05/11/2018 11:10 GMT | Updated 05/11/2018 11:46 GMT

The Government Wants Us To 'Take Responsibility' For Our Health. So Here Are The Basics You Need To Know

The health secretary wants the nation to make 'better choices' around alcohol, sugar, salt and fat.

The general public need to take more responsibility for their own health in order to increase life expectancy and prevent illness, Matt Hancock has said.

In a speech on Monday the Health and Social Care Secretary announced his long-term plans for the NHS, focussing on how to prevent illnesses and diseases from occurring in the first place. 

“Prevention is about ensuring people take greater responsibility for managing their own health. It’s about people choosing to look after themselves better, staying active and stopping smoking. Making better choices by limiting alcohol, sugar, salt and fat,” he said. 

“But focusing on the responsibilities of patients isn’t about penalising people. It’s about helping them make better choices, giving them the all the support we can, because we know taking the tough decisions is never easy.” 

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Hancock also pointed out the UK is currently spending £97bn of public money on treating disease and only £8bn preventing it across the UK. “You don’t have to be an economist to see those numbers don’t stack up,” he said.

The announced plans also include aims to reduce loneliness, halve childhood obesity by 2030 and diagnose three quarters of cancers at stages 1 and 2 by 2028.

What you need to know about managing your health:


The NHS recommends both men and women consume no more than 14 units of alcohol each week. This is the equivalent to a bottle and a half of wine or five pints of l5% ABV lager. 


Too much sugar can lead to tooth decay as well as increase weight and associated illnesses of obesity. The NHS advises adults should consume no more than 30g of free sugars (sugars added to food or drinks, and sugars found naturally in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and purées) each day. This is roughly the equivalent of seven sugar cubes. 

Children aged 7-10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars each day (6 sugar cubes) and children aged 4-6 should have no more than 19g of free sugars each day (five sugar cubes). Avoid sugars as much as possible for under 4s.


Too much salt can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The NHS says adults should eat no more than 6g of salt (2.4g sodium) - around one teaspoon - each day. For children the recommended quantities are:
1 to 3 years – 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
4 to 6 years – 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
7 to 10 years – 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
11 years and over – 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)


Consuming some fat is essential for a balanced diet but eating saturated fat in excess can increase your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. 

The government recommends men shouldn’t have more than 30g of saturated fat a day while women shouldn’t have more than 20g of saturated fat each day. Children should have less, although a unit isn’t specified. 

Staying Active

Inactivity is linked to a whole host of negative health outcomes, such as increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers. To combat this, people are advised to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity.