together. Here are some ideas:

  • Go food shopping together. Compare food labels to make healthy choices.
  • If you go out to eat, split a meal or save half to take home.
  • Go for a walk every evening or take an exercise class together.
  • Celebrate your loved one’s weight loss, but don’t use food as a reward.

Help Your Child Stay at a Healthy Weight

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Help your child – and your whole family – eat healthy and stay physically active. The healthy habits your child learns now can last a lifetime.

What can I do to help my child stay at a healthy weight?
Help your child stay at a healthy weight by balancing what your child eats with physical activity. Two of the best ways to help your child stay at a healthy weight are to:

  • Help your child and family eat healthier foods
  • Be more physically active as a family

You are a role model.
Parents are often the most important role models for children. When you choose to eat right and be physically active, your child will be more likely to make those choices, too.

Plus, being active and preparing healthy meals together are great ways to spend quality time with your family.

Share these websites with your kids.
These kid-friendly websites can help children learn about healthy habits.

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The Basics: Health Effects

Why do I need to worry about my child’s weight?
Being overweight or having obesity can lead to serious problems, like:

  • Asthma
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sleep problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Getting bullied
  • Heart disease

Learn more about health problems and childhood obesity.

Being overweight as a child increases the risk of being overweight or obese as an adolescent and young adult. In other words, many kids don’t “grow out of” being overweight.

Today, about 2 in 3 adults – and about 1 in 3 children – are overweight or obese.

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The Basics: Measuring BMI

How do I know if my child is at a healthy weight?
Finding out your child’s body mass index (BMI) is the best way to learn if he or she is at a healthy weight.

Children grow at different rates, so it’s not always easy to tell if your child is at a healthy weight. Healthy weight is also defined differently for children and teens than it is for adults.

Ask your child’s doctor or nurse whether your child is at a healthy weight. You can also use this BMI calculator for children and teens if you know your child’s height and weight.

What if my child is overweight or obese?
Successful weight management programs for kids include counseling and education about eating a healthy diet and being physically active. Parents have an important role to play in these programs, too.

Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse for more information.

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Take Action!

Take Action: See a Doctor

Help your child make healthy choices and learn healthy habits.

Ask the doctor to screen your child for obesity.
Your child’s doctor or nurse can calculate your child’s BMI (body mass index) and say if your child is at a healthy weight. If your child is overweight or obese, ask the doctor or nurse to help you find a weight-loss program for your child.

Look for a weight management program that includes counseling to help kids:

  • Make healthy choices about food
  • Get more physical activity

What about cost?
Obesity screening and counseling are covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, your child may be able to get these services at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services for children that are covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

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Take Action: Physical Activity

Make sure your child gets at least 60 minutes (1 hour) of physical activity every day.
Fun and simple activities, like playing tag, are great ways for kids to get moving. And it doesn’t have to be 60 minutes all at once – it can be shorter activities that add up to 1 hour a day.

Be sure your child is doing different types of activity, including:

  • Aerobic activities, like running, skipping, or dancing
  • Muscle-strengthening activities, like climbing playground equipment or trees
  • Bone-strengthening activities, like jumping rope or playing basketball

Find out more about physical activity for kids.

Make getting active a family project.

  • Let children choose family activities.
  • Try walking the dog or biking to the library together.
  • Post a family activity calendar on your refrigerator.
  • Find a park to explore near your home.

Get more ideas on how to increase your family’s daily activity.

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Take Action: Screen Time

Limit screen time.
Keep screen time to 2 hours or less a day for kids age 2 and older. Screen time is time spent using computers or smart phones, watching TV, or playing video games.

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Take Action: Healthy Meals

Eat healthy.
You can be a role model for your child by eating healthy. Plus, a healthy diet can help protect you from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Shop, cook, and plan for healthy meals.
Buy and serve more vegetables, fruits, and whole grain foods. Here are some tips and ideas:

Get more tips for smart food shopping. If you need help buying food, ask your child’s doctor about a program called WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) – a government program that can help you get healthy food for yourself and your child.

