It’s that time of the year again; yes, the New Year and all its resolutions. The festive parties, mince pies, late nights, a slight overindulgence with food, and a general feeling of letting oneself go, which we’re all guilty of it, have passed. But did you know that there is a significant health cost associated with living in the moment during the festive season? Before you know it, the weight is piling on, you’ve had one too many and you just don’t feel right. This is your body’s way of telling you that it’s time to think about your health – listen to it!
Now no one is saying that you shouldn’t have had a good time, but it is important to maintain the right balance. And since we’re already in the New Year, this is the perfect time to see through those resolutions and stick with them.
Below are healthy and realistic ways you can get started on your 2020 health goals
Watch your Diet
Research shows that it takes around 21 days to form a habit (be it a good or bad one!) so why not focus on forming some great new habits this year, and the years to come? You should aim to be within the healthy range for weight according to your height (a BMI of 20-25). This can be achieved through a combination of both diet and exercise.
The key to a good diet is eating a well-balanced variety of foods including greater intake of fruit, vegetables, fish, and foods with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats - aim to consume at least five portions/day of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, whilst cutting down on foods high in cholesterol, animal fat and salt. Avoid crash diets – this is about forming good habits, we’re in this for the long haul!
The benefits of regular exercise cannot be emphasised enough – the British Heart Foundation recommends that you should aim to be active every day and build up to a total of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week. Traditional exercises like playing a sport or swimming all count. Physical activity may also include everyday things like walking, gardening and climbing stairs.
Cut Down and Eventually Stop Bad Habits
If you’re a smoker, aim to cut down and ideally stop all forms of tobacco smoking, including shisha – a one-hour shisha sessions is equivalent to smoking 60 cigarettes.
Get Enough Sleep
You should also try to get at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Although you may think having a drink will help you get off to sleep, it actually causes interrupted, fragmented sleep which will result in you feeling tired and unrefreshed in the morning.
Finally, Get Your Health Check Up
If you are over the age of 40, it is important that you see your Family Medicine Doctor to get a full check up of your blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol and discuss any other health issues that you may be concerned about or at risk of based on your family history also. This way you can identify any potential risks that you may have in terms of developing heart disease, strokes or other serious conditions and begin to make the right changes today that will protect you tomorrow.
I’m a great believer in empowering people to take control of their own health, and the best cure is prevention. Most diseases in developed countries are directly related to lifestyle and so making these small changes will reap great rewards for years to come. Have a happy New Year, and start thinking about forming those good habits from now!
Words by Dr Ali Razzak, Consultant in Family Medicine and Aesthetics Expert, King’s College Hospital London