Twenty brilliant tricks guaranteed to take years off heart and bones
Eating green bananas, climbing stairs on tiptoes, and brushing your teeth: 20 brilliant tricks guaranteed to take YEARS off your heart and bones
- Team of experts have revealed their tips to transform your health concerns
- Among the activities that could help improve your health are carrying shopping
- They also recommend wearing ankle weights and climbing stairs on tip toes
The second instalment of our 100 expert tips to transform your health tackles arthritis, bone and heart health — areas of concern for all of us as we age.
From simply swapping which pills you take or the time you take them, to the bigger move of buying a dog, our experts — who yesterday revealed 20 tips to improve brain health — offer a variety of changes anyone can make to improve their outlook.
A team of experts have revealed their tips to transform your health concerns from carrying shopping twice a week to wearing ankle weights
BOOST YOUR BONES
1. CARRY YOUR SHOPPING TWICE A WEEK
‘All adults should be doing some strength-building activity at least twice weekly to improve bone density and joint health.
One way of doing it is to carry your shopping home to keep muscles in good shape, as they support our bones,’ says Dr Andrew Boyd, Royal College of General Practitioners Clinical Champion for Physical Activity and Lifestyle.
Adults should be doing some strength-building activity at least twice weekly according to the experts. (Stock image)
‘Many bags for life are designed to lift 15-25kg, and even the average plastic bag can take 10kg without tearing.
‘While I’m not suggesting you carry this weight, and most of us won’t carry more than 5-6kg at a time split between two bags, probably less, it’s enough to build muscle.’
2. SIT DOWN AND STAND UP 20 TIMES, TWICE A DAY
Repeatedly sitting and standing can help maintain knee and hip strength. (Stock image)
‘When you stop for lunch, and at the end of the day, do 20 repetitions of sit-to-stands,’ says Alex Armstrong, a physiotherapist in the neurological rehabilitation service at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust.
‘From sitting on a chair, with both feet flat on the floor, stand up without using your hands to push you up (though you can use a hand for balance). Focus on using the gluteal muscles in your bottom.
Sit to stand is important for maintaining knee and hip strength to improve function and maintain strength to reduce the effects of arthritis. It’s suitable for all ages.’
3. EAT YOUR BANANAS GREEN(ISH)
Greenish bananas are a good source of prebiotics that are good for your gut according to the experts
‘Prebiotics, fibres which feed good bacteria in the gut, are not just good for your tummy — studies suggest that they can stimulate absorption of calcium, contributing to healthier bones,’ says Laura Tilt, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA).
‘Greenish bananas are a particularly good source of prebiotics but as they ripen, the fibre breaks down, meaning there is less in yellow bananas.’
4. WEAR ANKLE WEIGHTS WHEN YOU WATCH TV
Wearing ankle weights can help strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings. (Stock image)
‘A lot of my elderly patients watch TV for long periods of time,’ says George Ampat, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Royal Liverpool University Hospitals.
‘I advise these patients to put on ankle weights — you can get a pair for £3 from a bargain store or online — and perform five repetitions of the following exercises every time the adverts come on.’ The exercises will help strengthen muscles and improve mobility to prevent falls and reduce pain:
TO STRENGTHEN THE FRONT OF THE KNEE (quadriceps): Seated with both feet on the ground, lift and straighten one knee as far as is comfortable.
Hold this position for five seconds before returning your foot to the floor and repeating on the other side.
TO STRENGTHEN THE BACK OF THE KNEE (hamstrings): Stand up straight with your knees only one to two inches apart. Hold on to a stable chair, a kitchen counter or another object for balance.
Slowly bend one knee behind the body, lifting the heel off the floor while keeping the thighs aligned. Continue to lift the heel slowly until the knee bend reaches a 90-degree angle.
Keep the straight leg slightly bent to avoid locking it. Hold the bent leg up for five seconds and then slowly lower it to the floor. Repeat two more times with the same leg.
Switch sides and repeat.
TO STRENGTHEN THE HIPS: Using a chair or table for support, lift your leg out to the side as far as is comfortable. Return your leg to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
5. CLIMB STAIRS ON YOUR TIPTOES
Climbing the stairs on tip toes will srengthen calf muscles as well as the arches of your feet. (Stock image)
‘Go upstairs on tiptoes,’ says Dr James Higgins, a GP at Brinnington Surgery in Stockport.
‘This will strengthen calf muscles as well as the arches of your feet and improve overall body support, so should reduce pain and arthritis in your hips, back and ankles as a result.’
6. EAT PRUNES AT BREAKFAST
Eating prunes daily can enhance bone formation and reducing bone density loss. (Stock image)
‘Eat 50 grams (five or six dried plums) daily. Prunes have been found to have an effect on enhancing bone formation and reducing bone density loss,’ says Dr Leon Creaney, a consultant in sport and exercise medicine at the Manchester Institute of Health & Performance.
A 2017 study at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, in the U.S. found that, when eaten daily for six months, prunes were beneficial to bone health because of the variety of nutrients in the fruit.
7. BRUSH YOUR TEETH ON ONE LEG…
Brushing teeth while standing on one leg has also been recommended by the experts. (Stock image)
‘Ageing and injury to muscles and ligaments affect our balance. Practising standing on one leg for short periods of time — such as while brushing your teeth — helps reverse that,’ says Dr James Higgins.
‘Changes like this have been shown to reduce the risk of falls substantially.’
A French study at the University Paris-Sud published in the BMJ in 2013 found that exercise programmes reduced falls that caused injuries by 37 per cent, falls leading to serious injuries by 43 per cent and broken bones by 61 per cent.
8 . . . AND WASH UP BY HAND
Specialist hand physiotherapist at Wiltshire & Swindon Health Care, Michelle Lawrence, advises washing up by hand once a day. (Stock image)
‘Wash up by hand once a day,’ advises Michelle Lawrence, a specialist hand physiotherapist at Wiltshire & Swindon Health Care.
‘Never underestimate the power of warm water to ease pain and increase function — so when you have finished washing up, spend a few more minutes in the bowl gently squeezing a cloth or sponge, and pushing the water from side to side with your hands if you suffer pain or arthritis in your finger joints.’
Just as good is getting stuck into some Play-Doh — ‘squeezing, pinching, moulding, rolling, scratching’, says Michelle.
She adds: ‘Keep a pot to hand, pick it up and work with it for five to ten minutes a few times a week to maintain dexterity — including the fine motor skills needed for writing or fastening a button — and strengthen the hand and thumb to preserve function. It’s ideal for anyone, regardless of age.’
9. PARACETAMOL FOR IBUPROFEN
Swapping paracetamol for ibuprofen can also be beneficial for your health. (Stock image)
For joint pain, swap paracetamol for ibuprofen in your medicine cabinet.
The latter is a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and is more effective for all types of joint pain because it has a different method of action.
‘Paracetamol seems to work as an anti-inflammatory on the nervous system but not on the joints,’ says Dr Anthony Ordman, a consultant in pain medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
‘Ibuprofen, on the other hand, works by blocking an enzyme that is used to make prostaglandins, which are part of the inflammatory process on the joints.’
10. BOIL KETTLE, STRETCH NECK
Physiotherapist Alex Armstrong, from the East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust, said when you put the kettle on you take the time to stretch your neck. (Stock image)
Physiotherapist Alex Armstrong, from the East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust, says: ‘When you put the kettle on, take time to exercise your neck.
‘Look up and down, left to right and move your ear to your shoulder on both sides slowly to maintain a range of movement.
‘Going through each of the movements regularly is key in stiffness prevention and could help to prevent trapped nerves, helping you to maintain and improve flexibility as you age.’
11. TAKE STATINS IN THE MORNING
While it was once thought that taking cholesterol-busting statins was better at night it has been found that more modern, longer-acting statins such as atorvastatin work equally well in the morning. (Stock image)
Conventional thinking held that cholesterol-busting statins were better taken at night because the enzyme they work on in the liver was thought to be more active then.
These drugs are taken by millions to help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering the amount of bad cholesterol — or fat — in the blood, which can clog arteries, causing heart attacks and stroke.
However, more modern, longer-acting statins such as atorvastatin work equally well in the morning, says Dr Marc Dweck, a consultant cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh.
‘Take your statin before brushing your teeth in the morning — not after, as it is then easier to forget it,’ he says.
‘People often take their other tablets like aspirin at this time and taking all the tablets together in the morning makes it easier.
‘Have the pills sitting next to your toothbrush so you don’t forget.’
12. SKIP A MEAL OR TWO
Fasting for 16 hours can help you beat heart disease by improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin. (Stock image)
Fasting for 16 hours — the equivalent to missing a couple of meals once a week — can help you beat heart disease by improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin, says Dr Iqbal Malik, a consultant cardiologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the private Welbeck Heart Health clinic, both in London.
The hormone insulin is produced by the body to convert sugar from food into energy. However, in people who are overweight, insulin often stops working properly, as the body becomes resistant to its effects.
This can lead to type 2 diabetes, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease because diabetes damages the blood vessels.
‘By breaking the food cycle, even just for a short time, it resets the body’s sensitivity to the hormone and this can help reverse the risk of diabetes and help people to lose weight, both of which are risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke,’ says Dr Malik.
