There are lots of ways in which small changes can have a positive effect on your health and well-being:
A healthy balanced diet gives our bodies the energy and nutrients required to function well, and feel great. This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportion, so that over time we get all the nutrients we need to keep ourselves healthy. Most people eat too much saturated fat, this is the kind of fat in foods like butter, fatty meat, sausages, cheese, pies and cakes.
Most food labels use traffic light colours to show you whether a food has a high (red), medium (amber), or low (green) amount of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Check the labels on your food and choose foods that don’t contain much saturated fat. Most people eat too much salt. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure. Ideally you should choose low-salt foods when you can, and don’t add salt when you’re cooking or when you’re eating.
Try and eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. These can be fresh, frozen, tinned or dried. Fruit and vegetables are usually low in fats, salt and calories (as long as you don’t cook them in oil or butter).
Try to reduce the amount of food that you eat which are high in fat, salt and sugar. Eat less red meat and processed food. Choose foods that are high in fibre. Drink plenty of tap water.
For more information view the NHS website http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/goodfood/Pages/Goodfoodhome.aspx
Be More Active
People who do regular activity have a lower risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers. Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Being active exercises your heart, helping to keep it strong: helps lower your cholesterol (a fatty substance in your blood which can cause your arteries to clog up): helps to lower your blood pressure which means your arteries are less likely to clog up.
Physical inactivity doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis.
To achieve general health benefits adults should undertake a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on a minimum of 5 days a week. Moderate means enough to make you breathe faster yet able to talk comfortably. At least twice per week the physical exercise should be of the more rigorous/high impact/stress type to improve bone health, muscle strength and flexibility.
Children and young people should undertake a total of 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day.
Increasing activity levels will contribute to the prevention and management of over 20 conditions and diseases including coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of depression and has positive benefits for mental health including anxiety, mood and self-esteem.
Take Control of Your Weight
Being overweight means your heart has to work harder. Keeping to a healthy weight can cut down the strain on your heart and help protect you against high blood pressure and lower your cholesterol. Being overweight increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Measuring your waist is a good starting point to find out if you’re overweight. Women should have a waist size of below 80cm (32 inches) and men should aim for a measurement of less than 94cm (37 inches). People from a South Asian background who are at a higher risk, this is 80cm (32 inches) for women and 90cm (35 inches) from men.
Getting active and eating a balanced diet that is full of fruit and vegetables will help take control of your weight. You should aim to eat 5 portions or more of fruit and vegetables every day.
Take Time Out
Most of us have some stress in our lives. The most common causes of stress include work, many problems, relationships, time pressures and loneliness. If you are stressed you might have problems sleeping, a feeling of anxiety, a loss of appetite for food, fun or sex. You might feel fearful or worried, hopeless and alone. You might find it is difficult to concentrate, it is hard for you to make decisions and that you are eating, drinking or smoking more to make you feel better.
If you are feeling stressed the first thing to do is talk to your doctor. It is better to ask the help rather than struggling to cope.
Are You Drinking Too Much?
To reduce your risk of developing alcohol related health problems it is recommended that you should drink in moderation and follow the guidelines for sensible drinking:
• Men should not regularly drink more than 3 to 4 units a day (equivalent to 1.5 pints of beer at 4%), and Women not more than 2 to 3 units a day (equivalent to a standard 175ml glass of wine).
• Drink plenty of tap water
• You should have at least two alcohol free days per week.
Regularly drinking over the recommended units can increase your risk of a number of cancers, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and reduced fertility.
For further information and advice on reducing your alcohol intake visit the NHS choices website.
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of premature death. Stopping can be very difficult, but help is available. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals including tar and nicotine. Every time you smoke, they go straight into your body through your lungs. The chemicals can damage the lining of your coronary arteries (the tubes that take oxygen rich blood to your heart) which can cause fatty material to build up in your arteries, leading them to get clogged up and blocked. They also make platelets in your blood more sticky, which can cause your blood to form clots which can block your arteries and cause a heart attack or stroke.
All this means that you are much more likely to develop coronary heart disease and as a smoker, you are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack than your non-smoking friends. There is no safe level of use.
You can get free face-to-face support to stop smoking from the NHS. Call 0800 4346677 will go to http://www.nhs.uk/smokefree to find a service nearby. You can also talk to your GP and pharmacist.