We asked medics and health experts for their best-ever advice, and they delivered the goods…
1. DON’T WASTE MONEY ON GYM MEMBERSHIPS
‘You don’t need to spend a cent to get your heart rate up!’ advises fitness instructor Janey Holliday. ‘You can work out effectively using your own body weight in the form of press-ups, lunges, and tricep dips.’ And use free apps, like Map My Fitness (iOS/ Apple; Android), which let you track your running route, workouts, and nail your fitness goals.
2. CHECK YOURB BLOODPRESSURE
If your doctor wants to prescribe medication to reduce your blood pressure, be sure to ask for Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring (ABPM), where it is measured at regular intervals over a 24-hour period at home, advises Professor Gareth Beevers. ‘This is the “gold standard” of blood pressure measuring and gives far more accurate readings than just a single measurement in the GP’s rooms. The next best option is to buy your own monitor (try Clicks or Dis-Chem) and check your blood pressure at regular intervals at home, then writing down the results.’ But make sure that the machine is endorsed by the South African Hypertension Society and ask your GP for guidance on using it correctly.
3. FORGET FRUIT JUICE
Even juices that claim to be ‘100% natural’, ‘not from concentrate’ and ‘no added sugar’ are full of sugar, says nutritionist Laila Lewis. ‘The fact that it’s natural fruit sugar, fructose, won’t necessarily lessen the negative impact on your body. A 500ml bottle of orange juice can actually contain the equivalent of nine teaspoons of sugar – the same as what you’ll find in a can of sugary fizzy drink! Better to eat the whole fruit which still contains fibre and slows the release of the fruit sugars into your blood stream.’
4. DON’T IGNORE SORE LEGS
‘Almost a third of adults have varicose vein problems, but only half can see them,’ says Professor Mark Whiteley. ‘The other half won’t become aware of them until they get symptoms like aching legs, swollen ankles, or leg ulcers. And varicose veins can only be detected with a duplex ultrasound scan – so don’t put it off.’
5. CONSIDER STATINS VERY CAREFULLY
According to GP Dr Wendy Denning, statins should be used with caution, especially if you’re a woman as studies show that side effects, such as muscle pain, can be worse in women than they are in men. ‘I advocate regular exercise, reducing alcohol, sugar and trans-fats, and taking a fish oil to increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels.’ Get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly, and if you’re concerned, consult with your GP for the best medical advice to suit your circumstances.
6. BE PICKY ABOUT PILLS
Avoid painkillers that say ‘Plus’ or ‘Extra’ on the pack, advises pharmacist Angela Chalmers. ‘They’re not fast-acting per se; they simply contain extra ingredients like caffeine or codeine that might not be suitable for your pain. I only advise people to take these kinds of pills if they have severe dental, period- or back pain – just until they can get to a doctor or dentist. I view it as a last resort.’
7. HANDLE GRANDKIDS WITH CARE
‘I see a lot of patients in their fifties and sixties who’ve hurt their backs lifting little ones,’ says spinal surgeon Amjad Shad. ‘I’m not saying don’t do it – just put your brain in action before your spine. Steadily lower yourself to their height instead of bending down and lifting, which will cause injury. You’ll still get your hug!’
8. ACT ON A HEADACHE IMMEDIATELY
‘Don’t wait for it to get worse’ says Professor Anne MacGregor, a specialist in headaches and women’s health. Take aspirin or ibuprofen (which is an anti-inflammatory and could work better, but not if you have stomach issues); wash tablets down with a caffeinated drink like Coke or coffee. This helps constrict blood vessels, which tend to enlarge just before a headache, and therefore can aid recovery.
9. DAILY HEALTH BOOSTERS
Do four things every day to improve your mental health, suggests psychologist and author of Think Yourself Happy (Oneworld Publications), Dr Rick Norris. ‘First, make a list of tasks you have to do and break them into mini-projects of no more than 20 to 30 minutes: doing this and ticking them off is a powerful way to feel positive. Second, phone, message or email a friend: loneliness is linked to depression. Third, no matter how down you feel, make the effort to do a kind act for someone else. You’ll almost always feel better and they’ll benefit, so everyone’s a winner! Finally, be selfish – put yourself first for a small amount of time so you can recharge your batteries.’