Cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung and liver disease – these killers account for more than 150,000 deaths each year. The Department of Health estimates that at least 30,000 of these could be avoided, with the correct lifestyle changes. So do all you can today to make sure you prevent one of these health problems.
1. Get fit
If you exercise but your heart rate doesn’t increase, you’re not benefitting as much as you could. Getting your heart to pump blood around your body faster strengthens your heart and improves circulation. Good circulation is key to preventing many diseases, not just heart disease, but stroke and cancers too.
Visit our fitness section for articles about getting fit
2. Eat beans and berries
Beans and berries are key to staying healthy, but not just because they help maintain a healthy weight, these two foods are also the highest in antioxidant levels, so help prevent cancer. Red kidney beans and wild blueberries contain the most antioxidants per serving, but eat a variety of beans and berries to ensure you get a variety of antioxidants too.
Discover the top 20 things to eat
3. Drink more water
If you’re thirsty, your body is already dehydrated which means it can’t function as well as it could, yet many people don’t realise the importance of drinking enough liquid every day. So how much do you need? The European Food Safety Authority recommends around 2 litres for men and 1.6 litres for women, which is about ten glasses (200ml) for men and eight for women.
Find out how much water you should drink and discover strategies for avoiding dehydration
4. Quit smoking or cut down
At least 70 of the hundreds of substances found in cigarettes are known to be toxic to humans and if that’s not convincing enough to make you stub that cigarette out, consider that smoking causes eight out of ten cases of lung cancer, according to Cancer Research UK.
Read our guide to giving up smoking
5. Drink tea
Black, green or white, tea contains polyphenols which have various health benefits. While there isn’t much research showing that drinking more tea prevents disease, there are studies to show that people who drink tea regularly are less likely to suffer with coronary heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Drink around two cups of green or black tea per day.
Learn more about the health benefits of tea and coffee
6. Surprise your body
You already know that exercise is one of the best ways to prevent all kinds of diseases but you may not realise that you need to keep changing your exercise regime to stay really fit. That’s because the key to staying fit is to keep surprising your body. So, for example, if you run regularly, you could try swimming or lifting weights instead, to use different muscles and exercise them in different ways.
Learn how to get more out of your walking workout
7. Lose weight
Being overweight or obese is linked with a whole host of diseases, and if you don’t shift that excess weight you’re at risk of premature death. In fact, it’s estimated that being obese at age 50 may account for between 14% and 20% of cancer deaths. But how much should you lose? There are several different formulas for calculating your ideal body weight, which include factors such as height, gender, body frame, and body type. Age is also a factor that should be taken into account. Go to www.calculator.net/ideal-weight-calculator.html to find your ideal weight or see your GP, who will be able to take these factors into account.
Do you need to go on a diet? Find out with our guide
8. Spend time with friends
According to a study from Brigham-Young University, USA, having a solid social network to rely on is as important as exercise and weight in terms of keeping you disease-free and healthy for longer. Scientists aren’t sure what causes the benefits but until they figure it out, schedule some time with friends and family – this is one type of medicine that isn’t hard to take.
9. Get some good fats
Olive oil and other good fats, such as those in cold-water fish, avocados and nuts, are essential for maintaining heart health and preventing stroke, plus they also help prevent liver disease. Furthermore, if you swap ‘bad’ fats, those that raise cholesterol levels, for these healthier fats, you’ll see even more benefit.
Confused about which fat does what? Read our field guide to food fats
10. Relax and avoid stress
Try not to get stressed about preventing diseases because stress itself is a factor in illness. Instead, take up a relaxing activity such as yoga, meditation or tai chi, all of which have been linked with reduced risk of stress and related health problems, such as high blood pressure, for example.
Ever wondered what stress does to your body? Find out with our guide