Resolving to live a healthier life in 2018

There are lots of small steps you can take to make big changes in the year ahead, says Margaret Jennings.

The biscuit box continues to have a magnetic attraction to your outreached hand and that half empty bottle of wine just can’t go wasted, can it?

Well it’s still the festive season after all, but without wanting to be a spoilsport, it’s worth remembering those ‘must-do-better’ resolutions, are looming shortly.

While New Year’s Eve is just two days away, more often than not — as we get into our later decades — we use it as an opportunity to raise a grateful glass of bubbly to the health and longevity of ourselves, family and friends, rather than chasing the party scene.

Making a wish for the year ahead is one thing — taking responsibility for how we hope to stay as healthy as we can, for as long as we can, is another. So let’s take a look at some reminders on how we can do just that.


Lifestyle matters — we hear it all the time and of course we throw it all to the winds during the festive season.

But whatever about your end-of-year total breakout, if you live 80% of the time generally abiding by the healthy rules — with 20% leeway, then you’re doing pretty well, according to ageing experts.

Having said that, research released by the University of Edinburgh in Scotland last October yet again put the spotlight on how important lifestyle is, when scientists analysed genetic information from more than 600,000 people. They worked out which lifestyle choices had the greatest effect on behaviours and lifespan.

Here’s what they concluded: Smoking was the main baddie — no surprises here. A pack of cigarettes a day takes seven years off your life.

But if you do smoke, then your new year resolution could be a life-changer: They found from their data, that people who gave up smoking could expect to live as long as someone who’d never smoked before.

We also know that being overweight is definitely unhealthy as it affects us in so many ways, making us more prone to disease and hindering us from exercising.

The study found that for every extra kilogramme of weight people carried, they cut two months off their life. So putting the lid on the biscuit tin with a determined slam, could be a good start for 2018.


Yes there are an increasing number of high-achieving veteran competitors out there pushing the boundaries of exercise in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s.

But you don’t have to set the bar that high, in order to get motivated. Considering you have probably done plenty of sitting and slouching over the festive season — and wasn’t it fun — now is the time to get your bum off the couch and those two feet moving, for a healthy start to January.

The World Health Organisation suggests we do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week.

That can be half an hour of a good paced walk five times a week – not too much to ask, once you get into the habit.

When you get the routine going that biscuit-padded waistline will reduce. But — wait for it — recent research from the American Cancer Society also suggests that even a regular stroll can even reduce your risk of death.

In that study, researchers examined data from nearly 140,000 American adults and, allowing for other lifestyle factors that can affect health, they concluded that people whose only exercise was walking less than two hours per week, had a lower risk of death from any cause, than those who did no physical activity.

“Walking has been described as the ‘perfect exercise’ because it is simple, free, convenient, doesn’t require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age,” said study leader Alpa Patel, a cancer epidemiologist.

When you think about it, walking was our first step towards independence as a toddler all those decades ago. Now, it’s also what keeps us agile and independent in our later years. Even taking the stairs or leaving the car keys behind sometimes, can keep those limbs ‘oiled’ and flexible.


If you are lucky, you have spent the Christmas period meeting up with family and friends. If not then you may be familiar with feelings of isolation and loneliness, which lots of research has shown is detrimental to our health as we age.

A study investigating the impact of loneliness on older people in Ireland conducted by Trinity College Dublin three years ago found those who received a social visit over 10 weeks, felt less lonely.

The study consisted of 10 home visits to the participants from a volunteer, themselves an older person. Researchers found that loneliness decreased not only among those visited, but also the volunteers who did the visiting.

We all need connection for our wellbeing and if only one resolution is made for 2018 let it be to reach out, no matter what shape you are in otherwise.


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