Sometimes we're so busy with our everyday lives, we forget to look after ourselves, especially when it comes to managing our health.
Taking charge of your health is something you can do at any age, and can be as easy as starting your day off with a glass of water. Drinking two glasses of water increased metabolism by 30% after 30-40 minutes, according to a 2003 study from The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Water first thing in the morning will also help rehydrate you and will flush out toxins, leaving you feeling refreshed and energised to tackle the day ahead.
With time a precious commodity for all of us, regaining control of your health has never been more important. Luckily, there are five quick and easy ways to monitor your health, leaving you free to enjoy and embrace life.
Once you're aware of what you should be doing in terms of appointments (When do you need a schedule a hearing test? How often should you be visiting your GP?), it's also easy to start managing your health without impinging on your social life by spending countless hours waiting around in clinics.
Much of the work you can do starts at home.
“People can easily make small adjustments that make a really big difference to their health," explains Rose Gallagher, Head of Standards, Knowledge and Innovation at the RCN.
"For instance, incorporating a little exercise into your daily routine can reap countless benefits, even if it’s something as simple as walking part of the way to work."
Don't miss these five easy ways to manage your health, from keeping on top of your GP checkups to making sure you introduce stress-management techniques into your life.
Know when to book in to see your GP
The first step in managing your health? Knowing when to see the doctor or get a check-up, and when not to.
Concerned about your hearing? Adults can request a hearing test at any time from a GP if they are worried about a specific hearing issue; otherwise, standard hearing tests are offered to adults over 50.
Alternatively, you can arrange to take a free online hearing test or organise to have your hearing checked over the phone.
In terms of dental health, brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes each time, regularly flossing and eating a healthy diet (limiting sweets, fruit juice and smoking) are all essential for maintaining gum health and maximising your smile.
People with good oral health are advised to have dental checkups every one to two years, while those with oral issues may be required to come every three to six months.
If you're experiencing toothache, tooth sensitivity, bad breath, have spots on your teeth or an unpleasant taste in your mouth, book in to see your dentist - these could be signs of tooth decay, which can lead to further dental issues like cavities or abscesses.
Typically, the NHS recommends eye tests every couple of years but those with diabetes, aged 40 and over with a family history of glaucoma and aged 70+ are entitled to more frequent sight tests.
"There isn’t a need to book yourself in for a general check-up. If you are in the 40-74 age group in England without a pre-existing condition, your local GP or local health authority (Clinical Commissioning Group in England) may invite you for a free NHS Health Check, once every five years," explains Dr. Imran Rafi, Chair of RCGP Clinical Innovation and Research.
"You can also use this opportunity to receive personalised advice on keeping yourself healthy and active in the future."
In between health checks, Dr. Rafi advises that there are also mobile NHS Health Check providers you can visit, while some pharmacies provide "wellness kiosks" where you can check your weight and blood pressure. He recommends booking in to see a GP or practice nurse straightaway if you have any concerns about your health.
For individuals with blood clotting problems who are on a medication like Warfarin and require regular blood monitoring, it can feel like much of your time is spent waiting around at the GP's office, in the clinic or in the hospital. There are alternatives.
You can take control of your lifestyle by self-testing at home with a self-monitoring kit like CoaguChek, which allows you to be more involved in your treatment and to test when you need to without cutting into your social obligations or interfering with travel plans (you can take the self-testing kit with you wherever you go).
Once you know your INR value (the measurement of time it takes for your blood to clot), it can help you to manage your condition.
In order to self-test, you need to discuss the option with your GP to see if you are eligible (this is determined at your GP's discretion). If so, strips can be purchased online. The CoaguChek careline helps provide more information on self-monitoring from the comfort of your home.
"High levels of stress can lead to a number of serious health problems, so if you have a lot of stress in your life, any GP would strongly recommend that you take steps to reduce it," explains Dr. Rafi.
"Managing your stress can be a gradual process. Introducing regular exercise to your lifestyle is a good first step, and trying to make more time for yourself can help, too," he says.
Mindfulness exercises can also be useful: schools across the UK are starting to implement mindfulness lessons in an effort to see if they can protect teenagers from developing mental illness, as part of a large-scale project from the Wellcome Trust.
Dr. Rafi also emphasises how crucial adequate sleep is in reducing stress and maintaining your overall health - seven to eight hours a night is the average amount an adult needs to reboot both mind and body.
"Mental health is just as important as physical health, so make sure you take the time for yourself," advises Rose Gallagher. She recommends making time for a 20-minute bath before bed, which can help you feel more relaxed and better equipped to deal with the stresses of day-to-day life.
Finally, Dr. Rafi encourages individuals to communicate, with a friend, family member or counsellor about any issues they have troubling them.
Diet and Alcohol Consumption
Taking control of your health starts with taking control of what you put in your mouth and there are plenty of online resources that can help you figure out how healthy your diet is (try the NHS Choices website's Healthy Eating Self-Assessment to see how much you know about nutrition).
Lots of "healthy foods" can have high levels of hidden salt and sugar you may need to watch out for. Dr. Rafi recommends aiming for a balanced diet that includes all the main food groups, which has both physical and psychological benefits - when you are making healthy food choices, you are doing something positive for yourself and this can raise your self-esteem and improve your mental health.
Those trying to maintain a healthy weight should also cut back on alcohol consumption - a pint of lager and a packet of crisps have roughly the same calorie count. According to NHS guidelines, men shouldn't consume more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day, while women shouldn't have more than 2-3 units (a small glass of wine is 1.5 units while a pint of lager is 2 units).
Some patients managing long-term conditions need to be aware of drug interactions with food and alcohol. For example, patients on anticoagulants like Warfarin need to be careful about how much Vitamin K they're consuming (found in liver and green leafy vegetables) and should avoid cranberry and grapefruit juice. They also need to be wary about consuming alcohol while on the medication, since it can increase the risk of bleeding.
Adding moderate exercise into your daily life is not only good for mind and body, it can also be a great way to socialise and see friends.
"Choose an exercise that you enjoy. If it helps, exercise with a friend or listen to music," explains Dr. Rafi.
"Even moderate exercise has many benefits including helping you sleep better, boosting your energy and improving your mental, as well as physical, well-being. If you're trying to reach a healthy weight, exercise will help. The best approach is to start slowly and build up."
Walking, swimming, dancing and yoga are all good ways to get moving and improve strength, stamina and flexibility.
A recent NPR poll found that half of all Americans surveyed say they exercise regularly, with walking being the most popular form of exercise undertaken a few times a week (a third of those surveyed said they walked every day). And you know what? Turns out that's plenty.
"Too many people think you have to exercise really, really hard to get a benefit, and nothing could be further from the truth," Dr. Tim Church, who studies the effects of physical activity at Louisiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center and has done research on the benefits of walking, told NPR.
"You're actually getting, probably, 95 percent or more of the benefits when you're walking as compared to jogging."
According to Church, even a little bit of physical activity can help reduce belly fat linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Time to get a move on.
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