One 16-hour fast a week is enough, he says. ‘That means having an evening meal at, say, 7pm, going to bed and then not eating until after 11am the next day.’
13. GET OFF BUS A STOP EARLY
Getting off the bus at an earlier stop or even walking or cycling can help reduce the risk of a heart attack. (Stock image)
Walking or cycling — even part of the way — to work may reduce your risk of heart attack.
After looking at the commuting habits of 43 million people aged 25 to 74 across England, researchers from the University of Leeds found that in areas where walking or cycling to work were more common, the incidence of heart attacks decreased for both men and women during the following two years.
Exercising helps the heart muscle to become more efficient and better able to pump blood through the body.
Professor Chris Gale, a consultant cardiologist who led the study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology last month, says: ‘Exercising on the way to work has the potential to bring nationwide improvements to health and wellbeing.’
‘Any form of exercise is good for the heart, no matter how big or small,’ says Dr Iqbal Malik.
‘Try getting off the bus or train one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way, take the stairs rather than the lift and take your children to the park.’
14. DON’T PUSH IT TOO HARD
The experts have also advised that people don’t push it too hard as extreme exercise can be harmful. (Stock image)
‘Extreme exercise like ultramarathons and iron mans can be harmful, particularly in some groups of people already at risk of heart disease,’ says Richard Schilling, professor of cardiology and electrophysiology at the private Barts Health Centre in London.
Research shows intense exercise can trigger an irregular heartbeat, probably because of the wear and tear that intense, frequent exercise puts on the heart.
The same goes for having sex with a new partner, warns Dr Iqbal Malik. ‘Regular sex is good for you whether you already have heart disease or not, because it is another form of exercise and like any regular exercise it lowers your blood pressure and therefore your risk of heart disease.’
However, if you have a new sexual partner and have recently had a heart attack, be careful!
‘Sex with a new partner will increase your heart rate more than normal,’ says Dr Malik.
‘It’s like having a game of squash with the new club champion — you may overdo it. With your regular partner, you may not try so hard but will have a nice time.’
15. DRINK A DAILY CUP OF BLACK OR GREEN TEA
Tea drinkers have a lower risk of heart disease but it is only the black or green varieties that have a beneficial effect on the heart, says Dr Iqbal Malik. (Stock image)
Tea drinkers have a lower risk of heart disease. But it is only the black or green varieties that have a beneficial effect on the heart, says Dr Iqbal Malik. a consultant cardiologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the private Welbeck Heart Health clinic, both in London.
‘Green and black tea drinkers have a lower risk of heart disease. Why? Drinking these types of teas is an indicator of a healthy lifestyle and tea also contains antioxidants, which protect against cell damage.
‘But, of course, it is also relaxing in itself, which is good for the heart.’
Tea drinking is also linked to a lower risk of cancer.
‘Anything from three cups a week to four cups a day is fine,’ says Dr Malik.
16. CHEW GUM — AND GET A DOG
Any kind of motion — even chewing gum — is good for the heart because it burns calories, making you less likely to be overweight, a risk factor for heart disease.
Although chewing gum isn’t a big calorie burner (just 11 calories an hour), it may also curb your appetite and stop you reaching for a biscuit when you feel peckish, says Dr Iqbal Malik.
The theory is that chewing gum keeps your mouth busy and stops you snacking, and if you pop a piece in your mouth after eating a meal, it can help you avoid desserts that are high in calories.
One study, published in the journal Appetite in 2007, found gum chewers consumed around 40 fewer calories in between meals compared with those not chewing gum.
Try to build more activity into your daily habits to burn calories. Getting a dog can also help improve activity levels.
‘It not only encourages you to be more active, which is good for the heart, but the unconditional love a dog gives also reduces stress and improves wellbeing, which is also good for the heart!’ says Dr Malik.
17. EAT LOTS OF BLUE FRUIT
Any blue fruit or vegetables such as blueberries or aubergines are particularly good for the heart. (Stock image)
Any blue fruit or vegetables such as blueberries or aubergines are particularly good for the heart because they contain antioxidants which protect against cell damage, says Dr Iqbal Malik.
Research shows a specific sub-class called anthocyanins, which give these fruit and vegetables their blue colour, may help dilate arteries, counter the build-up of deposits inside the blood vessels and provide other cardiovascular benefits.
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables generally is good for your heart. Aim for seven portions rather than the standard five-a-day, says Dr Malik. Each extra one will give you added protection against ill health.
Oily fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines are also great for the heart because they contain omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation which can damage blood vessels, lower blood pressure and reduce fat in the blood.
‘Eat oily fish at least twice a week to get the recommended amount,’ adds Dr Malik.
