Cut out and keep our advice on how to keep feeling at your best over the next 12 months – and beyond
MARCH – Plan your sleep routine
The clocks go forward this month, and losing an hour’s sleep can affect your body clock. To help adjust, Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council suggests going to bed and waking 10-15 minutes earlier on each of the four days leading up to the Sunday.
And with 8 March National No Smoking Day, it’s a great month to give up.
Combining nicotine replacement therapy with the NHS’s Stop Smoking services will boost your chance of quitting by up to four times, says pharmacist Sam Preston.
APRIL – Prepare for seasonal sneezes
Around 15 million of us Brits suffer from hay fever, and the key to stopping symptoms in their tracks is to ensure you begin your treatment before symptoms start.
Holly Shaw, nurse advisor at Allergy UK, says, ‘A variety of effective remedies are available, including steroid nasal sprays, oral antihistamines, eye drops and nasal barrier balms. Speak to a pharmacist about the right treatment for you.’
MAY – Make your barbecue healthier
With the spring bank holiday a popular time to fire up the barbie, consider alternatives such as chicken kebabs and fish to the usual burgers and bangers.
Consultant surgeon Mr Nick West, from Spire St Anthony’s Hospital, warns, ‘The latest evidence suggests regularly eating a significant amount of red or processed meat adds to colorectal cancer risk. These should be eaten more as an occasional treat, rather than as the main source of protein.’
JUNE – Start a bone-boosting exercise regime
When the days are longer, your motivation will be higher. Experts recommend weight-bearing activities such as running, walking, dancing or tennis, combined with resistance exercise. Also incorporate some exercises for balance, to help prevent falls and lessen the risk of fractures.
This month sees National Blood Week and 200,000 new donors are needed. To help show the good they’re doing, blood donors across England will receive a text message when their blood goes to a hospital to save or improve patient lives. Visit blood.co.uk to find out more.
JULY – Stay healthy on holiday
We Brits need to get more clued up on our risk of getting ill abroad: only 12% of us research diseases beforehand – yet travellers from Europe are, for example, 10 times more likely to contract malaria as they carry no ‘natural immunity’. For advice, check the NHS website: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.
And don’t forget travel insurance. Six million of us jet off without it, according to a recent survey, and the most common claims are for illness and injury.
In fact, medical bills for British holidaymakers who fall ill abroad have almost doubled in the past decade, with average claims costing over £900.
AUGUST – Protect your skin
Use sunscreen (eg, Solero) that gives protection from all three of the following: UV-A: rays responsible for premature skin ageing. The star rating shows the level of protection.
UV-B: rays responsible for burning and tanning. SPF shows the level of protection.
IR-A: infrared-A rays that penetrate deeply, causing short- and long-term skin damage.
SEPTEMBER – Make a resolution
You’re more likely to stick to health-based ones now than in cold and dreary January. Refreshed and rejuvenated after an annual summer holiday for many, it’s traditionally a month for change as the new school year begins, and evening classes and courses begin.
Take up a new hobby, sign up for a charity challenge, or perhaps aim to eat one new vegetable per week.
OCTOBER – Book a flu jab
According to the NHS, from early October to the beginning of November is the best time to have your jab. After this, the flu season is in full swing.
It won’t stop all flu viruses, and the level of protection may vary from person to person, but if you do get flu after vaccination it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been. There’s also evidence that the jab can reduce your risk of stroke. Visit nhs.uk for more details.
NOVEMBER – Start taking a vitamin D supplement
Vitamin D is primarily produced by the action of sunlight on our skin, which means we’re at greatest risk of deficiency over the winter months. Vitamin D is vital for strong bones and teeth, supporting our immune system, protecting against heart disease and certain cancers, and even improving our mood.
Choose a vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplement as it’s identical to the form produced naturally. Try Healthspan’s Super Strength Vitamin D3 – £11.95 for 240 tablets from healthspan.co.uk.
DECEMBER – Keep stress in check
‘One in 20 people considers Christmas more stressful than divorce or burglary,’ says Neil Shah of the Stress Management Society. But with a bit of preparation, you can minimise stress. ‘Delegate!’ advises Suzie Hayman, agony aunt and trustee of charity Family Lives (familylives.org.uk).
‘Plan ahead, make a list and marshal the forces. Assign people tasks – and once you’ve done that, don’t interfere. It doesn’t matter if the results are not perfect if it takes some of the weight from your shoulders. If a task isn’t done exactly how you’d do it, lower your standards rather than take it on yourself!’
JANUARY – Give up alcohol
There are numerous health benefits, and many people also lose weight, sleep better and save cash. Evidence from Alcohol Concern shows that six months after completing a Dry January, participants not only drink less frequently and less per session, but
they also get drunk less often.
And if/when you go back to drinking, keep tabs on your consumption with the free mobile app from Drinkaware (drinkaware.co.uk) – you can set goals based on your habits to help moderate your drinking. The British Liver Trust also has an app called Spruce that may help (loveyourliver.org.uk/spruce).
FEBRUARY – Check your moles
Your skin is at its palest now, so do a mole check as it’s easier to see the colour and outline. Get your partner or a friend to photograph your moles – especially those you can’t see. Report any change in size, shape or colour to your GP. If you have a lot of moles or are concerned, consider booking a top-to-toe skin examination with a dermatologist.