The five most important lifestyle changes for a healthier life

Judith Wills / 14 November 2014

The five best lifestyle changes you can make for a longer, healthier life.

I always feel pathetically grateful when I find solid long-term research about longevity and healthy lifestyle being headlined in the media, rather than the usual glut of craziness and/or irrelevancy we're normally fed.

A bit earlier this month, the results of a 35-year British study were published, which showed conclusively that the way to prolong life, and to ensure what life you have is less illness-riddled and more enjoyable, is to do five simple, and quite obvious things: take regular exercise, eat sensibly, maintain a reasonable weight, drink minimal alcohol and don't smoke.

Yes – we all knew that, really, didn't we – but it is reassuring to know that a team of researchers has been monitoring 2500 people all those years on our behalf. They found that making smallish lifestyle changes can result in reducing the risk of the major killer diseases by up to 70%.

The people in the study who followed the 'five rules' reduced their risk of heart attack, stroke and dementia by 60%, of diabetes by 70% and of cancer by 40%.

The Department of Health, commenting on the results, said “This study won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but it is a stark reminder that having a healthy lifestyle really can impact on a long, fulfilling life.”

No surprise, but such a welcome change from this sort of headline that I've read in the past couple of weeks:

“Having rows with your spouse can make you fat”
“Eating at work makes us fat”
“Piling on the pounds? Blame it on jet lag”

If we're ever going to win the weight and health war, we need to get real – and realise that even if we venture onto a plane, have a desk lunch or even a bit of a set-to with the husband or wife, we can still stick to the tried and tested rules at least most of the time, and give ourselves a chance.

Meanwhile, I continue with my anti-inflammatory/weight loss diet, which is very easy to stick to as there are so many foods I love that I can eat without worrying. I've only lost 2lbs so far – in about two weeks – but that's okay. Six pounds more before Christmas and I'll be happy, and I'll be even more happy if I see an improvement in any of my inflammatory symptoms. Certainly, my red, dry and irritated eyes seem around 50% better already.

Here's a simple sauce/side dish that's easy to make, contains all the right things and will go with a variety of meats and fishes. Try it with white fish (as I did), adding a few anchovies from a jar if you like; or with chicken, adding some basil instead of the parsley, or with a pork steak, perhaps stirring in some smoked paprika.

All-purpose very healthy Mediterranean-type savoury sauce recipe

To serve 2-3, roughly chop 1 beef tomato (or halve a handful of small tomatoes), 2 sundried tomato halves, 2 or 3 pieces of grilled sweet pepper from a jar, 1 red jalapeno chilli, 2 cloves garlic and 8 stoned kalamata olives and put in a smallish frying pan. Add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp Moroccan tagine paste (optional – or try a squeeze of lemon juice), 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley, 1 tbsp pine nuts, a small pinch of salt and some black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 10 minutes and serve with your chosen grilled, baked, roast or pan-fried meat or fish.


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