Sit at the table and eat together as a family.
Plan healthy, affordable meals and enjoy them as a family. When families eat together, children eat more vegetables and fruits and less junk food. Let children help pick out healthy foods, prepare meals, and set the table.

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Take Action: Breakfast and Snacks

Start the day with a good breakfast.
Skipping breakfast can make kids hungry and tired, and it may lead them to snack on junk food later in the day. Give your kids whole-grain cereal with fat-free or low-fat milk and fruit instead of sugary cereal.

Make healthy snacks.
Healthy snacks give kids important nutrients and help control hunger between meals.

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Take Action: Sleep

Make sure your child gets enough sleep.
If kids don’t get enough sleep, they are at higher risk of being overweight or obese.

  • Teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.
  • School-aged children need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night.
  • Preschoolers need to sleep between 10 and 13 hours each day (including naps).
  • Toddlers need to sleep between 11 and 14 hours a day (including naps).
  • Babies need between 12 and 16 hours of sleep each day (including naps).

Set a bedtime schedule and remind your child when it’s time to get ready for bed. Consider keeping electronic devices – like TVs, computers, and smart phones – out of the bedroom.  Get more tips on healthy sleep habits.External Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov

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Talk with Your Teen about Healthy Relationships

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Parents can play a big role in teaching kids about healthy relationships.

Unfortunately, many teens have relationships that are unhealthy. About 1 in 10 teens who have been on a date have also been:

  • Physically abused (hit, pushed, or slapped) by someone they’ve gone out with
  • Sexually abused (kissed, touched, or forced to have sex without wanting to) by someone they’ve dated

The good news is, you can help your teen develop strong, respectful relationships. Start by talking with your child about how to:

  • Set expectations for how they want to be treated
  • Recognize when a relationship is unhealthy
  • Support friends dealing with unhealthy relationships

Talking about healthy relationships is a great way to show that you are available to listen and answer questions. Together, you can agree on clear rules about dating to help keep your teen safe.

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The Basics: When to Start Talking

How do kids learn about relationships?

Kids learn about relationships from the adults around them. When you taught your child to say “please” and “thank you” as a toddler, you were teaching respect and kindness.

Your own relationships also teach your kids how to treat others. When you treat your kids, partner, and friends in healthy and supportive ways, your kids learn from your choices.

Children learn from unhealthy experiences, too. If they experience violence at home or in the community, they are more likely to be in unhealthy relationships later on.

When should I start talking about dating?

It’s best to start talking about healthy relationships before your child starts dating. Start conversations about what to look for in a romantic partner. For example, you could ask your child:

  • How do you want to be treated?
  • How do you want to feel about yourself when you are with that person?
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The Basics: Healthy Relationships

What makes a relationship healthy?

In a healthy relationship:

  • Both people feel respected, supported, and valued
  • Both people make decisions together
  • Both people have friends and interests outside of the relationship
  • Both people settle disagreements with open and honest communication
  • Both people respect each other’s privacy and space

What makes a relationship unhealthy?

In an unhealthy relationship:

  • One or both people try to change the other
  • One person makes most or all of the decisions
  • One or both people drop friends and interests outside of the relationship
  • One or both people yell, threaten, hit, or throw things during arguments
  • One or both people make fun of the other’s opinions or interests
  • One or both people keep track of the other all the time by calling, texting, or checking in with friends

Teens may think it’s okay to act in these ways, but these behaviors can develop into violence. If you see any of these signs, talk to your teen.

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The Basics: Dating Violence

What is dating violence?

Dating violence is when one person in a romantic relationship is physically or emotionally harmful to the other person. It can happen in any relationship, whether it’s an opposite-sex (straight) or same-sex (gay) relationship.

