The New Year can be a great time to break bad habits and make positive changes to your lifestyle. Your pharmacy can help to guide you and advise you on these changes and you can also avail of services such as cholesterol testing, diabetes screening, blood pressure monitoring and smoking cessation.
Simple changes in your every day routine can make massive improvements to your physical and mental health. Getting 30 mins of exercise at least five times per week can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Regular physical activity also helps to improve sleep, relieve stress and boost your energy levels. It is important to set aside some time just for you. Do something that you enjoy and that helps you to relax.
Eating a well-balanced diet ensures your body gets all the nutrients it needs. The food pyramid is a useful tool to plan meals with as it shows clearly what food groups are essential and which should be avoided. Healthy eating combined with regular physical activity will also help those who are overweight reach and maintain a healthy weight. Try to drink around two litres of water every day. Avoid drinks that are high in sugar such as fizzy drinks and squash.
Cholesterol and blood-pressure can also be reduced by eating a healthy diet. Reducing the amount of saturated fats and salt in your diet can have a big impact. High LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol can build up in the blood vessels and cause blockages leading to heart disease and stroke. Making small changes such as grilling instead of frying, trimming fat off meats and reducing the amount of sugary foods in your diet have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels. Getting your cholesterol and blood pressure checked is very important, especially if there is a history of heart conditions in your family as it can help to identify any conditions that may need treatment.
If you have Type 2 diabetes or are prediabetic, regular monitoring of your blood glucose levels is essential. Keeping your blood sugar levels within the normal range can help to prevent progression of diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to other complications including heart disease, kidney damage, nerve damage and eye damage. Controlling your blood sugars can be achieved by taking medications as prescribed by your doctor as well as eating a healthy diet and regular physical exercise, which reduce the demand for insulin in the body.
Smoking cessation has both immediate and long-lasting health benefits, as well as cutting an expensive habit. Lung function improves within the first 2- 12 weeks of quitting. Within one year, your risk of heart disease is reduced to around half that of a smoker’s. Quitting can be daunting, but there are many supports available to help you. The HSE website ‘Quit.ie’ offers useful tips and also runs a freephone helpline for people who are quitting. Make a plan and set a goal when you decide to quit. Tell your friends and family that you are trying to quit, and they can help you to stay motivated and stay on target. Try to do something to distract yourself when you get a craving. Nicotine replacement therapy is very effective in aiding smoking cessation. There are a wide range of NRT products available, such as gum, patches, sprays, inhalers, making it easy to choose the ones that work with your lifestyle and help you to curb your cravings.