Forget massive overhauls when it comes to your health and wellbeing – studies show you’re setting yourself up to fail. Instead concentrate on tiny tweaks to your normal routine to get real results.
For your teeth:
Ditch the mouthwash It can do more harm than good, says Eddie Coyle, clinical director at Bupa Dental Care. “Unless medically advised by a dentist for specific conditions, mouthwashes contain ingredients that strip away fluoride – hugely important for strong, healthy teeth.” Likewise, don’t rinse your mouth with water after brushing to retain maximum fluoride protection.
Grab a straw “Fizzy drinks and cocktails can lead to enamel erosion – but using a straw limits direct contact with your teeth,” says Eddie. “And, even better, finish off sugary drinks with a chaser of water which helps remove any residue left in the mouth before it can build up.”
Have a chunk of cheese for dessert Dr Mihir Shah of Battersea Park Dental, London, and DenTek #TeethTalk campaign says: “Cheese is great at reducing the acid levels in your mouth after eating, helping to protect your teeth.”
For your memory
Listen up “The vast majority of the time we forget something because we didn’t pay attention in the first place,” says Ed Cooke, founder of memory app Memrise.
Now, close your eyes University of Surrey scientists found that, in tests, participants with their eyes closed correctly remembered the answers to over 70% of questions, compared to only 40% of those with their eyes open.
Finally, say it aloud Studies have found saying what you want to remember out loud to yourself – or even mouthing it – will help with recall.
For your ears
Never use cotton buds Peter Sydserff, audiologist at Hidden Hearing (hidden hearing.co.uk) says: “People don’t realise how far they push the cotton buds in, often pushing any wax and debris further into the ear – and this can cause blockages.”
Invest in noise-cancelling headphones. Listening to personal devices with in-bud earphones can cause discomfort over time – and permanent hearing loss – because music is usually too loud.
Take an online hearing check. It’s the best way to protect your hearing – yet research shows that people can wait up to 10 years before doing anything about a potential hearing problem. Visit actiononhearingloss.org.uk/hearing-health/check-your-hearing
For your liver
Make yours a latte Studies show that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day can protect your liver from damage caused by too much alcohol or an unhealthy diet. Some research suggests it may lower your risk of liver cancer.
Add vegetables to dinner Cruciferous varieties of vegetable (such as broccoli and cauliflower) trigger the liver to release higher levels of detoxifying enzymes. And asparagus stalks double the activity of two alcohol-detoxifying enzymes – alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase.
Follow the 5:2 rule for alcohol.“Aim to have at least two to three consecutive days off every week of the year,” says Vanessa Hebditch of the British Liver Trust (britishlivertrust. org.uk). “This allows the liver a chance to rest and rejuvenate. It’s far more effective than taking one month off.”
For your heart
Stretch Extending muscles can be as good for heart health as physical exercise. A Dutch-American study found that yoga poses may be as useful as biking or walking to reduce cardiovascular disease.
Snack on a banana Eating two pieces of fruit every day slashes heart attack and stroke risk by up to 40%, a seven-year study of nearly half a million people by Oxford University found.
Have oily fish instead of your usual meat-based dinner at least once a week An eight-year study of 49,000 women published in the journal Hypertension found those who ate oily fish weekly had a whopping 90% lower risk of heart disease than women who never or rarely ate fish.
For your bones
Eat five prunes a day They contain chemicals that block bone reabsorption, the process by which bone is broken down as we age, resulting in stronger, denser bones.
Enjoy your tea breaks Three daily cuppas are linked with a 30% lower risk of fractures, including broken hips, say Australian researchers, who monitored 1,200 older women for 10 years.
And jump while you wait for the kettle to boil In US trials, jumpers gained density in their hip bones after four months while non-jumpers lost density. In fact, according to lead author Dr Larry Tucker, jumping 10 times, twice a day, provides greater bone-building benefits than running or jogging.
For your digestion
Don’t drink with meals Alison Cullen, nutritional therapist (avogel.co.uk), says: “It reduces the likelihood of diluting digestive enzymes and causing acid reflux.”
Chew twice as much. The average adult Brit spends a mere 23 minutes in total per day eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yet chewing your food properly is essential to allow nutrients to be absorbed properly and prevent indigestion. It also prevents overeating!
Go for a short walk after your main meal Exercise helps with peristalsis – the wave-like contractions which help to move digested food along the gut.
For your sleep
Clear your bedside table Leaving clutter piled up on your bedside sends out a distracting message to your subconscious and can affect your sleep, say sleep experts.
Pop your bed socks on the radiator while you brush your teeth Researchers at the sleep laboratory at the University of Basel, Switzerland, say warm socks dilate the blood vessels in the feet which helps you fall asleep faster.
Ditch the Kindle in bed Harvard Medical School experts found that people who read from a backlit device take longer to fall asleep than those who read from the printed page. They also spend less time in REM sleep and are groggier in the mornings. It’s thought that short wave- enriched blue light emitted by such devices suppresses (even more than other kinds of light) the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls the body’s day/night patterns.
For your back
Bend your knees if you feel a sneeze coming This is a surprisingly common cause of back pain, warns chartered physiotherapist Sammy Margo (sammymargo.com): “By bending the knees, the force of the sneeze is then absorbed into the lower legs instead of the spine.”
Don’t eat lunch in the same seat that you work in, no matter how busy you are Make sure you get up, change position, walk about and stretch your spine and muscles.
Think ‘BBC’ – Bums to Backs of Chairs Sammy says this ensures you sit upright and avoid the dreaded ‘C’ slump in the back.
For your feet
Try the next size up or a wide fit. Nearly half of British women wear the wrong shoe size, according to the College of Podiatry so make sure you can wiggle your toes when trying on shoes.
Wash feet with anti-dandruff shampoo if you’re prone to athlete’s foot It contains ingredients that can help to treat and prevent fungal infections.
Keep moisturiser by your bed Matthew Fitzpatrick from the College of Podiatry, says: “Your feet need just as much attention as your face. So, before you tuck in for the night, focus on the heels and soles of the feet to prevent dry skin build-up.”