Dating violence can include:

  • Stalking, like watching or following a partner, or sending repeated, unwanted phone calls or texts
  • Controlling behavior, like telling a partner how to dress or who to spend time with
  • Emotional abuse, like embarrassing a partner or keeping that person away from family and friends
  • Physical abuse, like pushing, hitting, or throwing things
  • Sexual abuse, like forcing or trying to force someone to have sex

Dating violence can happen in person, online, or with other technology (like cell phones). It can also keep happening after the relationship has ended. Find out more about teen dating violence.

Both boys and girls can experience unhealthy or unsafe relationships. Sometimes both partners act in unhealthy or unsafe ways, but using violence is never okay. It’s important to talk to all kids about how to have respectful, healthy relationships.

Who is at risk for dating violence?

Dating violence can happen to anyone. Teens may be more at risk of being in unhealthy relationships if they:

  • Use alcohol or drugs
  • Are depressed
  • Have friends who are violent
  • Have trouble controlling their anger
  • Struggle with learning in school
  • Have sex with multiple partners
  • Have experienced or witnessed violence at home or in the community
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The Basics: Warning Signs

What are the warning signs of dating violence?

It’s common for teens to have mood swings, but sudden changes in your teen’s attitude or behavior could mean that something more serious is going on. If you are worried, talk to your teen to find out more.

Show your teen this fact sheet about healthy and unhealthy relationships [PDF – 681 KB]External Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov.

Watch for signs that your teen’s partner may be violent.

If your teen is in a relationship with someone who is violent, your teen may:

  • Avoid friends, family, and school activities
  • Make excuses for a partner’s behavior
  • Look uncomfortable or fearful around a partner
  • Lose interest in favorite activities
  • Get lower grades in school
  • Have unexplained injuries, like bruises or scratches

Watch for signs that your teen may be violent.

Teens who use physical, emotional, or sexual violence to control their partners need help to stop. Start a conversation if your teen:

  • Is jealous and possessive
  • Blames other people for anything that goes wrong
  • Damages or ruins a partner’s things
  • Wants to control a partner’s decisions
  • Constantly texts or calls a partner
  • Posts embarrassing information about a partner on websites like Facebook (including sexual information or pictures)
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The Basics: Health Effects

Help your teen stay healthy.

Dating violence can have long-term effects for both partners — even after the relationship ends. The good news is, teaching your teen about healthy relationships can help prevent these negative effects.

Someone who has experienced dating violence may struggle with:

  • Depression
  • Low self-confidence
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Other violent relationships

A partner who has been violent may experience:

  • Loss of respect from others
  • Suspension or expulsion from school
  • Loneliness
  • Trouble with the law

You can help prevent these long-term effects of dating violence by helping your teen develop the skills for healthy relationships. Watch for signs of dating violence and help your teen stay healthy now and in the future.

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Take Action!

Take Action: Teach Skills and Set Rules

Talk with your kids to help them develop realistic and healthy expectations for relationships.

Help your teen develop problem-solving skills.

Help your teen think about healthy relationships by asking how he would handle different situations. For example, you might ask, “What would you do if:

  • … you think your friend’s partner isn’t treating him right?”
  • … your partner calls you to come over whenever you try to hang out with your friends?”
  • … your friend yells at his partner in front of everyone at a party?”

It may help to use examples from TV shows, movies, or songs to start the conversation.

Listen respectfully to your teen’s answer, even if you don’t agree. Then you can offer your opinion and explore other options together. Use these tips to start a conversation with your teen.

Help your teen support a friend.

It’s also a good idea to talk with your teen about what she can do if a friend is in an unhealthy relationship. Suggest that your teen talk to you or another adult, like a school counselor, if she notices signs of dating violence.

Set rules for dating.

As kids get older, they gain more independence. But teens still need parents to set boundaries and expectations for behavior. Get tips on setting rules for your teen [PDF – 175 MB].

Here are some example of rules to talk about with your teen:

  • Are friends allowed to come over when you aren’t home?
  • Can your teen go on a date with someone you haven’t met?
  • How can your teen reach you if she needs a ride home?
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Take Action: Be a Role Model

Be a role model.