If you really can’t stomach eating these fish, take 1,500mg fish oil tablets (containing at least 200mg of omega-3) to get your recommended dose.
18. TAKE BLOOD PRESSURE
Keeping track of your blood pressure using a good-quality home blood pressure monitor has also been recommended by the experts. (Stock image)
If you are over 50, you should know your average blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar readings, as high levels of any of these can increase the risk of heart disease.
‘The over-50s should get their blood pressure checked every year or so,’ advises Professor Andrew Clark, chair of clinical cardiology and honorary consultant cardiologist at Castle Hill Hospital, Hull.
Our expert pane
They’re some of the world’s leading experts on sex, sleep, mood and physical health from across the NHS and private practice — and all this week they’ll be giving you unexpected, but effective, lifestyle advice.
Today, you will find tips on boosting your bone health by Dr Andrew Boyd, the Royal College of General Practitioners Clinical Champion for Physical Activity and Lifestyle.
We also have some great advice about how to give your heart a boost from Dr Marc Dweck, a consultant cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh.
As the week goes on, you will find out how to boost your sleep routine, from Sleep & Circadian Neuroscience Institute professors at Oxford University, and sex life, with advice from Imperial College London’s lead sexual health consultant Dr David Goldmeier.
From diet and exercise to your social circle and love life, more than 50 experts will offer tips that really can transform your life.
Exactly what your readings should be will depend on your medical history and age.
However, as a guide, blood pressure should be less than 140mmHg (upper reading) over 90mmHg (lower figure), cholesterol under 5mmol/l and blood sugar less than 7.8mmol/l.
‘If you are concerned about your blood pressure, buy a good-quality home blood pressure monitor, which costs around £50, and take your blood pressure four times a day for a week,’ says Professor Clark.
‘One-off readings can be very misleading because they can be affected by all sorts of things such as stress, how much sleep you have had and what you have recently eaten or drunk.
‘Take these readings to your GP when you have your check-up.’ Free NHS health checks are available to everyone aged 40 to 74 every five years.
Blood pressure checks are important for the brain, too, adds Gill Livingston, professor of psychiatry of older people at University College London, as left untreated, high blood pressure can cause ‘a loss of white matter in the brain’.
White matter is made up of nerves that link various parts of the brain to each other, as well as to the spinal cord.
A loss of white matter is known to damage a person’s ability to think clearly.
A major study in 2018 of more than 8,000 adults in the UK aged 50 found those with blood pressure above the ideal level of 130mmHg systolic — the higher reading of the two — were a third more likely to get dementia.
19. LEARN HOW TO PAINT
Taking up an activity such as crocheting, painting, gardening or researching family history can be good for the heart. (Stock image)
Crocheting, painting, gardening or researching family history — whatever it is, having a hobby is good for your heart.
‘Stress increases the risk of heart disease because it raises adrenaline levels and suppresses the immune system,’ says Dr Iqbal Malik.
‘Having a hobby can be relaxing, giving you time to yourself, and relieves stress — it doesn’t matter what it is,’ says Dr Malik.
And if your hobby is tracing your family tree, all the better. Knowing your family history can give you a real insight into whether you are at risk of a heart attack.
‘If someone in your immediate family has had a heart attack, you may be at greater risk of developing heart disease,’ says Philippa Hobson, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation.
‘If you have a family history of heart problems, get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked.
‘High blood pressure and cholesterol don’t usually have any symptoms and you don’t want the first you know about them to be when you are in A&E with a heart attack.
‘Talk to your family about their medical history — it might just save your life.’
20. CHUCK OUT THE SALT
Daily Mail columnist and NHS psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton said avoiding salt entirely allows your taste buds to get used to food as it should taste. (Stock image)
‘Salt is associated with increased blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke,’ says Daily Mail columnist and NHS psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton.
‘The more you cook with it, the more used to it you get. Stopping cooking with salt entirely allows your taste buds to get used to food as it should taste.
‘It takes about four to six weeks for your tastebuds to adjust — but once they do, you will be surprised how unappetising the salty foods you used to adore now taste.’
Medical breakthroughs that began on the battlefield. This week: Cancer-busting therapy
We know microwave energy is the invisible force that heats our ready-meals in minutes.
It is also used in medicine, often to destroy tumours. Heat from microwave-producing probes can melt malignant tissue without damaging healthy tissue.
Microwave energy came about by accident in World War II, when U.S. engineer Percy LeBaron Spencer was working on radiation in radar systems. He noticed the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. Within four years, the first microwave oven was on sale.
Love Beets is a range of beetroot-based snacks and drinks. They’re ready-to-eat or you can add them to salads. From £1.25, Tesco or lovebeets.com. Beetroot is high in fibre (for gut health), minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
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