2017 good health calendar
Tired of making and breaking wellbeing resolutions?
Try a fresh approach to healthier living with this simple, month-by-month guide.
January: Go booze free
Dry January is a great opportunity to get your new year health off to a flying start. By giving up alcohol for 31 days, Dry January participants reported experiencing weight loss, and improvements to their sleep, energy levels and skin health. They also reported having a healthier relationship with alcohol following their booze-free month, with many drinking less even six months later. “An alcohol-free month can help you to hit the reset button,” says Dr Toni Hazell, a practising GP in north London.
February: Show some love
It is all about matters of the heart this month as the focus shifts to love and romance, courtesy of St Valentine. How about giving the gift of love and kindness to someone special this year – you? Looking after your mental wellbeing is important. Just being a little kinder to yourself can have a positive impact, so make time at least once a week to do something you love. And get into the habit of listing ‘three good things’ you feel grateful for each day and life could seem a whole lot better.
March: Stub it out
National No Smoking Day on 9 March is an ideal time to quit. The benefits are rapid and long lasting. “Your breathing can ease within three days of stopping smoking and within a year you will have halved your risk of heart disease compared with someone who still smokes. Stop smoking for 15 years and your risk of a heart attack drops to the same as a person who has never smoked,” says Dr Hazell.
April: Hayfever season
Hayfever affects one in four people in the UK, with numbers rising annually. Grass pollen, the cause of 95% of hayfever cases, tends to begin in late April and goes on until late July. “The key to getting on top of hayfever is to treat early and regularly,” advises Dr Hazell. “Start your treatment a couple of weeks before you normally experience symptoms.”
May: Get sun savvy
Eight in 10 people fail to adequately apply sunscreen before going out into the sun, according to research carried out by the British Association of Dermatologists.
“Sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer,” says Dr Hazell. She warns that it can be easy to underestimate the strength of the sun, especially on windy or cloudy days. When choosing a sunscreen, look for a high protection factor – SPF 30 or more – to protect against harmful ultraviolet radiationfrom the sun.
June: It’s good to give
Just 4% of us regularly give blood. Donated blood is a lifeline in an emergency and for people who need long-term treatments. It’s National Blood Week and also World Blood Donor Day this month, so why not consider giving? “If you make one resolution this year, please make it to give blood,” says Dr Hazell. “Blood can’t be stored for long and the NHS needs 6,000 blood donations every day to meet demand.”
July: Book autumn travel jabs
It’s vital you make an appointment with your GP several weeks before your holiday to ensure you are fit to travel. “Some immunisations need several shots, spaced out over weeks, so allow at least eight weeks before you travel,” advises Dr Hazell. “Remember to factor your travel jabs into your budget, too, as not all vaccinations and anti-malarial treatments are provided by the NHS.”
August: Health-proof your barbecue
Red meat is an excellent source of protein that provides many important vitamins and minerals. However, eating too much red meat – particularly processed meats such as bacon, sausage and ham – can increase your risk of bowel cancer. If you eat more than 90g of red or processed meat every day, it is recommended you cut back. Start by swapping barbecue favourites such as burgers and bangers for chicken, fish and vegetable alternatives.
September: Set yourself a fitness goal
The start of the new school year is a great time to make a health resolution and set an exciting fitness goal. If you’ve always wanted to skydive, run a marathon, cycle from Land’s End to John o’Groats, trek overseas or take the plunge in an open-water swim, stop putting it off and start making firm plans. If you need an extra push, why not consider a charity challenge? It will help to provide all the motivation you need to succeed.
October: Check your breasts
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and time to talk boobs – or whatever you prefer to call yours. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK: one in eight females will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer can also affect men, although it is rare – around 340 men are diagnosed each year.
Checking your breasts can alert you to any changes. “It’s sensible to check your breasts once a month,” says Dr Hazell. “Lumpiness that comes and goes with your menstrual cycle is usually nothing to worry about, but asymmetrical changes – differences in size or shape – or a lump that doesn’t go away needs to be seen by your doctor.”
November: Take vitamin D
Our main source of vitamin D is sunlight, as it is difficult to get the required levels from food alone. Public Health England has advised that during the winter, adults and children over the age of one should have a daily 10mcg supplement of vitamin D. “Vitamin D supplements are easy and cheap to buy over the counter,” says Dr Hazell.
December: Keep calm
Christmas is the most stressful time of year for many of us and this stress can sometimes turn into anger resulting in petty disagreements with loved ones. Don’t let stress, the quest for the perfect Christmas or needless arguments ruin your festivities this year. “Try to deal with your stress in healthy ways,” suggests Dr Hazell. “Go for walks, exercise, have a long bath or read a book – anything rather than exploding at the children or your mother-in-law.” Dr Hazell recommends an online resource such as Living Life to the Full (LLTTF).