Make 2018 the Year of Good Health: 5 Key Factors to Get You on Track
The first few weeks of a new year are often the times when we find ourselves thinking about making changes to improve our life. Not surprisingly, as those years fly by, we begin to understand that good health is the most important thing we have. Let’s face it, making the commitment to give ourselves maximum protection against illness is the most serious resolution we are ever likely to make.
Essentials to Good Health in 2018
There are many things you can do to fend off disease, and to give yourselves the best possible chance of recovery and survival if you do fall prey to anything serious. These measures have been well documented, but because they are so vital, we want to give you a reminder of the five main areas where you can make a huge difference to your chances of staying healthy.
Obesity is a very important factor when looking at ways to give yourself more than a fighting chance of staying healthy. One of the reasons for this is that carrying extra fat in the body produces hormones that affect the way cells behave. Cancer Research UK tell us that more than 1 in 20 cancers in the UK are linked to being overweight. Apart from this statistic, there are many other reasons to strive for a healthy weight. Type 2 diabetes is often triggered by obesity, along with heart disease and risk of stroke.
Being overweight also impacts on mobility, making exercise uncomfortable and generally restricting free-movement to the point of diminishing any pleasure gained from being active.
These reasons alone make losing excess weight a very desirable goal. We know it’s easier said than done, but a combination of all of these key pointers are a great way to make a start!
Eating the right foods is a vital component in the bid for a healthy lifestyle, second in importance only to not smoking. Food choices affect your risk of developing cancer, as well as many other health-destroying conditions. You should aim to cut out processed meats, sugary drinks and any products high in sugar.
Instead, aim to increase your intake of vegetables, fresh fruit, salads, fish, nuts and legumes such as lentils, peas and beans.
Fibre-rich foods are important, they keep the digestive system working efficiently and help protect from bowel disease. The best choices of dietary fibre are vegetables and fruit (whole fruit, not juice), brown rice and pasta, wholemeal bread, sweet potatoes and porridge (oats being kinder than wheat or wheat-bran to the digestive system if you suffer with an inflammatory bowel condition such as IBS or diverticular disease).
All cooking oils are fattening but olive oil and coconut oil used sparingly are much healthier options. Brush meat or fish with olive oil before either grilling or cooking in a frying pan. This way you use less fat than if you pour it from the bottle.
Try to have a couple of meat-free meals each week where vegetables take centre stage. You could also add eggs in some form, perhaps an omelette or boiled eggs, sliced with some baby spinach and a vinaigrette dressing. Avocados also go well with this sort of meal and although they are known to be quite high in fat, it is the good sort of fat that the body needs
Eat good quality meat, fish and eggs. Cheese in moderation as it is very high in fat — not the good kind.
A useful and easy tip to ensure you get plenty of antioxidants each day is to choose dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach leaves, florets of broccoli, curly kale, or spring greens. If you haven’t already got one, buy yourself a steamer – the sort that fits over an ordinary saucepan is fine. While you are cooking either potatoes or other root vegetables just pop the steamer over the top and for the final few minutes of cooking add the spinach or kale so it is lightly steamed. A sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg or drizzle of lemon juice is all it needs to be a delicious and very healthy addition to your meal.
Choosing a good multi-vitamin supplement is a safeguard to ensure you are getting those vital elements, especially if there are times when your diet may fall short of the essential balance needed to keep things ticking over efficiently.
Nutritionists have known for some time that burned foods are highly carcinogenic but scientists have very recently issued statements to this effect, warning us not to eat such things as burned toast or anything which has become charred during the cooking process. For this reason, beware of barbecued meats with those blackened edges.
With regard to eating out, a good rule of thumb when choosing foods from menus is to choose dishes which comprise of simple, recognisable ingredients. If the contents of a dish are not made clear on the menu it is always fine to ask.
In terms of buying ready-made meals, the fewer and more recognisable the ingredients the safer they will be in terms of health and nutrition. It’s best to avoid highly processed items, they are unlikely to provide much in the way of nutritional value, and may have high proportions of sugar, fat and salt.
Make a pact with yourself to increase your activity levels. Cancer Research UK tell us that around 3400 cases of cancer in the UK each year could be prevented by keeping active. Don’t be scared by an imagined need to don Lycra - you really don’t have to join a gym to get plenty of exercise. The fact is, something as simple as a brisk daily walk can be a lifesaver. You may like to download an app to your phone which measures your steps or try a Fitbit which encourages you to monitor your steps each day. Don’t be pressurised into trying to achieve an unrealistic target at first. Much better to start with a short walk and gradually build it up as your fitness levels increase.
Walking costs nothing (apart from a decent pair of comfortable and supportive shoes). It gets the muscles moving, makes the heart beat just a little faster, gives an essential amount of weight-bearing work to the joints and ensures you get some fresh air and sunlight (for that necessary dose of vitamin D). If you have a desk or driving job it is even more vital to factor in time for some walking each day.
You might even decide to choose a new activity that brings you in touch with other people such as a dance class, tennis, badminton or swimming. Aqua aerobics is an excellent choice as it combines weight-bearing exercise with the wonderful support to the limbs that being in water provides. Anyone with painful knees or hips needn’t suffer the pain of pounding the pavements, yet the whole body still gets a superb and strengthening workout due to the resistance of the water as you perform the movements.
Remember that the more active you are, the easier it will be for you to keep your weight at a safe level.
Make a real effort to cut down on alcohol. It’s a sobering fact that by regularly drinking 14 units a week (seven glasses of wine), you are significantly increasing your risk not only of liver disease but also of at least five types of cancer.
Scientists tell us that the occasional glass of red wine is beneficial to our health, and we know that it helps with relaxation as well as adding a pleasant dimension to the enjoyment of a meal. But the important word to remember is ‘occasional’. It’s all too easy to fall into the habit of a relaxing tipple each evening, followed by wine with a meal, and this, on a regular basis, is too much.
Where excessive alcohol has been a habit over many years it can result in alcohol related brain damage, including a form of dementia known as Korsakoff’s Syndrome which presents in a similar way to Alzheimer’s disease.
Excessive consumption of alcohol can also lead to thiamine deficiency, (vitamin B1), which interferes with the way the body stores and uses vitamins, causing poor nutrition.
Enjoy a drink, but not every day. View it as a treat rather than the norm.
Drink more water. It’s as simple as that. Your body desperately needs plenty of water to function healthily. About 70 percent of the body is comprised of water and blood is 90 percent water.
Medical recommendations state that men need to drink about 3 litres of water daily and women 2.2 litres.
Water is essential to kidney function and your skin (the largest organ of the body) needs water to stay hydrated. If you don’t drink enough water, your skin will quickly lose its elasticity and will wrinkle and blemish.
Every cell in your body needs water; your joints need it to stay lubricated and your digestive system depends upon it to help food pass through the intestines. It is also vital for the regulation of your body temperature.
You get some water each day as you have hot drinks such as tea and coffee. A small amount comes from foods such as soup and fruits, but there is no substitute for actually drinking plain water, either bottled or from the tap.
Invest in Yourself
So you can see that much can be done by you to improve your health prospects. Just have the courage to take responsibility for dealing with your own health and wellbeing, either in terms of your weight, food choices, activity levels or alcohol and water consumption. The investment of your time and effort in getting your health on track will be the best decision you ever made. Make 2018 happen for you.
Have Your Say: If you have any particular goals for 2018 please share them with us. We would love to hear about them.