Who better to ask how to keep healthy from head to toe than a doctor? Dr Dawn Harper, a GP specialising in preventative medicine, women’s and family health who regularly appears on TV and in various magazines, shares her advice.

50 is the new 40 and 60 is the new 50. At least that is what we are being told and there is no doubt that there is an ever-growing drive encouraging us to look younger. But it’s no good looking the part if your health won’t allow you to enjoy a more youthful life, so here are my tips for looking good and feeling great.

Keep active

I think of activity in two levels. We should all be aiming to walk at least 10,000 paces a day. Given that the average pace is 75cms this equates to 7.5kms a day. If you have a sedentary job you may be falling way short, so invest in a pedometer and see how active you really are. But this is just baseline activity. On top of this we should all be doing 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week. It doesn’t matter what it is but it should make you puff. It will boost your metabolism helping you maintain a healthy body weight.

Manage stress

In caveman days stresses came in the form of looming mammoths and our response was an adrenalin rush perfectly designed to allow us to stand and fight or flee from danger. In evolutionary terms we haven’t come very far when it comes to our reactions to stress but our stresses come in very different forms such as work deadlines, relationship issues and juggling diaries, which occur almost constantly. Think of your body like a car - if you put your foot down to accelerate past an obstacle occasionally, the engine will cope just fine. However if you drive with your foot hard on the accelerator all day, eventually the engine will show signs of strain, so it is important that we find ways to manage stress. Factor some down time into each week. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a walk with a friend, time to switch off with a book or a massage.

Stay positive

According to the American Association of Psychologists a positive attitude can have as great an impact on longevity as maintaining a healthy body weight or not smoking. It’s not always easy to smile in the face of adversity but if you can, try to see the good in situations. It will make you happier in yourself, reduce your risk of lots of long-term illnesses and even make you live longer.

Get enough sleep

We need sleep to help us recharge our batteries. Chronic sleep deprivation will play havoc with your immune system and increase your risk of some serious diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and even type 2 diabetes. Most adults need somewhere between seven and nine hours sleep a night but we vary as to how much sleep we need. The simple test is that if you are waking feeling groggy and lacking energy then you haven’t had enough sleep.

Look after your skin

Most of us are pretty good at applying sunscreen when we are away on holiday but we should be using sunscreen here at home too. If your shadow is shorter than you then the sun is strong and if you are out in it you should be using sunscreen. And don’t forget your hands and your neck. Look around you – it is usually the hands and the décolletage that will give a person’s age away!

Beware of social poisons

By this I mean smoking and alcohol. We all know the myriad of health problems associated with cigarettes and drinking excessively but they will also play havoc with your skin. Smoking can age you a decade and alcohol can cause broken veins - neither of which is going to make you look good or feel great.

So there you have it. A few simple rules to live by and who knows, 60 could be the new 40!

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.



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