The keys to a healthy lifestyle

Published by Sarah Horrocks
Published on 10 September 2008

If you want to live a long, healthy life in good shape, prevention is better than cure. Here are the keys to a healthy lifestyle.

Eat a balanced diet

Why? Research has proved that a varied, balanced diet is a factor in the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, obesity and high cholesterol.

How? By following the advice of dieticians and nutritionists.

- Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables to at least 5 a day.

- Eat food that provides you with calcium (essentially dairy products, some vegetables and some types of mineral water). 3 servings of dairy a day should give you enough calcium.

- Reduce your intake of fat, in particular saturated fat (meat, cured meat, cheese, pastries etc).

- Increase your intake of starchy foods, especially whole cereals.

- Go easy on sugar and rich food (fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes, jam and chocolate).

Stay sober

Why? Alcohol is brimming with calories (1g = 7 kcal) and the liver breaks it down into toxic molecules. A high consumption of alcohol is a factor in cancer (of the breast, mouth, throat, oesophagus, colon, rectum, etc), and increases the risks of chronic illness, especially brain illness.
How? By enjoying alcohol in moderation! Go for low alcohol drinks rather than strong ones, or add mixers, drink slowly and put your glass down after each sip. Have a glass of water to quench your thirst and an alcoholic drink for pleasure, not exceeding the equivalent of 2 glasses of wine (100ml each) or 2 beers (250ml each) or 60ml spirits a day. And if you’re pregnant, stick to soft drinks!

Stay out of the sun

Why? Prolonged exposure undermines the benefits of sunshine: it accelerates skin ageing and increases the risk of cataracts. Both UVA and UVB rays cause cancer.

How? Avoid exposing yourself between midday and 4 o'clock. Never go out in the sun without applying high SPF sunscreen, and reapply regularly. Wear sunglasses that protect your eyes, especially in the snow and water where there is a strong reflection.

Stop smoking

Why? Aside from cardio-vascular problems and cancer, smoking causes many problems for women. Smoking while you're on the Pill can cause clotting and damage, shrink the blood vessel walls and increase the risk of thrombosis. It also hastens the loss of calcium from the bones and teeth, multiplies the risk of ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, premature birth, Caesarian birth, and slows the growth of the fetus.

How? Don’t smoke, and if you do, get help! http://gosmokefree.nhs.uk/.

Exercise

Why? It’s proven that increasing the use of energy through exercise reduces the risk of cardio-vascular problems, Type II diabetes, obesity, cancer and osteoporosis. Regular physical activity also improves your body, wellbeing and self esteem.

How? You can be active without being a gym freak, and get exercise without changing your lifestyle dramatically. At least half an hour of fast walking per day or the equivalent is enough. So make short journeys on foot, get off the bus or train one stop early and walk the rest of the way, do your shopping on foot rather than taking the car and don’t use escalators or lifts. At the weekends, go cycling, roller blading, walking or swimming.

Have regular check-ups

Why? Because prevention is better than cure. The earlier an illness is detected the better chance it has of being cured, so get regular check-ups.

How? Get a check up from your GP at least once every two years, see your optician once every two years and your dentist every year.