Long life spans and immortality are topics which are often explored in fiction, and with good reason. After all, who wouldn’t want to be around long enough to watch their children and grandchildren grow up? Sadly however, there is no guarantee that any of us will see our “golden years”.
That said, there are things we can do to improve our chances of seeing the later years in life, and also to help us enjoy the best possible quality of life when we get there. A healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and lots of exercise, can go a long way to avoiding several of the main causes of early death, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even some cancers.
Taking a few simple steps one at a time can help lower your risk of developing problems in the future, and can also have a dramatic effect on your mental wellbeing, too. A few of these are included below:
If the medical profession could bottle exercise and sell it, they would make a fortune. Exercise can help prevent a number of illnesses and diseases, and even doing just a little can bring huge changes to your overall health. It’s a good way to start making healthy changes, especially if most of your time is spent in front of a computer screen. It is easier to stick with exercise if you choose one you really enjoy and which fits in with your lifestyle. After all, if you hate the gym, it is very easy to stop going.
Your activity should be something that increases your heart level and gets your breathing up for at least 30 minutes each day, and there are plenty of options out there. You might want to play a team sport, but brisk walking for that 30 minutes will be hugely beneficial to you too.
Make healthy changes to your diet
While exercise is vital, there is almost no point in introducing it if you don’t also consider what you eat. You should aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and try to give foods high in sugar, saturated fat and salt a miss where possible.
Food labelling should help you to make healthy choices, and you should also eat two portions of fish a week, with one of them being an oily fish. You’ll get plenty of fibre from your vegetables, but pulses, porridge and unrefined brown carbohydrates (bread, pasta and rice) will also help.
If necessary, shed a few pounds
If there are a few too many inches around your waist, you should look to shed some timber. The best way of doing this is by avoiding fad diets, and instead aiming for a gradual, sustainable weight loss. Balanced healthy meals and regular exercise will help this.
Watch what you drink
Alcohol is an intrinsic part of the fabric of western society, but overdoing it can have a drastic impact on our health. Liver disease, stroke, stomach ulcers, heart disease, mental health problems and osteoporosis can all be caused by drinking too much, as indeed can some forms of cancer. Ideally, you should stick to the healthy limit of no more than two drinks a day wherever possible.
If you are currently a smoker, the best possible decision you can make for your health is to stop. Smoking is directly linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic lung conditions like bronchitis and emphysema. There’s a wealth of information and advice at the NHS Quit Now website or you could call their National Helpline on 0300 123 1044 to speak to a smoking cessation expert free of charge.
Deal with stress
Stress is not just an inevitable part of life, it is also needed for us to function as we should. However, being over-stressed for a long period of time is not healthy, and can have a hugely negative impact on the body. If you have difficulty sleeping, struggle with anxiety, find it difficult to concentrate or develop a lot of headaches, you may need to change the way you deal with stress.
Positive thinking, effective time management and accepting that there are certain things in life you can’t change are all effective ways of dealing with stress. Taking some time to relax and unwind can often help make stressful situations easier, but if you can’t cope, you should speak out. Your friends, family and work colleagues will all help if they can, and your GP can help provide extra assistance where necessary.