by Rosalind Ryan
Sometimes it can feel as though eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise and finding the time to find yourself is impossible. But learning to live a healthier lifestyle is easy when you change one small thing at a time.
1. Let it beet
It sounds bizarre, but beetroot could be a secret weapon against high blood pressure. The condition is a major cause of heart disease and stroke, but many people aren’t aware they have it as it has no symptoms. Now, researchers from Barts and the London School of Medicine say drinking 500ml of beetroot juice could dramatically reduce blood pressure after just one hour. So drink up the pink stuff.
2. Think outside the box
Us lazy Brits will spend 17 years of our lives on the sofa, with seven years of that devoted to watching TV. Next time you hear yourself say, “I haven’t got time to go to the gym” or you opt for ready meals because you’re too busy to cook fresh food, think about switching off the box and doing something healthy instead.
3. don’t take the biscuit
It may be a good idea to steer clear of the biscuit tin before you go shopping. A team from the University of Singapore recently discovered that the smell of chocolate chip cookies could make women splurge on unnecessary clothes when they hit the shops. The smell activates the part of your brain that wants instant gratification, although that’s no excuse for maxing out your credit cards.
4 . Embracing good health
Giving your partner a hug doesn’t just warm the heart, it can protect it too. A study by the University of North Carolina in 2005 found that hugging your other half for 20 seconds could lower blood pressure and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol have been linked to heart disease and other conditions such as diabetes.
5. Pouring salt on the wound
We eat around 9.5g of salt a day, but the Government wants us to cut this to no more than 6g, as high levels of salt can push up your blood pressure, raising your risk of cardiovascular conditions. Many food labels only list salt as sodium however, but you can do a simple sum to work out their real salt content; just multiply by 2.5. So 0.8g of sodium becomes 2g of salt.
6. Sunny side up
Get outside in the sunshine for a natural boost. The sun’s rays on the skin help your body produce vitamin D, which has been shown to fight heart disease, depression, osteoporosis and even some types of cancer. There’s not a lot of sun around at this time of year, so make the most of it when it does appear!
7. One is the magic number
One of the largest studies into diet and cancer – the Europe-wide EPIC study – found that eating just one extra portion of fruit and vegetables a day could cut your risk of dying early from any cause by 20 per cent.
8. Holding back the years
Add 14 years to your life by following four very easy principles; don’t smoke, take regular exercise, drink sensibly and eat five portions of fruit and veg a day. These simple steps can have a huge impact on your life expectancy, say scientists from Cambridge University. If you only manage one thing, give up smoking as the study found this had the biggest impact on your health.
9. A step in the right direction
Previously, experts thought taking 10,000 steps a day was enough to control your weight, but a world-wide study has just established that women up to the age of 40 and men up to 50 need 12,000 steps a day to help shift that middle jiggle. Invest in a pedometer to make sure you’re hitting your target.
10. Laughter is the best medicine
Become a glass-half-full person! Studies have found that those with a positive attitude suffer less from conditions such as heart disease. Find something to laugh at every day to give your feel-good hormones a boost.
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