What can we each do?

What we eat and drink and how much physical and mental exercise we do could make a big difference for own health.

It also has big implications for those we love - for instance if we want to reduce the risk of dying early, leaving them poorly provided for, or needing their long term care due to chronic ill health.

And if we all took more care of our health that would reduce pressure on the NHS and increase the chances of it still being there to help when we need it.

 Practical Tip – Check how many of the 17 points below you’re already doing – and which you might need to work on.

 If you have a high score, do you have a friend or family member who might need your help? 

Here’s what the evidence suggests we each need to do: 

1. LOOK AFTER OUR BODY 

There are seven practical things we can do – and you’ll probably know most of these already 

  • Don’t smoke
  • Drink alcohol in moderation (like a glass of wine not a bottle)
  • Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts and whole grains
  • Avoid junk food - and avoid fizzy drinks in particular
  • Take regular, brisk exercise – at least 30 minutes a day, ideally with friends so you get the social benefit too
  • Maintain a healthy weight – eating a healthy diet is usually more effective than dieting (don’t get too obsessed with counting calories, it is the food the calories come in that usually makes the difference)
  • Regular, short exposure to the sun (10 – 15 minutes before you put on sunscreen or make up that contains sunscreen)

2. LOOK AFTER YOUR MIND 

We all know we need to look after our body. What we might not realise is how important it is to look after our mind – particularly if we want to reduce the risk of dementia as we get older.

Here are five things you can do that research suggests can make a difference: 

  • Learn something new that makes your brain work a bit differently - like a new language or a musical instrument, a new craft or IT skill or a new sport or new type of dance.
  • Have a sense of purpose – for example what beliefs, skills and interests do you have? What goals and objectives would you like to achieve? When do you feel most motivated?
  • Think positive – if you’re not naturally optimistic make a conscious effort to look for the positives in a situation rather than dwelling on the negatives 
    • Find ways to manage stress – some people find exercise, music, a healthy diet and not smoking all seem to help here 
  • Help others and do work (paid or voluntary) you enjoy and which ideally is valued by others

3. LOOK AFTER YOUR RELATIONSHIPS 

This may not be obvious but seems to be another important factor influencing how long we live in good health. Loneliness can be a real health risk. So:  

  • Socialize and stay connected
  • If you’re in a good relationship, work to keep it successful
  • If possible don’t retire too early

 Recommendation

Make sure you look after your body, your mind and your relationships