Being healthier is a common resolution many people promise themselves for the new year, whether it’s to lose weight or to feel more comfortable within their own body. We discuss how you can kick-start a healthy new year, focusing on your diet, physical activity and any unhealthy habits that you want to stop.
We all know the food we eat impacts the function of our body. The first steps to having a healthier diet are to include the main food groups into your meals, as recommended by health experts. These are:
- 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day
- Starchy food used as the base for a meal, including potatoes, bread, rice and pasta
- Dairy or dairy alternative such as soya
- Protein – beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meat
- Unsaturated oils and spreads
- Plenty of fluids
Having your 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers, and including it into your diet is easier than some people think. 80g of fruit or vegetable (fresh, canned or frozen), 30g of dried fruit, or 150ml of fruit juice equal 1 portion. Making an alternative to your usual snack or adding a few extras to a meal can help you get your 5 a day; add sliced banana to your cereal in the morning or swap a biscuit for an apple.
Having a balanced diet will help give your body the nutrients and vitamins it needs. Some people need to take extra supplements to boost their intake of certain vitamins. Having a chat with your GP can help determine if your body needs extra nutrients. Our bodies need nutrients to continue functioning correctly, with different vitamins and minerals supporting different elements of our wellbeing.
A balanced intake of iron helps the body make red blood cells and carry oxygen around the body. Iron can be found in meat, beans, nuts, whole grains and soybean flour. Calcium can be found in most dairy products, as well as soya beans, tofu and green leafy vegetables, and helps keep our bones and teeth strong. It regulates muscle contraction and helps blood clot normally. Vitamin C protects and keeps our cells healthy. It boosts healthy skin, blood vessels and bones, and helps with the healing of wounds. Oranges are the best source for Vitamin C, as are red and green peppers, strawberries, broccoli and potatoes. Vitamin D helps the natural defence against illnesses, improves vision and keeps the skin lining healthy; much like Calcium, dairy products like cheese, milk and yoghurt contain Vitamin D, as well as eggs and oily fish.
Of course, it’s not just your diet that leads to a healthy body; regular exercise helps muscles stay active and blood pump through the body. Health experts recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week with two types of physical activity; aerobic exercise and strength exercise. To add regular exercise into your everyday routine, it’s easier to split the 150 minutes into 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Aerobic exercise can include brisk walking, water aerobics, or ballroom and line dancing, and helps reduce obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and other health conditions. Strength workouts can be simple and gentle, using a chair to keep you steady and helps keep muscles active, improving flexibility. The NHS website has a series of strength work-out videos to try at home, matched to your fitness level; click here to find out more.
One new year’s resolution many people have each year is to quit smoking. We all know it’s not a nice habit to have but remembering the reasons why you should try and quit is encouraging. By quitting smoking, lung capacity can improve by up to 10% within 9 months, and blood circulation improves 2 – 12 weeks after stopping. Skin will start to look younger, and teeth will be whiter. Quitting smoking will not only protect your own health but also those around you who can be affected by second-hand smoke, which leads to the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. If you or a loved one wants to quit smoking this year, the NHS website has many resources to support.
It’s not just smoking; many people are choosing to cut down on their drinking habits. As we have just had a merry and festive holiday season, some of us will have enjoyed the odd alcoholic drink or two. It’s important to gain the control back on drinking habits, and as this month is also Dry January, this is a great time to start monitoring drinking. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to an increased risk in some forms of cancer, heart disease and liver disease. Men and women should drink, at most, 14 units of alcohol per week, and spread over 3 or more days. To help take back control, plan ahead for when you are planning on having a drink and set yourself a limit, keep yourself hydrated with water or juice throughout the day, and make sure you let your family and friends know you’re cutting down to get their support.
Having a healthier new year isn’t just about physical health; our mental health has an important role in our day-to-day lives. This year make more time for yourself and your mental well-being. If you are prone to stress, anxiety or depression, there are different ways to support yourself such as mindfulness, breathing techniques, talking therapies; allow yourself time to find what works best for you and set time aside each day, week or month to do that activity. Health experts have suggested 5 steps to support mental health:
- Connect with the people around you
- Be active
- Learn something new
- Give and be there for others
- Be mindful and be more aware of your present thoughts and feelings
At Heritage Healthcare, we encourage our clients to continue living independently within their own home and community, and this includes enjoying a healthy lifestyle. We provide a range of services, all tailored and unique to each individual client. To find out more about how we can support you and your loved ones, please click here to be taken to our Services page.
You can also find your nearest Heritage Healthcare branch by visiting our website here.