Healthy Lifestyle Tips and Vale Dr Michael Mosley

Someone prepares an exercise plan over breakfast

Like many people around the world, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the recent death of Dr Michael Mosley. He was a doctor and journalist who first came to prominence over 10 years ago through a documentary (and then book) about the health benefits of intermittent fasting. However, he had a long career with the BBC both before and after that. More recently, you may have seen him in a TV documentary “Australia’s Sleep Revolution” which he filmed in partnership with Flinders University, or heard him on the regular BBC podcast “Just One Thing” which talks about a range of simple changes you can make to improve your diet or lifestyle. In short, Michael Mosley was a lifelong advocate for good health.

I found myself feeling more deeply saddned by the news of Michael Mosley’s death than I expected, considering I never met him or knew him personally. On reflection, I realized that is partly because, when we lose anyone “too soon” and unexpectedly, it is a shock. It is also because I have hit THAT age when my friends and family members are starting to get diagnosed with a range of things that make you question the randomness of life, as well as think a bit more about your own health and lifestyle.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Random, unexpected deaths and illnesses can occur at any stage of life of course. By the time I’d hit my mid 30s, a friend had died from melanoma, the sibling of a friend died in an aircraft accident and I’d almost lost a close friend to serious complications following childbirth. All the kinds of things that leave you asking “why them?” It just seems as you get older, these kinds of things seem to be more frequent, and we start classifying more of them as “age related” or a consequence of poor health or lifestyle choices.

Reflecting on Michael Mosley’s death made me think about my own health and the changes I could make to improve it. Like him, I am all for promoting good health and lifestyle choices - so I thought this would be a good time to share these tips and reflections with you all.

My top 8 tips for a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Healthy eating – of course we have to start with this. You’ve probably heard it all before, but what we eat is really important and makes the biggest difference to our health overall. Aim to eat a ‘rainbow’ of fruit and vegetables (ie, lots of different types and colours) as well as grains and lean protein daily. Limit your intake of sugar, salts and saturated fat.
  2. Drink water – this should be your main source of fluid – most people should aim for 1.5-2L of total fluid a day, depending on your weight, the environmental temperature and your exercise intensity. Limit caffeine and artificially sweetened drinks.
  3. Eat breakfast – studies have shown eating breakfast helps with energy levels and concentration, and makes you less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease or be overweight. Plus, as many of my patients will know, eating breakfast helps to regulate your bowel function. Start with something small if you are not accustomed to eating breakfast.
  4. Exercise – Yeah, I know you know – but how many of you actually do the recommended amount of exercise every week? All adults should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise a week. You should also include muscle strengthening activities at least 2 days a week (this can be body weight exercise or with weights or resistance bands). Start with 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day if you’re not usually active, and gradually build up from there. Work out how you can make exercise a regular part of your day – for example, ride a bike to work, or get off the bus several stops early so you have to walk further. Get some help / advice if you don’t know how to start.
  5. Sleep – most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night and the health benefits are extensive. Sleep helps our body regulate our blood sugar levels, immune function and maintain a healthy weight. Sleep can also make a massive difference to our cognitive function, mood and mental health. If you’re struggling with sleep, tips such as getting off screens an hour before bed, meditating, and reducing stress can help. See your GP if you are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
  6. Look after your mental health and manage stress – having a good diet, exercising and getting enough sleep can help with this. But other tips include spending time with friends, meditating, and doing something meaningful or that you enjoy each day. Please speak to your GP, a close friend or call Lifeline (131114) if you feel things are spiraling downwards for you.
  7. Quit smoking and limit alcohol – it’s never too late to give up smoking and there is lots of help available to do so. Alcohol should be limited to no more than 10 standard drinks a week (and not more than 4 in 24 hours).
  8. Get a check-up with your GP – regular GP check-ups are important throughout our lives, but become more important as we get older. The standard checks of your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose will help detect many early warning signs of developing problems. There are also a number of other specific tests that are recommended below.

Are you up to date with your health checks? Apart from the standard GP checks mentioned above, there are a number of other things you may need to be screened for.

  • Cervical screening test – this is now done every 5 years from the age of 25, and typically ceases by 75, for everyone who has a cervix. Cervical screening is important to check for early signs of human papillomavirus (HPV) which can develop into cervical cancer. Some people may now be eligible to do a self-collected test.
  • Skin checks – are recommended for anyone at risk of skin cancer – which includes anyone with fair skin, those who spend a lot of time outdoors or anyone who has a past history of skin cancer or bad sunburn. Early detection is really important to prevent spread. If you notice any new or changing spots, get them checked (at any age).
  • Breast screening – this is offered to women every 2 years from age 50-74 (or from age 40 if there is a strong family history of breast cancer). Men can develop breast cancer too, so if you notice any lumps see your doctor. Monthly self-examination of your breasts can help you become familiar with how your breasts should feel, so you know when something new or abnormal arises. This guide from the Breast Cancer Network Australia has more information.
  • Bowel screening – is recommended for men and women aged 50-74, every 2 years to detect for early signs of bowel cancer. It is a simple, at home test that can be sent to you in the mail. From 1st July, those aged 45 will also become eligible to do the test. There is more information here if needed.

So with all that in mind, I’m off to take my dog for a walk, which will help me both clear my mind and get some exercise at the same time. Enjoy your week and stay healthy.

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