How To Stop Playing The Health Victim

On the battlefield of health, too often we let our enemies deliver the first blow. But rather than waiting for illness to attack, experts are beginning to think like army generals. If we start delivering pre-emptive strikes, they say, we can start banishing infirmity altogether
How To Stop Playing The Health Victim
Getty Images

In the neon-lit corridors of power at the nation’s top hospitals, calls are growing for a change. Specifically, a change from our incurious, soporific, Brave New World culture of pill-popping and symptom-pacifying to a potent and proactive system of “preventive healthcare”. Experts believe switching from reactively treating illnesses to actively preventing them through simple daily lifestyle and dietary changes could save lives. It’s elementary when you think about it. Why sit and wait for pain, sickness and discomfort to come to you before doing anything about it? Far better to forestall an attack and devitalise the enemy.

 

“You get the best outcomes if you don’t have a pathology in the first place,” says Dr Stephen Parnis, federal vice-president of the Australian Medical Association. “Healthy lifestyles, whether it be diet, exercise and work-life balance, make you much less likely to get diseases like heart disease, osteoporosis, even depression.” This can help ease the strain on already stretched healthcare systems, he adds. “If you don’t develop lung cancer because you quit smoking, you not only save your health and wellbeing, you save the health system a fortune in treatment, which is of benefit to the entire community.”

 

Your life is in your hands, so why not do something with it? While the lab bods set about trying to deliver a preventive wallop on the nose of cancer and heart disease, there are plenty of micro sucker punches you can issue on a daily basis to help keep maladies at bay.

 

Starting from today, kick-start your own personal preventive healthcare campaign with our complete blueprint of daily boosters designed to ward off disease, optimise health and help you live longer. These simple lifestyle adjustments will have a major impact on your health so you crush illness before it crushes you. Your body will love it when a plan comes together.

01. LEFT-SWIPE NECK PAIN

Peering down at your mobile piles weight on your neck – up to a whopping 27 kilograms (the weight of an eight-year-old child), reports the journal. To combat this, raise your phone to your face instead. You’ll dodge around 1400 hours of neck strain a year. And a few lampposts in the process.

Men's Health

02. GET TO THE CORE OF YOUR CANCER RISK

Eating fibre does more than just move your bowels; it also decreases your risk of bowel cancer by 10 per cent for every 10 grams you eat per day, according to the British Medical Journal. Snack on an apple after lunch, add oats to your protein shake and prep a baked potato for dinner – you’ll be 20 per cent safer.

 

 

03. GIVE THE REAPER A RYE SMILE

Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has proved lowering your kilojoule intake by just 10 per cent works to cut age-related disease by a third. Just swap your normal toast at breakfast for some appetite-crushing rye bread: the journal Nutrition says rye-eaters get fewer cravings between 9am and 4pm so eat less over the course of the day.

Men's Health

04. SAY CHEERS TO SKELETAL STRENGTH

Glug a post-work drink for sturdier bones. Oregon State University says moderate drinkers have higher bone densities than non-drinkers because alcohol slows the rate at which bones shed old cells. Stick to 3-4 units, though, so you don’t break any on the way home.

Men's Health

05. FISH FOR LONGER LIFE

A single weekly serving of oily fish like salmon has been proven to halve your dementia risk, but the benefits don’t end there: doubling that to two servings a week will also cut your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. One small change, one big shoal of benefits.

Men's Health

06. FILE AWAY DISEASE

Turns out your mum was right: keeping your room – or even your desk – tidy could save your life. Duke University found that well-organised, conscientious types enjoy knock-on improvements in diet and exercise, with 27 per cent fewer health problems,  lower cholesterol and less gum disease. Time to banish illness to your out tray.

Men's Health

 07. DON’T OVER-RIPEN

You don’t need to blow a fortune on grooming products. Save your wages while profiting from a smooth complexion by chopping a kiwi fruit into your porridge. The Journal of Cell Physiology found it doubles the synthesis of collagen – a key skin protein – to keep you looking Bieber-fresh.

08. DIAL UP THE HEAT ON ARTHRITIS

Avoid creaking joints in old age by asking for extra wasabi with your sushi. The isothiocyanates found in wasabi have anti-inflammatory properties that protect your joints and fight arthritis. It has also been shown to prevent osteoporosis. Mouth burn has never felt so good.

 

09. TURN OVER A NEW LEAF ON ODOUR

If you’re dousing yourself in deodorant to mask odour before a big date, you’ve left it too late (and, if anything, might be making it worse). Better to add spinach to your sandwich at lunch: Oregon State University proved chlorophyll in greens works as an internal deodorant to reduce the pongs that emerge through sweat.

