You look hot, feel good and have no problem high-kicking along to Nicki Minaj’s latest tune. But will this youthful exuberance last? Fifty per cent of UK women aren’t taking simple steps to improve their future health* –not great considering us girls now live to an average age of 82.
“A healthy lifestyle significantly reduces your risks of diabetes, arthritis and heart disease,” says Fabulous’ Dr Hilary Jones. So make a few key changes now and you’ll up your chances of dancing around your Zimmer frame in your old age!
Help Your Heart
Are you at risk? Heart disease is now the UK’s biggest killer, causing 94,000 deaths a year and killing three times more women than breast cancer. It occurs when the blood supply to your heart is blocked by fatty substances, putting you at high risk of having a heart attack. If you
have a family history of heart disease you’re at greater risk of suffering too, but your lifestyle choices can play a huge part too.
● Ditch the fags: “Smokers are at double the risk of a heart attack compared to people who have never smoked,” says British Heart Foundation (BHF) cardiac nurse, Cathy Ross. Visit Quit.org.uk.
● Move: The BHF recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. “You should feel warm and out of breath but still be able to hold a conversation,” says Cathy. Get the girls together for a dance class or use Runningmap.com to find local routes to walk with your mates.
● Kill cholesterol: This is the fatty substance found in blood that can block arteries. Cut down on saturated fat
and trans-fats (found in red meat, biscuits, cake and deep-fried foods) as they crank up cholesterol levels.
● Chill out: Lower high blood pressure by relaxing. Take one day a week to invest in serious “me” time.
Are you at risk? Diabetes is a disease in which the sufferer has too much sugar in their blood, and not enough insulin to break it down. Type 1 diabetes generally develops before the age of 30, and the
cause is unknown, but type 2 is associated with obesity and is largely preventable. Even a spare tyre around your middle could put you at risk of type 2. “It used to be something seen in the over-50s, but it’s increasingly common in younger adults too,” says nutritional therapist Nicola Ragon.
● Measure up: Belly fat puts you at a greater risk of type 2 diabetes than podge anywhere else. According to the NHS, women are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if their waist is 31.5in or over. Studies have shown that if you have a spare tyre and lose five per cent of your body weight you can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by over 50 per cent.
● Meal ticket: Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner to keep blood-sugar levels steady.
● Choose good carbs: Eat wholegrain bread, sweet potatoes, bran flakes, wholemeal pasta, oats and brown noodles. “Wholegrains can protect against diabetes, but refined carbs (white bread and pastries) increase the risk,” says Nicola.
Are you at risk? Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a condition where nerves and brain cells deteriorate causing memory loss and confusion. Dementia is most common in the over 65s, but there are more than 17,000 younger people who suffer from the condition in the UK, and women are most at risk. Doctors are unsure exactly what causes it, but it is genetic in less than five per cent of cases.
● Take care: Scientists are still trying to find the root cause of dementia, but experts say that looking after your heart will help protect your brain too. So be sure to take regular exercise, avoid excessive drinking, quit smoking and eat a balanced diet.
● Flex your mental muscles: If we stop using our brain it will become less effective. “Brain exercises can impact positively on our mental functioning,” says Ian Weatherhead, a dementia nurse. Play Scrabble, or memorise all the British counties using rhymes or patterns, and then test yourself. “Studies have shown that
a mix of exercises and stimulation is most beneficial to keep different parts of the brain working,” says Ian. “Recent research found singing and painting can have a positive impact.” Belting out I Will Survive in the shower totally counts!
Act against Arthritis
Are you at risk? Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation and swelling of the joints and bones, leading to pain, stiffness and restricted movement. Unfortunately if you’re a gym bunny, you could be more at risk of arthritis than your less-active mates. “Arthritic problems can affect people of all ages, especially if they’ve repetitively strained their joints,” says Dr Rob Hicks.
● Keep on moving: The best kind of workout to help prevent arthritis – or ease it if you have it – is low-impact exercise, such as swimming or Pilates. They help keep muscles strong, while protecting your joints from too much pressure. “The key is to mix up types of exercise so different parts of your body are used,” says Dr Hicks.
● Go fishing: Omega 3 keeps joints supple and reduces inflammation. “The body doesn’t produce omega-3 fatty acids so you have to eat them,” says Nicola. “Have salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring as well as nut oils twice a week.” Veggie? Get your boost of omega 3 from flaxseeds.
● Sun up: Low levels of vitamin D can make osteoarthritis worse. The body makes the nutrient naturally when skin is exposed t
o sunlight (be sure to wear SPF of course), and you can also try a supplement such as Holland & Barrett Vitamin D3 Tablets (£3.29 for 100).
Photography: Camera Press, Getty Images, Alamy *Source: Natural Health Advisory Service Stockist: Holland & Barrett (Hollandandbarrett.com)