08 March 2016 13:12:00

How are YOU?

Most of us want to live long and happy lives, but when we're young we don't often stop to think about what that means. We tend to take the 'and happy' for granted. But for the 'and happy' to apply, we really need to add 'and healthy' - quality of life increases in direct proportion to good health. The new One You campaign from Public Health England (PHE) aims to help us do this.

Did you open this blog because you regularly seek out health information? Or did you click on it idly after coming across it by accident? Either way, you have something to gain by reading on. The new One You campaign from Public Health England (PHE) aims to capture all of us - and get us all spending just a few minutes to look at how we can take it for granted that we'll wake up feeling - just well.

Most of us want to live long and happy lives, but when we're young we don't often stop to think about what that means. We tend to take the 'and happy' for granted. But for the 'and happy' to apply, we really need to add 'and healthy' - quality of life increases in direct proportion to good health.

As a nation, we're living longer than ever - life expectancy for women has increased by about two years every decade for over 40 years, and for men it's even more, so we can expect to live 10 years longer than our grandparents. While statistically you're more likely to have long-term health conditions as you get older, it's not inevitable with a little preparatory work. Being healthy in middle age can double your chances of being healthy when you're over 70 (1). And if you are still healthy in later life, your ability to do things you value - in other words, to be happy - is just as high as it is when you're young (2).

Of course we can't guarantee good health - but we can all stack the odds in our favour. It's estimated that 40% of all the deaths in England are directly down to our health behaviour (3). I regularly hear patients tell me that they'd rather 'live fast and die young'. But of course you may not die from your health condition, just live miserably with it for years, and positive health changes can improve quality as well as quantity of life.

I know lots of people reading this are thinking 'It's all right for her to preach, but I haven't got time to exercise/lose weight/destress…'. Believe me, I know - I have a degree in juggling commitments. I also know it doesn't need to cost a fortune to eat more healthily or get in shape - and One You aims to show you how.

So what's on offer? For a start, you can log on to the quick quiz and find out a bit about what your health hotspots are. There's a good chance weight will be among them - one in four of adults in England are obese and the majority of us are overweight (4). Being overweight is about more than just feeling uncomfortable in the communal changing rooms - having a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 35 knocks eight to 10 years off your life, equivalent to a lifetime of smoking (5).

But help is at hand. PHE has linked up with Slimming World to offer free membership when you sign up to a Slimming World Countdown and get 12 weeks of group support for the price of 10. And the One You app offers you 150 healthy (and tasty - honestly!) recipes, with a shopping list of ingredients you can tick off as you go around the shops. It doesn't need to cost a fortune - canned and frozen veg are just as healthy as more expensive fresh varieties.

Alternatively, getting active can help you lose weight as well as boost your heart and lung health. The One You campaign is partnering with BBC Get Inspired to re-launch the popular 'Couch to 5K' app, which does exactly what it says on the label. One You Ambassadors, the Hairy Bikers, lost six stone between them despite spending their lives cooking delicious food.

Or how about getting your blood pressure checked? Millions of people have had their heart health checked with the NHS Health Checks, but millions more haven't - and Asda is providing a free blood pressure check service and professional advice at all of its 255 in-store pharmacies. They're also offering reliable blood pressure monitors for £7.50, letting you keep an eye on your blood pressure at home.

One You is about joining the dots - looking at all the benefits you can get from small changes in every area of health. There's advice on smoking cessation,stress and alcohol - and signposting to get help you can access at the press of a button. Making changes in your fifties, forties or even younger can reap huge dividends in the longer term. One You could just be the start of a whole New You.


References

1) Lang, I. A., et al. (2012). "Healthy behaviours in middle age: Long-term consequences for functioning and mortality." Age and Ageing 41.

2) WHO report: World Report on Ageing and Health (summary), 30 September, 2015 Available at http://www.who.int [Last Accessed: 11 February 2016]

3) Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). GBD Compare - Public Health England. Seattle, WA: IHME, University of Washington, 2015. Available at: http://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare [Last Accessed: 11 February 2016]

4) Health and Social Care Information Centre (2015) Adult obesity and overweight. Available at: www.hscic.gov.uk [Last Accessed: 11 February 2016]

5) Dent M. et al (2010). Briefing Note: Obesity and life expectancy. Oxford. National Obesity Observatory.

Dr Sarah is unable to provide medical advice or respond directly to questions concerning your health. If you have health concerns we recommend contacting your GP.