10 small steps for a longer life

health New Year is a time many of us resolve to make dramatic health improvements, such as joining the gym and giving up alcohol for ever (or for at least a month). But some of the most dramatic changes we can make are incredibly simple.

Here with the help of leading experts, Good Health offers a guide to the ten easy steps that really will make a difference to your life:


Flossing at least twice a day is essential to prevent decay says Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation.

Too few people floss, putting themselves at risk of life-threatening diseases such as mouth cancer and heart disease.

But choose proper dental floss - according to a recent national dental survey, more than 60 per cent of Britons use screwdrivers, scissors and earrings to remove food from between their teeth.


'A thorough eye test is a health check that can detect underlying conditions that leave you predisposed to sight loss,' says Ciara Smith, at the Royal National Institute for the Blind.

'Around 1.9million people with diabetes aren't having the regular eye tests they need, while 250,000 people with early-stage glaucoma are at risk of losing their sight but don't realise it.'

So get your eyes tested at least every two years.


'Good' bacteria - or probiotics - are essential for our digestive health and helping the immune system to work.

In certain circumstances, for example prolonged use of antibiotics or a severe bout of vomiting or diarrhoea, the gut is stripped of its good bacteria. One of the best sources of probiotics is natural yoghurt.

You can buy other products which say they include probiotics, although some contain only one of two strains of good bacteria rather than the hundreds needed. A good health food store will advise you.


Coronary heart disease is the biggest killer in the Western world. In the UK it accounts for one in four of all male and one in six of all female deaths.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), says everyone over 40 should know their cholesterol level and then aim to reduce it.

'You can't have too low a cholesterol level,' he adds. 'In the UK we regard 5.5 as an average reading, although in other countries, such as China, this is considered very high - and they have a low rate of heart disease compared to us.'

Ask your GP or practice nurse for a simple blood test. Or you can buy a cholesterol test over the chemist's counter, but make sure you choose one with separate readings for good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels: if the results show a high reading, see your GP.


Better posture is the single most effective weapon against chronic back problems, says Matt Todman, consultant physiotherapist at the Sports & Spinal Clinic in Harley Street.

He recommends taking up Pilates if you are prone to the problem, but simply stopping your slouch habit at your desk and not lugging around heavy bags can make a huge difference.


The recommended amount of salt per day is 6g, but most of us routinely consume around 9g. Cutting your salt intake by one teaspoon a day can halve your risk of coronary heart disease, the UK's biggest killer.

Check food labels. Choose those with low salt or sodium content - 0.25g of salt per 100g of food, or 0.1g sodium per 100g. Just switching to unsalted butter, for instance, could make a difference in the long term - or remove the salt cellar from the table.


Omega 3 fatty acids in oily fish (such as sardines, tuna and herring) play an important part in the development of the central nervous system - and in countering a range of conditions including heart disease and Alzheimer's.

The Food Standards Agency says we should each try to eat two portions of fish a week, one of them oily.


A recent study found that people who had the biggest tummies were 40 per cent more likely to suffer from a heart attack, and that the waistline was a better indication of health than your Body Mass Index.

Women should have a waistline of less than 31.5 inches and men 37 inches. The simplest way is to lose weight overall, and the BHF recommends aiming for a loss of just 2lb a week over the long term.


One in three women in the UK suffers from urinary incontinence - but the embarrassing nature of the problem means many never see a doctor.

'Urinary incontinence can disrupt a person's social life and thousands become clinically depressed because of it,' says Dr Sarah Jarvis, women's health spokesperson for the Royal College of GPs.

Doing regular pelvic floor exercises improves bladder control. First, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as if you were trying to hold back urine. Then tighten these muscles and hold for a few seconds. Repeat this ten times, and do the whole exercise at least four times a day.

If you suffer from incontinence, ask your GP to refer you to a specialist nurse. For more advice, call 0870 770 3246 or visit www.incontact.org.


'Live in the moment,' says psychotherapist Derek Draper. 'The new year is a time when people reflect on the past and make plans for the future, but if you have too many regrets or set yourself unachievable goals, you'll end up disappointed.'

A review by the U.S. National Academy of Science showed increased 'mindfulness' - the psychological term for living in the moment - led to less stress and boosted the immune system.

source - Daily mail