The health numbers you need to know

Susannah Hickling

It’s time to do the maths if you want to lead a long, happy and healthy life

150 Weekly exercise in minutes

Keeping active is one of the most effective ways of avoiding many health issues, including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and stroke. Researchers have found 150 minutes to be the minimum you should be aiming for, for good health. Plus, weight-bearing exercise such as running or walking or even dance will enhance bone density. There are mental health benefits from being physically active too. Try to do five half-hour workouts, five days a week.

 

120/80 Blood pressure

blood pressure

Ideally, your blood pressure should be no more than this. And you need to keep a check on these numbers because hypertension is usually symptomless. But left untreated, it can lead to health problems such as heart disease and stroke. That’s why it’s known as the “silent killer”. One in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure, so it’s recommended you have it tested every five years if you’re over 40. Blood pressure of 140/90 is considered high.

 

14 Alcoholic drinks a week

Both men and women should drink no more than 14 units a week to stave off health problems linked to alcohol. These include mouth and breast cancer, liver disease, high blood pressure, heart rhythm abnormalities and depression. A unit is 76 ml of a 13 per cent wine or 250 ml of a four per cent beer—in other words, almost certainly less than the quantity of alcohol you consume in an average glass of booze!

 

7 Hours of sleep

cat nap

We’re all different but, ideally, we should get at least seven hours of shut-eye every night. Too little sleep is a health risk—it’s been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even injuries. That said, more than nine hours a night isn’t considered good for health either and seems to make you prone to some of the same health problems as lack of sleep.

 

5 Total cholesterol

Five or below is considered the healthy level for total cholesterol, but there is also good (HDL) cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol in the mix. Higher levels—one or above—of the good stuff reduce your risk of heart problems or a stroke. Keep your cholesterol under control by cutting down on alcohol and fatty foods and stepping up exercise and your consumption of nuts, oatmeal and fatty fish (have three servings a week).

 

3 Daily servings of wholegrains

whole grain

We’re all pretty knowledgeable about the importance of our five-a-day when it comes to fruit and veg, but it’s worth taking note of the need to eat plenty of wholegrains. These are the seeds of cereals, such as wheat, maize, rye, barley, brown rice, oats and quinoa. Wholegrains contain up to 75 per cent more nutrients than the refined variety. They offer fibre, which can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, keep blood glucose levels under control and your gut healthy.


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