Treat your kids and others with respect. As you talk with your teen about healthy relationships, think about your own behavior. Does it match the values you are talking about?

Treating your kids with respect also helps you build stronger relationships with them. This can make it easier to communicate with your teen about important issues like healthy relationships.

To learn more about building stronger relationships with your child, check out these resources:

Talk to your kids about sex.

Teens who have sex with more than one person are at higher risk of being in an unhealthy relationship. Talk with your teen about your values and expectations.

Talk to your kids about preventing STDs.

About half of all STD cases in the United States happen in teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. Learn how to talk with your teen about STD prevention.

Talk with your kids about alcohol and other drugs.

Alcohol and drugs don’t cause violence or unhealthy relationships, but they can make it harder to make healthy choices. Talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.

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Take Action: Help Your Teen

If you are worried, talk to your teen.

If you think your teen’s relationship might be violent, take these steps:

  • Write down the reasons you are worried.
  • Tell your teen why you are concerned. Point out specific things that concern you.
  • Listen to your teen calmly, and thank her for opening up.

Get help if you need it.

If you are worried about your teen’s safety, there are people who can help.

Loveisrespect is an organization that offers support and information for teens and their parents or friends who have concerns about dating relationships. To get in touch with a trained peer advocate, you can:

You can also contact your state’s domestic violence coalitionExternal Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov to find resources near you.

Watch for Warning Signs of Relationship Violence

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

It can be hard to know if your relationship is headed down the wrong path. While it’s not always easy to spot the warning signs of relationship violence, there are things you can do to recognize unhealthy relationships and get help before they become violent.

If you think your partner might be controlling or abusive, it’s important to:

  • Trust your feelings. If something doesn’t seem right, take it seriously.
  • Learn the warning signs of someone who might become controlling or violent.
  • Get help. Call the National Domestic Violence HotlineExternal Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) to connect with local resources in your area.

If your partner is controlling or abusive, it’s better to get help right away. Controlling or violent relationships usually get worse over time.

Remember: if your partner hurts you, it’s not your fault.

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The Basics: Definition

What is relationship violence?

Relationship violence is when one person in a relationship is abusive or controlling toward the other person. In some relationships, both partners act in abusive or controlling ways.

Relationship violence is also called dating violence, domestic violence, or intimate partner violence. It can include:

  • Physical violence, like pushing, hitting, or throwing things
  • Sexual violence, like forcing or trying to force someone to have sex
  • Threats of physical or sexual violence, which may include threatening to hurt another person or a pet
  • Emotional abuse, like embarrassing a partner or keeping that person away from family and friends
  • Stalking, like watching or following a partner, or sending repeated, unwanted phone calls or texts

If you feel controlled by or afraid of your partner – even if you haven’t been hurt physically – get help. There are experts who can help you figure out what to do next.

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The Basics: Healthy Relationships

How do I know if my relationship is healthy?

In healthy relationships, both partners take responsibility for their actions and work together to sort out problems. In a healthy relationship:

  • Both people feel supported, respected, and valued
  • The couple makes decisions together
  • Both people have friends and interests outside of the relationship
  • The couple settles disagreements with open and honest communication
  • Both people are honest about their feelings and needs
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The Basics: Warning Signs

How do I know if my relationship might become violent?

Relationship violence can start slowly and be hard to recognize. For example, when people first start dating, it’s common to want to spend a lot of time together. But your partner asking you to spend less time with other people can also be a sign that your partner is trying to control your time.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my partner respect me?
  • Does my partner blame me for problems, including my partner’s own behavior toward me?
  • Does my partner make most of the decisions in our relationship?
  • Am I ever afraid to tell my partner something?
  • Do I ever feel forced to do things that I don’t want to do?
  • Have I ever been forced or pressured to do anything sexual with my partner when I didn’t want to?
  • Does my partner promise to change and then keep doing the same things

Get more information about the signs of abusive relationships.