 

10. STEM THE FLOW OF TROUBLE DOWN BELOW

Face the hard truth: erectile dysfunction haunts 40 per cent of men by the time they hit 40. To ensure you stay firmly in the lucky majority, give your buddy a workout by interrupting your urine flow for five-second bursts every time you go to the toilet. It helps avoid floppiness by strengthening the muscles used for pitching your tent.

 

11. PILLOW-FIGHT AGAINST BACTERIA

You can scrub your hands like Lady Macbeth, but your pillows – the actual pillows, not just the cases – are “wet sponges” harbouring bacteria such as the E. coli food-poisoning bug, reports London’s St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Wash synthetic pillows every three months at 60ºC to keep stomach-churning bugs at bay.

Men's Health

12. MAKE LIKE A FLAMINGO

Next time you’re styling your hair or buttoning up your shirt, do it with one foot off the ground. A study from Kyoto University revealed that standing on one leg for just 20 seconds tests brain health and is linked to a lower risk of dementia and cognitive decline.

Men's Health

13. BE FLEXIBLE TO PRE-EMPT EXHAUSTION

Stretching banishes post-lunch slumps before they happen. A NASA study showed pilots who did standing stretches – try quad and side stretches – for seven minutes every hour displayed less theta activity (the brain waves linked to daydreaming) and increased alertness.

 

14. SWEAT YOUR ASSETS

Bolting a sauna onto your gym workout burns away heart disease. A University of Eastern Finland study proved that 19-minute saunas improve your endothelial function – your blood vessels’ ability to widen and constrict – slashing your risk by 50 per cent. Not bad for sitting on your backside in a towel. 

 

15. BE A FIDGET

Yes, desk jobs are bad for your heart, but there’s no need to quit just yet. Research in the journal Science showed fidgeting at your desk can help you burn over 1400kJ a day compared with sitting still.

 

16. BREAK THE BAD NEWS CYCLE

News flash: dark and depressing stories outweigh good ones in the media by 17:1. It gets worse. A review in Trends in Cognitive Sciences proved a pessimistic daily outlook significantly cranks up your risk of heart disease. So spend less of your time obsessing over mysterious plane crashes and the global terror threat to create some good news for your heart.

 

17. FORCE POOR RHYTHM TO TAKE THE FLAX

Slash your chances of a heart attack by sprinkling a tablespoon of flaxseed on your morning porridge. It contains alpha-linolenic acid, which can cut your risk of dying suddenly from heart rhythm abnormalities. Also useful if you just found out your girlfriend’s pregnant.

 

18. PLAY IT SAFE WITH MEAT AND ONE VEG

Red meat has a bad rep, but the American Institute for Cancer Research says marinating your steak (try lemon juice and two tablespoons of olive oil) reduces its carcinogenic chemicals. Serve it with some broccoli to pick off stealthy extra carcinogens.

 

19. TAKE CONTROL OF SICK DAYS

Pumping yourself full of bacteria doesn’t sound like the smartest way to avoid flu, but the British Journal of Nutrition has proved that consuming yoghurts full of healthy bacteria cuts work absences by 56 per cent. So you’ll only take sick days when it damn well suits you.

 

20. BRUSH OFF ALZHEIMER’S

The most complex and devastating illnesses can be kept at bay by the simplest of solutions, and dementia is no exception. When cleaning your teeth, hold your brush in your non-dominant hand – a study at the University of NSW found mentally challenging tasks stimulate cognitive pathways and diminish your Alzheimer's risk by nearly 50 per cent. A brain-saving benefit well worth those dollops of toothpaste all over the bathroom.

Men's Health

21. DON’T LOSE THE PLOT

If you struggle to unwind at the end of the day, scour your bookshelf for a well-thumbed novel. While anxiety triples your risk of heart attack, Washington DC’s American University says re-reading an old book promotes therapeutic self-reflection to slash stress. Just six minutes of reading anything lowers anxiety by 68 per cent. Your final chapter remains a long way off.

Men's Health

22. HIT REFRESH ON YOUR BREATH

Gum has its merits, but tackling halitosis isn’t one of them – you’re masking the smell, not stopping it. Chew on an apple instead: the journal Dental Research says this helps to remove food particles, while adding cinnamon nukes bacteria.

 

23. CHILL OUT TO REST EASY

Bad sleep can cause depression and crank up your risk of heart disease. Up your dozing by turning down the thermostat. Research by the Sport Sleep Coach group reveals the optimum bedroom temperature is 16-18ºC, rather than the toasty 20ºC most people aim for over winter. Cool it.

