Small steps to big health benefits

Unknown Author

Making some simple changes to your everyday life can help you sleep better and remember more, increase energy, improve your sex drive, boost circulation and help strengthen bones

Sleep better

  • Aim for a regular - but flexible - bedtime. According to Alabama University Sleep Research Project it's best to go to bed when you feel ready to sleep.
  • Say no to caffeine for eight hours and alcohol for four to six hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid over-stressful or stimulating activities before bed and have a wind-down routine; for example, a warm bath, a milky drink or cup of chamomile tea, a 10-minute read.

Improve your memory

  • Learn it by heart. US research suggests rote learning helps maintain memory as we age. Try poems, quotations, newspaper articles.
  • Keep a diary. It can help improve attention and concentration (working memory) according to The Social Cognitive Laboratory at North Carolina State University.
  • Sleep well. According to research from Brown University in the US memories are consolidated during deep, dreamless sleep.
  • Keep mentally active: do crosswords, sudoku, play chess or bridge.
  • Eat oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel or sardines. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which some studies suggest may help prevent dementia.

Boost your energy

  • Stay active. Regular exercise boosts energy levels.
  • Get away from it all. Going on holiday is invigorating, especially if you choose a destination you've never been to before.
  • Avoid negative people. Listening to endless tales of woe can drain energy, so choose your friends well.
  • Go for foods that give you a constant supply of energy, such as oats, pasta and fruit and vegetables.

Keep libido alive

  • Talk to each other. According to US psychologist John Gottman the secret of sex, romance and passion 'is not about being sexy or attractive (but) about being interested in your partner, being receptive and knowing them'.
  • Get out and about. Seeing your partner in a different situation can revive desire.
  • Soft music, gentle lighting and a romantic (but not too heavy) meal can help to put you in the mood.
  • If physical difficulties, such as erectile problems for men or vaginal dryness for women or depression are affecting your sex life, talk to your GP.

Boost circulation

  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods or sitting with your legs crossed.
  • Keep moving. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking, most days.
  • Lose excess weight. It will make the heart's job of pumping blood around the body easier.

Strengthen your bones

  • Bear some weight. Weight-bearing activities such as racquet sports, dance, hiking or brisk walking can help protect against osteoporosis.
  • Aim for at least 1,000 mg calcium every day. Nuts, seeds, semi-skimmed milk, low-fat yogurt and cheese are good sources.
  • Moderate protein intake. According to the National Osteoporosis Society, too much animal protein may upset the body's acid balance, so the body then steals calcium from the bones to neutralise it. To compensate, they advise eating lots of fruit and vegetables.
  • Cut the salt. Too much can lead to calcium being lost in urine. Watch out for hidden salt in processed foods.

Improve digestion

  • Avoid heavy meals late at in the evening.
  • Eat slowly. Chewing properly starts the digestive process.
  • Include soluble fibre in your diet. Sources include oats, pulses, fruit and vegetables.
  • Drink plenty of fluid. The Digestive Disorders Foundation recommends one and a half litres a day including tea and other drinks - more if it's hot.
  • Consider probiotics. They may aid digestion and help combat irritable bowel (IBS).

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.