What if I’m not sure if my relationship is violent?

It’s okay if you aren’t sure – you can still get help.

If you have questions about your relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) or chat onlineExternal Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov with a person trained to help. The hotline and chat are free and available 24/7. You don’t even have to give your name.

If you are in danger right now, call 911.

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The Basics: Health Effects

How can relationship violence affect health?

While physical violence can cause physical injuries, the stress of any kind of relationship violence or abuse can also lead to other serious problems. These include:

  • Eating disorders
  • Depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems – like panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or thinking about suicide
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a type of anxiety disorder
  • Trouble trusting people and building relationships
  • Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs
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Take Action!

Take Action: Plan Ahead

Relationship violence is not your fault or responsibility. But if you think your partner is controlling or abusive, there are things you can do.

Make a plan.
If you are in a relationship with someone who is violent or might become violent, make a safety plan. This is important whether you are planning to leave your partner or not. Use this form to make a safety plan [PDF – 32 KB].External Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov

If you are planning to leave your partner, pack the important things on this list.

Protect yourself online.
When you look at information online, your computer keeps a record of sites you’ve visited. And when you make calls or send text messages from a cell phone, the phone stores that information.

Follow these technology and social media safety tipsExternal Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov if your partner is controlling or abusive.

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Take Action: Get Help

If you think your relationship is unhealthy or you are worried about your safety, get help now.

Start with a phone call.
If you need help or have questions about your relationship, call the National Domestic Violence HotlineExternal Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). You’ll be able to find a domestic violence agency near you or talk to a counselor over the phone. If you are in danger right now, call 911.

What kind of help can I get?
Domestic violence agencies provide:

  • Emotional support
  • Safety planning
  • A safe place to stay in an emergency
  • Legal help
  • Help with housing

Can I get help for free?
Yes. Domestic violence agencies offer free services, like hotlines and counseling. They also help people find resources, like housing or lawyers.

Health insurance plans must cover screening and counseling for domestic and interpersonal violence for all women, under the Affordable Care Act (the health care reform law). This means you may be able to get screening and counseling at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to learn more.

What if I think someone else is in a controlling or violent relationship?
You can use these tips to help someone in an unhealthy relationship.

Help Someone in an Unhealthy Relationship: Quick tips

It can be hard to know what to do when someone you care about is in a controlling or violent relationship. These tips can help.

Watch for signs of abuse.

Relationship violence can take many forms. Make a list of anything you notice that doesn’t seem right. For example, watch for signs of:

  • Controlling behavior, like keeping your loved one away from friends and family
  • Physical abuse, like bruises or cuts
  • Emotional abuse, like put-downs or name-calling
  • Threatening behavior or stalking

Find out about local resources.

Before you talk with your friend or family member, call 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) to get the addresses and phone numbers of some local resources in your community, like domestic violence agencies and shelters. This way, you’ll be able to share the information if the person is ready for it.

You can offer to:

  • Help your friend or family member call local resources for help
  • Visit an agency or shelter together
  • Talk to the police together
  • Go to the doctor together

Set up a time to talk.

Make sure you can have your conversation in a safe, private place.

Keep in mind that your loved one’s partner may have access to her cell phone or computer, so be careful about sharing information over text or email.

Be specific about why you are worried.

Does your friend or loved one:

  • Spend less time with friends or do fewer things he used to enjoy?
  • Make excuses for her partner’s behavior?
  • Have unexplained cuts or bruises?

Does your friend or loved one’s partner:

  • Yell at or make fun of him?
  • Try to control her by making all of the decisions?
  • Check up on him when he’s at work or school?
  • Force her to do sexual things she doesn’t want to do?
  • Threaten to hurt herself if he ever breaks up with her?

Try to help your loved one understand that being treated this way isn’t healthy and that it isn’t your loved one’s fault or responsibility. The more specific you can be about why you are worried, the better.

Plan for safety.

People whose partners are controlling or violent may be in danger when they leave the relationship.

