What health resolutions would the experts prescribe?

Make sure you have regular health checks. Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos
Make sure you have regular health checks. Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Anna Magee, women’s health expert (www.healthista.com)

“I’ll be sprinkling cinnamon on my porridge in 2015. One of the most powerful spices, research published in Diabetes Care found as little as a quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon a day could help control blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes. It’s brilliant eaten at breakfast to help control sweet cravings throughout the day. In fact, when it comes to free radical fighting, antioxidant-rich foods that help fight ageing, herbs and spices could be the next big thing. One teaspoon of ground cinnamon contains the same antioxidant levels as a punnet of blueberries.”

Dr Uchenna Okoye, celebrity cosmetic dentist (www.londonsmiling.com)

“My resolution would be to vamp up your toothbrush or have an amnesty of throwing away your manual toothbrush and upgrading to an electric one. Brands like Oral B have a huge range. There are so many on the market today and they don’t have to be hugely expensive. Plaque is the new 21st century plague, so we need to tackle it for health reasons. Brushing your really can have an impact on your health. We’re all happy to spend time cleansing and toning, but don’t think of the health implication of our teeth on lifetime health.”

Dr Chidi Ngwaba, director of the European Society of Lifestyle Medicine

“As a resolution, nothing can beat learning to forgive. Stress is at the heart of so many chronic illnesses, such as cancer, hypertension, depression and obesity; one of best ways to permanently overcome stress is to practise forgiveness. It has also been shown that even thinking about forgiving someone can lower our blood pressure. So if someone’s hurt you, don’t let them kill you. Get help and do all you can to forgive, and learn to forgive yourself too.”

Dr John Chisholm, chair of trustees at the Men’s Health Forum (www.menshealthforum.org.uk)

“Lots of men could look after themselves more. Good health is not just about physical health, but mental health too, so men should do more to look after their relationships and mental wellbeing. Also, we know men don’t always get help when things might be wrong. Get advice as soon as you think there might be a problem; you’re not wasting the health professional’s time. If you’re offered a free NHS Health Check this year, take it.”

Dr Mike Knapton, British Heart Foundation associate medical director (www.bhf.org.uk)

“Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to protect your heart. Research shows that a smoker who gives up on January 1 will see their risk of coronary heart disease cut in half by the end of the year. There are still around 10 million smokers across the country and smoking remains the number one cause of premature avoidable death in the UK. And, making sure that you do regular exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy heart and put years on your life. It’s never too late to start.”

Dr Fiona Pienaar, director of clinical services at school-based mental health charity Place2Be (www.place2be.org.uk)

“Stress in our daily lives can have an impact on our emotions, thoughts and behaviours. How we cope is critical to our mental health and to the mental health of children and young people. As adults, we all have our own coping strategies, but frequently we do this unconsciously. Think about your range of coping strategies, including who you turn to for support when you’re struggling on your own. Secondly, sit down with your family for dinner. Turn off all electronic devices, pass the food around and ask them all to tell you about how they cope when they’re finding life tough and, critically, who the people are that they can talk to when they’re struggling. Discussing what we find stressful, how we cope and who we can turn to for support (including beyond the family) increases trust and connection in families. It makes it normal [but doesn’t minimise] that everyone experiences stress. Everyone needs a range of conscious coping strategies and a support structure.”

Sioned Quirke, dietician and professional manager of adult weight management service, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (www.quirkynutrition.co.uk)

“Become a healthy weight. Obesity is nearly at epidemic level in the UK, and we need to do something about it. I want to see people taking responsibility over their own health and future health by becoming a healthy weight - it’s one of the only modifiable things we can do to actively become more healthy. The most common mistakes I see are people trying to lose weight too fast. Set yourself a realistic goal of 1-2lbs a week and no ‘diets’; you need to make a lifestyle change in order to lose weight and, more importantly, maintain that weight loss. Portion control is key, so half fill your plate with veg/salad and divide the other half between protein [meat, fish, beans...] and carbohydrates [rice, pasta, potatoes or bread].”

Simon Cabot, Nuffield Health clinical lead physiotherapist (www.nuffieldhealth.com)

“I see so many people, especially those who spend hours sitting down, suffering with postural pain as a result of inactivity. Various studies have highlighted the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles, many of which show direct links to chronic diseases. To help prevent this, I would encourage everybody to move more in 2015! Anything that gets you moving more regularly will help; taking the stairs, walking to speak to colleagues rather than emailing, standing up when on the phone, heading for some fresh air at lunch - incorporating as little as 20 minutes of movement into your day can provide numerous health benefits, as well as helping to combat the negative effects of too much sitting down.”

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK charity director (www.ageuk.org.uk)

“Whether you’re 25 or 85, you can have a positive impact on your life as you grow older. With genes only thought to make a 25% contribution to length of life, and factors like lifestyle and nutrition accounting for the remaining three quarters, making simple changes can make a difference. Age UK’s top tips include: take regular exercise - try to build up to about 150 minutes per week of activities you enjoy, such as gardening, dancing or bowls. Avoiding prolonged periods sitting is important too, so stand up and move around every 30 minutes.

“And engage socially; engaging with others and getting involved makes us feel good, gives life purpose and is associated with good health. Have a positive attitude about ageing; research shows this can help you enjoy better health. Also, get regular health check-ups - doing so can help you spot high blood pressure and raised blood glucose early, meaning steps can be taken to bring them down and reduce your risk of heart problems and complications of diabetes.”

John Newlands, Macmillan Cancer Support nurse (www.macmillan.org.uk)

“Get to know your rights as a patient. Going to hospital can be intimidating, but I hear from too many cancer patients that they didn’t know exactly what was going to happen to them in hospital, or that hospital staff left them feeling confused or vulnerable. This shouldn’t happen. Everyone has the right to be fully informed about their care and treated with respect. Next year, get to know the rights you’re entitled to by reading Macmillan’s tips, and then make sure you ask questions, speak up and get the care you deserve.”

Dr Rosie Loftus, Macmillan Cancer Support joint chief medical officer (www.macmillan.org.uk)

“I recommend that people recovering from cancer keep active; it’s very important to the recovery process, but too many people think they should be ‘taking it easy’. By keeping active after treatment, you can reduce the impact of some debilitating side effects, such as swelling around the arm, anxiety, depression, fatigue, impaired mobility and weight changes. Start off slowly and build up your strength. Gradually build up by setting realistic goals that work for you. You’ll be the best judge of how much and what types of activity you’re able to do. You could start with a daily walk around your house or garden, then move to walking to and from your local shop. If it’s within your abilities, aim to build up to 2.5-3 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise a week, and when you’re ready, walk for at least 20 minutes or one mile a day. This could also reduce the possibility of breast cancer returning by 40%, and people with bowel cancer could slash the risk of it returning by half, if they walk for 50 minutes a day.”