Five ways to improve your health in 2020

    3 January 2020

    Let’s be honest: most of us make at least one New Year’s resolution, and then – usually fairly quickly – break it. We have a good idea of what we want to change, but then try to change everything all at once which never works. Instead, we should look to alter a number of small things which, by themselves, are relatively easy to achieve but when taken as a whole can alter your life for the better in a huge way. My own ‘Top 5’ health recommendations for you in 2020 are:

    Move more

    This is a key resolution and you don’t need to join a gym this month to do it. Exercise not only assists weight loss but is also good for your mental health as well as keeping muscles strong, stimulating blood flow, and improving heart and lung fitness. Exercise for at least 3 times a week for about 30 minutes. Try walking during your lunch break, or take the stairs instead of the lift. If you are travelling a short distance cycle or walk instead of using your car and consider parking further away from your office than normal to get some walking time.

    Quit smoking

    Stopping smoking is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your overall long-term health and it is never too late to quit – however old you are or how long you have been smoking. Smoking 20 cigarettes a day for a week takes one day off your life expectancy. The most effective way of quitting is by using a combination of medication and psychological support and there has never been a better time to stop smoking as new treatments are available to help you quit. These are available from your GP or local stop-smoking service, and your pharmacist can also give you advice and help on over-the-counter products to help you quit.

    Lose those extra pounds

    Losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions but most people give up the battle by the end of January. Being overweight significantly increases your risk of developing heart disease and conditions such as diabetes and arthritis, as well as certain cancers. Set a reasonable goal and aim to lose around 2-3 kg a month. Remember the old adage; ‘Breakfast like a king, lunch like a lord, supper like a pauper’. Make breakfast the main meal of the day, avoid snacking, keep sugary and highly processed foods to a minimum and beware of the ‘empty calories’ found in alcohol and fizzy drinks. Increase your consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, raw nuts and whole grains and reduce your intake of salt, refined grains, refined sugar and fatty foods.

    Drink more water

    Most of us do not drink enough fluid and so are at risk of dehydration. Our bodies are comprised of over 60 per cent water, which is critical for healthy cell functioning and staying hydrated also helps to regulate body temperature, lubricates the joints, boosts energy, and helps prevent constipation. (Feeling thirsty may not always be the first sign of significant dehydration – earlier symptoms can include headache, fatigue and poor concentration.) Try to drink water regularly throughout the day along with other fluids such as milk, juice and moderate amounts of tea and coffee.

    Watch the booze

    Most of us enjoy a social drink – especially at the end of a hard day – but alcohol related health problems are on the increase so make sure you stick to sensible limits long-term. The good news is that moderate alcohol intake appears to be slightly beneficial for your health but there is a very fine line between just enough and too much so always try to stick to a weekly intake of 14 units, with a rough guide being that one unit is equal to half a pint of beer, a 125ml glass of wine or a single measure of spirits. Always try to have 2 to 3 alcohol-free days a week and use a measure if pouring drinks at home – many people pour a triple believing it to be a single. Try drinking spritzers or having a soft drink between alcoholic drinks if socializing.

    I wish you all a very happy – and healthy – 2020!