If your friend or loved one is ready to leave an abusive partner, help him make a plan for getting out of the relationship as safely as possible. A domestic violence counselor can help with making a safety plan.

If someone is in immediate danger, don’t wait – call 911.

Be patient.

Do your best to share your concerns with your friend or loved one – but understand that she will decide what’s right for her, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.

It can take time for someone to be ready to talk. Let her know that you are available to talk again whenever she is ready.

Get help for yourself.

Watching someone you care about stay in an unhealthy relationship is hard. You can get support, too. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233).

Protect Yourself from Seasonal Flu

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Everyone age 6 months and older needs to get a flu vaccine every year. Seasonal flu vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu.

For many people, the seasonal flu is a mild illness. But sometimes, the flu can be serious or even deadly.

The flu:

  • Is linked to serious infections like pneumonia (“noo-MOHN-yah”)
  • Can make existing health problems worse (for example, long-term heart or lung disease)
  • Can lead to hospitalization or death

Flu vaccines can help prevent people from getting sick with the flu – and reduce the risk of hospitalizations and death caused by the flu.

The flu spreads easily from person to person. When you get a flu vaccine, you don’t just protect yourself. You also protect everyone around you.

When do I need to get the seasonal flu vaccine?

It’s best to get a flu vaccine by the end of October if you can. After you get the vaccine, it takes about 2 weeks for your body to develop protection against the flu. That’s why it’s a good idea to get the vaccine before the flu starts to spread in your community.

If you don’t get the vaccine by the end of October, it’s not too late. Getting the vaccine later can still protect you from the flu. Keep in mind that flu season can last as late as May.

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The Basics: Flu Symptoms

What is the flu?

The flu is caused by viruses that infect your nose, throat, and lungs. It’s easily spread from person to person when someone with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks. It’s also possible to get the flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Symptoms of the flu may include:

  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fever of 100 °F or higher
  • Feeling feverish or having chills

For some people, the flu may also cause vomiting (throwing up) and diarrhea (frequent, watery poop). This is more common in children than adults.

Remember, not everyone with the flu has a fever.

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The Basics: Flu Vaccines

How is the flu vaccine given?

You can get the flu vaccine as a shot or as a nasal spray.

The best way to protect yourself and others around you is to get a flu vaccine every year.

Are there any side effects from seasonal flu vaccines?

For many people, getting a flu vaccine doesn’t cause any side effects. If it does cause side effects, they are usually mild and begin soon after the vaccine is given. Side effects from flu vaccines usually last 1 to 2 days.

Side effects from the flu shot may include:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Low fever
  • Aches

Side effects from the nasal spray vaccine may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Headache

These side effects aren’t the flu. You can’t get the flu from flu vaccines.

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The Basics: Am I at Risk?

Am I at high risk for serious complications from the flu?

For some people, the flu is more likely to cause serious illness that can lead to hospitalization or even death.

People at high risk for getting complications from the flu include:

If you are at high risk from the flu, it’s especially important to get a vaccine before the flu starts to spread in your community.

If you care for or spend time with someone at high risk from the flu, you can protect both of you by getting a flu vaccine.

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The Basics: Flu Medicine

Is there medicine that can treat the flu?

Yes. If you get sick with the flu, your doctor may prescribe medicines called antiviral drugs. Antiviral drugs can help you feel less sick and shorten the time you are sick. They can also prevent serious flu complications.

If you are at high risk for complications from the flu and you get flu symptoms, it’s important to ask your doctor about antiviral drugs right away. If you need to go to the hospital because of flu complications, doctors may use antiviral drugs to treat you.

Antiviral drugs work best if you start taking them in the first 2 days after you get sick. But they may still help if you take them later on, especially if you are very sick.

Get the facts about flu antiviral medicine.

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Take Action!

Take Action: Get a Flu Vaccine

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations. You can get a flu vaccine at a doctor’s office, health clinic, pharmacy, or your local health department. Your employer may also offer flu vaccines.