Men's Health

24. EAT YOUR GREENS, KEEP YOUR GAINS

Pairing your meat with a side of kale fights muscle wastage. While meat may be rich in protein, it also creates acids that eat muscle tissue over time, reports Osteoporosis International. Kale contains potassium and magnesium to buffer these acids and stop your guns withering with age. Consider this a green light for steak night.

 

25. DEFEAT FLU WITH FLOWER POWER

Echinacea may be a species of daisy, but it has a heavyweight impact on flu. A review by the Cochrane Library showed that taking three daily doses can reduce the number of recurrent infections by 59 per cent. As soon as your colleagues start to sniffle, get floral.

 

26. WALK OFF YOUR DIABETES RISK

Take a stroll after dinner to blast away your chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Walking for just 15 minutes after eating reduces daily blood sugar surges, found a Diabetes Care study. Just so long as you don’t stroll to the kebab shop.

 

27. GIVE STRESS THE COLD SHOULDER

Stress accelerates ageing – the University of Dundee proved it even makes you uglier – so galvanise your mind with cold showers twice a week. A study at Germany’s Herzog-Julius Hospital showed the shock boosts your ability to tolerate everyday angst so you stay ice-cool under pressure.

 

28. GRAB A PEAR FOR YOUR LUNGS

Choose wisely next time you’re in the supermarket fruit aisle. The International Journal of Cancer showed a huge decrease in lung cancer cases among those who gobbled fruit from the Rosaceae family, such as peaches, plums and pears. Buy one, get cancer-free.

 

29. AVOID TOOTHLESS EXERCISES

Deadlifting may be good for your posture, but it’s a killer for your teeth. A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine found exercise curbs saliva, damaging the enamel. Arm yourself by brushing before you train and swilling water in the gym to appease both doctor and dentist.

 

30. VISIT THE GUM CLINIC AFTER LUNCH

Giving in to your daily sugar hit ups your risk of type 2 diabetes 11-fold, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Give your willpower some back-up by chewing gum after lunch – it cuts sugar cravings by 10 per cent, says the journal Appetite. Sweet news.

 

31. CLENCH TO DODGE DOUGH

Next time you crave fatty snacks, clench your fist for 30 seconds. The Journal of Consumer Research found this simple action helped people to control their impulses. Just make sure there isn’t a pie in your hand at the time.

 

32. DECLARE WAR ON BAD VISION

Load up Call of Duty to save your peepers from age-related decline. The University of Rochester proved CoD and other shoot ’em ups boost your contrast sensitivity function – the ability to discern brightness in an image – which is one of the first visual skills to fade with age. It’s a fair bit cheaper than 40 years of contact lenses, too.

 

33. GO TO THE PUB, LIVE LONGER

Ignoring that text from your mate inviting you to the pub could kill you. A Flinders University study found men with close friends outlive loners by 22 per cent. Pick up the next round – your life depends on it.

34. JOG ON FOR A MARATHON MEMORY

Fight age-related memory loss with an hour-long weekend run. As your body learns to fuel long runs it also fuels the neurons needed for forming memories, say University of British Colombia scientists. That’s not to say you won’t get lost, though.

 

35. PUT BLOOD PRESSURE ON HOLD

A ringing mobile phone can cause your blood pressure to jump as much as seven points, taking you above the healthy norm of 120/80 at various points throughout the day, says the American Society of Hypertension. Put your phone on silent mode (and turn off vibrate) so heart disease and dementia don’t come calling.

 

 

36. RUN BY THE CLOCK, SAVE YOUR TICKER

It’s hardly news that going for a jog is good for your heart, but in the fight against disease, timing is everything. Appalachian State University has shown morning jogs three times a week are 10 per cent more effective at lowering blood pressure than lunchtime or post-work runs. Long life is worth getting out of bed for.

 

37. CLEAN YOUR JUNK WITH JUICE

Swap your morning OJ for a glass of cranberry juice to swerve painful urinary tract infections. Research in Phytochemistry proved that proanthocyanidins – the polyphenols found in cranberries – stop bacteria sticking to the urinary tract. Never (again) will you have to experience peeing liquid fire.

 

38. METABOLISE THIS, BELLY FAT

Visceral fat doesn’t just wreck your beach bod – it also causes heart disease and high cholesterol. Stay ahead by supplementing with L-carnitine – research in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology proves this compound helps torch fat when you exercise, so you look better and live longer.

 

39. BEND OVER FOR YOUR BACK

Yoga is your double-barrelled shotgun to blast away desk-induced back pain. Doing stretches like the sphinx and pigeon pose twice a week cuts aches by 42 per cent, says the journal Spine. It also alleviates muscle- tightening anxiety. Life will be a lot less of a pain.

Men's Health