Know what you should eat and exercise daily
Yes, we’ve heard it all before – but eating well and exercising regularly really are top of the list.
A balanced diet is key to helping you get all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs. Eating a variety of foods ( containing all the major food groups) in the right proportions is one of best ways to keep your body in tip-top condition.
Take time to learn what foods have particular health benefits and what foods you should really avoid. For example, wholegrain foods are rich in fibre and are believed to reduce the risk of certain cancers, diabetes and coronary heart disease. Eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is recommended, as they contain a unique combination of nutrients and plant compounds.
Salt intake in the UK is far in excess of the recommended guidelines. Found predominantly in pre-prepared foods, excessive salt consumption can contribute to high blood pressure and stomach cancer. A high level of salt in your diet is also believed to exacerbate osteoporosis and asthma. Adults are advised to consume no more than 6g salt per day (about one teaspoon). For more information on maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, BBC Health- Nutrition is an excellent resource.
Alongside a balanced diet, regular exercise can also help you stay in good health. Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that people who lead active lifestyles are less likely to suffer from illness and are more likely to live longer. Aside from making you physically fitter, regular exercise can also improve your mental wellbeing. The average adult needs to do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, on five or more days a week alongside their healthy diet. For a more detailed look at the benefits of exercise, click here.
Bust the stress
A healthy mind is essential for a healthy, long life. Stress is closely linked to overall health and high levels of stress can result in chronic health problems. A little bit of stress can be a positive thing, it can help kick us into action. However, a consistently high level of stress can begin to take its toll both physically and emotionally. It can start to negatively affect our immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems. Frequent reactions to stress in our bodies can lead to high blood pressure, insomnia and depression – as well as potentially leading to heart problems or a stroke.
The natural antidote to stress is relaxation. Deep breathing techniques, visualisation and simple relaxation methods can all help to combat stress. Yoga and meditation are also thought to bust stress and promote a sense of calm and wellbeing. If you feel you can’t cope with stress, anxiety or depression alone, it’s best to seek help from your GP as soon as possible. They should be able to suggest a suitable course of action to help you cope and deal with these issues. For more information about combating stress and about metal health in general, the charity Mind is a good place to start.
Quit smoking and cut the drink
Quite an obvious one. We’re all well aware of the negative impact that smoking can have on our health. Smoking has been linked to increased risk of certain cancers as well as heart and lung disease. All of your vital organs are put under increased pressure by a smoking habit and smokers are more likely to be affected by a range of short and long term health problems. For example, smoking can cause a narrowing and blocking of the veins and arteries, which puts your body at risk of heart attacks, strokes and aneurysms. In fact, smokers are twice as likely to die from heart disease as non-smokers. By stopping smoking today, you’ll help improve your breathing and general fitness.
The risk to your health from smoking will become evident when you apply for life insurance. Typically, insurers consider smokers to be an increased risk – so will price their premiums higher. If you are a non smoker (normally, this means you have been smoke free for 12 months) insurers will offer you lower life insurance premiums as a result. If you’re keen to quit smoking, visit the NHS smokefree website. Here you’ll find useful advice on how to ditch the habit and will be able to apply for your free Quit Kit.
Again, when you apply for life insurance – you’ll normally be asked how many units of alcohol you drink per week. High levels of alcohol consumption can be seriously damaging to your health. The NHS points out that most people with alcohol-related illnesses are not alcoholics. They are simply people who have regularly drunk more than the recommended levels for a number of years. Alcohol intake can contribute to liver problems, reduced fertility, high blood pressure, increased risk of various cancers and heart attacks. To check if your drinking habit could be harming your health, click here.
Get yourself a pet
For almost 25 years, research has shown that having a pet can improve your health. They can do this in a number of ways. Firstly, the presence of a pet in your home is said to reduce anxiety and stress levels as well as lower blood pressure. This in turn can help keep your heart healthy. A small study in the US once showed that visits from dogs helped lower anxiety and heart and lung pressure among heart failure patients. Pets also give companionship and help ease feelings of loneliness and isolation, helping to boost morale and combat depression.
Additionally, having a dog as a pet can result in regular exercise for the owner. Dogs need daily exercise, which means you’ll get daily exercise by taking them out for a walk.
Research is increasingly pointing to the fact that pets in the family home can help boost immunity. A growing number of studies have suggested that children growing up in a home with “furred animals” are less likely to suffer with allergies and asthma. Past research has revealed that if a dog lived in the family home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies and were also less likely to have eczema.
If you’re not convinced, check out this article: 5 ways pets can improve your health.
A little help from your friends
Back in 2005, research from the University of Adelaide revealed that a network of good friends can help you live longer. The study found that having close friends around could affect people’s behaviour in ways that improved their health in old age.
Using data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ALSA), the researchers asked almost 1,500 over 70s about level of contact they had with children, relatives and friends, either in person or by phone. They monitored the participants over a 10 year period, also taking into consideration things like socio-economic status and lifestyle.
From the research, they concluded that contact with children and other relatives had little impact on survival rates over the 10 year monitoring phase. However, a strong network of friends did seem to significantly improve the length of life.
So, how do friends help you live longer? Well, it’s thought that social engagement can have a positive impact on depression and morale in general, self-sufficiency and coping mechanisms. Friends can also promote health-enhancing behavior and positively influence habits like drinking, smoking and exercise.