Find out where to get a flu vaccine near you.

Use this vaccine locatorExternal Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov to find out where you can get a flu vaccine near you.

What about cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover seasonal flu vaccines.

  • Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get the flu vaccine at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out more.
  • If you have Medicare Part B, you can get a flu vaccine for free.

To learn more about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

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Take Action: Protect Yourself

Protect yourself and others from the flu.

Getting a flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting yourself from the flu.

Here are some other things you can do to help protect yourself and others from the flu:

  • Stay away from people who are sick with the flu.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitizer).
  • Try not to touch your nose, mouth, or eyes. This helps keep germs from spreading.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – whether or not you have the flu. Throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean surfaces and objects that may have flu germs on them, like doorknobs. Use hot, soapy water or a household cleaner.
  • If you have the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. (Your fever should be gone without using a fever-reducing medicine.)

Remember, people with the flu can spread it to others even if they don’t feel sick. Usually, adults with the flu can spread the virus starting the day before they first feel sick – and up to 5 to 7 days after they first felt sick. Children may be able to spread the virus for even longer than 7 days.

Get Your Pre‑teen’s Shots on Schedule

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Doctors recommend that all pre-teens ages 11 and 12 get important shots (also called vaccines or immunizations) to protect against serious diseases.

What shots does my child need?

All pre-teens need to get the following shots.

Meningococcal vaccine

This shot protects against types of meningococcal (“men-ing-gah-KAH-kul”) disease, including meningitis (“men-in-JY-tis”). Meningitis is a very serious infection of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord. Learn more about the meningococcal shot.

HPV shots

These shots protect against human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause several types of cancer. The HPV vaccine is given as a series of shots over several months, starting at age 11 or 12. Learn more about HPV shots.

Tdap booster

This shot protects against tetanus (“TET-nes”), diphtheria (“dif-THEER-ee-ah”), and whooping cough (pertussis). It’s a single shot that’s given to pre-teens ages 11 or 12. Learn more about the Tdap shot.

Yearly flu shot

Getting the flu vaccine every year is the best way to protect against the flu.

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The Basics: Why Shots Are Important

Why does my child need these shots?

Shots protect your child from serious, even deadly, diseases. For example:

  • Meningitis can cause the loss of an arm or leg or even death.
  • Tetanus can cause muscle spasms, breathing problems, paralysis, and death.
  • HPV can cause some types of cancers later in life.

Some serious diseases can spread easily from person to person, like meningitis and whooping cough.

As kids grow older, some of their childhood vaccines begin to wear off. That’s why it’s important to get the Tdap booster shot. Also, pre-teens are at greater risk for some diseases as they get older, like meningitis.

It’s important for every child to get shots.

The bacteria and viruses (germs) that cause serious childhood diseases are still around. Each person who isn’t vaccinated can spread those germs to other people.

Learn more about some of the recommended shots for pre-teens by watching these short videos:

Watch this short video on pneumococcal (“noo-muh-KOK-uhl”) vaccinesExternal Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov

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The Basics: Safety and Side Effects

Are there any side effects from these shots?

Side effects from shots are usually mild and only last a short time. The most common side effect is pain or redness where the shot was given. Many children have no side effects at all.

Shots are very safe.

Vaccines are tested for years before doctors start giving them to people. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) check vaccines every year to make sure they are safe. The chance that a vaccine will cause a serious problem is very small.

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Take Action!

Take Action: See a Doctor

You can protect your child’s health by making sure your pre-teen gets all the recommended shots.

Schedule a checkup for your pre-teen.

The meningococcal, HPV, and Tdap vaccines are given during your child’s yearly checkup at age 11 or 12. If your child is older but didn’t get these shots, it’s not too late. Make an appointment with the doctor to get them now.

Many states require the meningococcal and Tdap shots for pre-teens before they start school.

You may not even need to make an appointment to get your child the yearly flu shot. You can get a flu shot at a health clinic, pharmacy, or your local health department. Use this vaccine locatorExternal Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov to find out where you can get the the flu vaccine near you.

Tell the doctor about bad reactions.

Serious side effects after getting a vaccine – like a severe allergic reaction – are very rare. If your child or another family member has ever had a bad reaction to a vaccine in the past, tell the doctor before your child gets a shot.

Pay extra attention to your child for a few days after she gets a shot. If you see something that worries you, call your child’s doctor.

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Take Action: Cost and Insurance

What about cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover recommended shots for kids. This means you may be able to get your pre-teen’s shots at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services for children that are covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

If you don’t have insurance, your pre-teen can still get shots.

Get Your Child’s Shots on Schedule

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

Shots (also called vaccines or immunizations) help protect children from serious diseases. Vaccines can save your child’s life.

Getting all the shots recommended by age 2 will help protect your child from diseases that can be dangerous or even deadly, including:

  • Measles
  • Whooping cough (pertussis)
  • Chickenpox
  • Hepatitis A and B

It’s important for your child to get all the shots.
Each vaccine protects your child from different diseases. And each vaccine usually requires more than one dose (shot). For the best protection, your child needs every dose of each vaccine. If your child misses a shot, she may not be protected.

It’s important for every child to get shots.
The bacteria and viruses (germs) that cause serious childhood diseases are still around. Each child who isn’t vaccinated can spread those germs to other children.

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The Basics: Recommended Shots

When does my child need shots?
Shots work best when children get them at certain ages. Doctors follow a schedule of shots that begins at birth.

Ask the doctor for a list of the shots your child has received. Keep the list in a safe place – you will need it for school and other activities. Kids who don’t get all their shots may not be allowed to attend certain schools.

Learn more about some of the recommended shots for kids by watching these short videos:

Watch this short video on pneumococcal (“noo-muh-KOK-uhl”) vaccinesExternal Link: You are leaving healthfinder.gov

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The Basics: Safety and Side Effects

Are there any side effects from shots?
Side effects from shots are usually mild and only last a short time. The most common side effect is pain or redness where the shot was given. Some children have no side effects at all. Ask the doctor what to expect after your child’s shots.

Shots are very safe.
Vaccines are tested for years before doctors start giving them to people. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) checks vaccines every year to make sure they are safe. The chance that a vaccine will cause a serious problem is very small.

Shots don’t cause autism.
Research shows that shots don’t cause autism. Autism is a disorder of the brain. Kids with autism have trouble talking and connecting with other people.

Some parents of children with autism notice the first signs of autism at the same age their children get certain shots. They may think these things are connected, but research shows there’s no link between vaccines and autism.

To learn more, read these answers to common questions about children and vaccines.

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Take Action!

Take Action: See a Doctor

Protect your child from serious childhood diseases by making sure he gets all recommended shots.

Find out which shots your child needs.
Check with your doctor to make sure your child is getting all the recommended shots. If your child is age 6 or younger, use this tool to find out which shots your child still needs.

Get your child a seasonal flu shot every year.
Everyone age 6 months and older needs to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year.

Tell the doctor about bad reactions.
Serious side effects after getting a vaccine – like a severe allergic reaction – are very rare. If your child or another family member has ever had a bad reaction to a vaccine in the past, tell the doctor before your child gets a shot.

Pay extra attention to your child for a few days after she gets a shot. If you see something that worries you, call your child’s doctor.

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Take Action: Cost and Insurance

What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover recommended shots for kids. This means you may be able to get your child’s shots at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services for children that are covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

If you don’t have health insurance, your child can still get shots.

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Take Action: Make Shots Less Stressful

Help make shots easier for your child.

  • Stay calm.
  • Ask the doctor or nurse for tips on how to hold your child during the shot.
  • Distract your child during the shot. For example, tell a joke, sing a song, or point to a picture on the wall.
  • Praise your child after the shot is over.

Get more tips on making shots less stressful for you and your child.