Dr Elise Dallas
GP at The London General Practice
Intermittent fasting is something that has many benefits. As well as giving me a sense of discipline and structure – which I need as a busy working mum – eating within an eight-hour window also makes me more mindful, which helps me make healthier choices. By giving the body regular breaks from eating, fasting can also help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Fasting can also reduce inflammation, improve brain function and enhance cellular repair processes. My first meal is around 1pm – usually an omelette with mushrooms or salmon and stir-fried kale, followed by an apple and crunchy peanut butter.
We should all be eating more fermented foods. Foods like kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha contain live cultures of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that contribute to a healthy gut microbiome and support everything from our digestion to the immune system. Kefir and kombucha are also rich in many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which provide a boost to our immune system and aid the body’s natural repair processes. However, we all react differently to these foods. Some people may notice improved digestive function while others may not see a difference. Introduce these foods gradually and observe how your body responds.
Cutting back on alcohol will improve your health. Often, women are going out after work for drinks, sharing a bottle of wine for dinner, and then going out again at the weekend, so it’s easy to see how your weekly units could rack up. Liver disease has spiked in young women because of what they consider ‘social’ drinking, but it’s currently being done at alarmingly high levels. There are risks associated with heavy drinking. Numerous studies have consistently shown alcohol consumption is associated with an elevated risk of developing breast cancer in women and the risk appears to increase with the amount of alcohol consumed.
Weight training benefits every part of your body. Any form of exercise is great, but try to factor weights into your routine. Lifting weights is particularly important for women’s health and strengthening bones – it’s effective for every stage of your life. I circuit train with weights three times a week and never miss my cold-water swimming session in the lido. I also do 15-minute bursts of yoga and stretching throughout the week.
Get checked out if something doesn’t feel right. I encourage my patients to be aware and come forward if something doesn’t seem right, and I also prioritise regular visits to my own GP to monitor my wellbeing and catch any potential issues early on. Keeping up to date with your vaccinations is also vital – this includes annual flu shots – and make sure you’re getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly.
Dr Alexandra Phelan
Medical Director at PrivateDoc
Walking is an underrated form of exercise. Many patients I speak to feel overwhelmed when it comes to exercise, especially if it’s been a while since they worked out. Don’t underestimate the power of walking. Regular, brisk walking is a fantastic, low-impact form of activity. Aim to walk at a brisk pace that leaves you slightly out of breath, with your heart rate slightly elevated. I often talk to patients about doing more yoga and Pilates, too. Both are great ways to improve flexibility, balance, muscle strength and promote mindfulness. Exercise is also a good way to raise endorphins – people often forget the positive impact this can have.
An iron supplement can be helpful if you have heavy periods. A heavy period depletes your body’s iron stores. Without adequate iron, your haemoglobin production falls, which can lead to a condition called iron-deficiency anaemia. Whilst there are plenty of good food sources of iron (such as red meat, nuts and beans), experiencing regular periods is the most common cause of iron loss in women. If your period is heavy or if you don’t eat iron-rich foods, you could benefit from a low-dose iron supplement.
Losing a few pounds could benefit your health. Recent NHS statistics show 25% of British adults are obese, with a further 38% being overweight, meaning over half of adults in the UK are carrying excess weight. Unfortunately, many of the leading causes of death and ill health are directly affected by our lifestyle, so it’s important to take action. Think about your lifestyle and what’s realistic – for me, a larger, protein-rich breakfast keeps me on track on the days when I’m in the clinic (homemade nutty granola with fat-free Greek yoghurt and a banana) and spin classes are my go-to workout.
Private blood tests are a good idea. The concept of a health check isn’t common in the UK, although they provide a good opportunity to review your health and pick up any developing issues that can be handled before they become a problem – such as picking up an early diagnosis of pre-diabetes. I also do annual blood tests for thyroid function, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Dr Deborah Lee
GP at Dr Fox Online Pharmacy
A low-carb diet is healthier than a low-fat diet. For most of my life, I was fixated on a low-fat diet but increasing studies show the right fats are essential for good health – it’s the carbs that are doing the damage. Take the time to read labels and always choose the lowest carb options. If you’re struggling for breakfast options, try coconut yoghurt with a nut-rich granola. I also add a teaspoon of inulin powder, a natural prebiotic, and a tablespoon of chia seeds.
You are what you eat. The new recommendation of ten portions of fruit and veg per day – not five – is a good example. Eat the rainbow as much as you can, cook from scratch and always leave the skins on, as they’re full of important fibre. You can’t eat enough fibre. Cruciferous vegetables – like broccoli and sprouts – are particularly great as they have anti-cancer properties. I’m all for the current emphasis on plant-based foods, but we need to take care not to lapse into eating vegan ready meals, which are heavily processed.
You cannot feel well without adequate levels of oestrogen. HRT gets a bad rap, but it provides a natural form of oestrogen that’s chemically identical to the oestrogen your ovaries produce. It’s not the same type of oestrogen that’s in the pill. There is research showing the risk of breast cancer appears to be greater in those who use HRT than those who don't. But – breast cancer is a common cancer, and many women get breast cancer who have never taken HRT. Any additional risk of breast cancer from HRT is small. I also want the protective effects on heart disease – which kills twice as many women every year in the UK as breast cancer – and from dementia.
Stress is a killer. Stress affects every system that keeps your body and brain functioning. When we don’t get on top of stress, it can create physical and mental health problems, including structural changes to the brain. Breathwork is a powerful stress reduction tool, while reading for half an hour at night can increase your lifespan by two years, but it must be fiction to count.
There’s a strong link between oral and general health. Gum disease trebles your risk of having a heart attack and increases your risk of cancer. The problem is that GPs aren’t trained in dentistry and there’s currently a shortage of NHS dentists. If you can afford to go private, do, it’s worth it. I see a hygienist every three months.
Drink wisely – or not at all. Alcohol is wasted calories – it contains almost zero nutrition. It’s also carcinogenic, like cigarettes. I have drunk alcohol in the past but I now only drink on special occasions and sometimes at weekends. If I do drink, it’s usually a glass of prosecco, as it has the lowest amount of carbs.
Dr Alka Patel
GP & Lifestyle Medicine Physician
Your circadian rhythm plays a central role in your health. My preparation for sleep starts the minute I wake up by getting outside with my two dogs – by exposing your eyes to morning light it’ll reset your 24-hour body clock, enabling your body to release melatonin, the sleep hormone, when it’s needed in the evening. Establishing a sleep routine is one of the most important things you can do for your health. If you don’t have a routine, try setting an alarm both in the morning and in the evening to remind you to start winding down an hour before bed.
Sleep quality matters. After 8pm, everyone in my family wears blue light-blocking glasses. Blue light (from screens, laptops and phones) tricks the brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Also consider wearing an eye mask – studies suggest 19% of us are regularly disturbed by light levels throughout the night. If you struggle to fall asleep, find alpha wave music with a frequency of eight to 13hz, which your brain will mirror to aid sleepiness.
Longevity supplements are the next big thing. I take NAD, glutathione, spermidine and resveratrol daily and recommend them to my clients – they act on the hallmarks of ageing. Spermidine is particularly interesting – it aids autophagy, the clean-up process your cells go through every day to reduce inflammation, clear oxidative stress and regulate metabolism.
Optimising your health isn’t all about disease prevention. Get into the habit of looking at your health as a skill, something that can be optimised with focus and practice, not for the purpose of prevention but for the purpose of living with vitality and energy. Get into the habit of measuring your blood pressure, heart rate, breath rate and heart rate variability with a fitness tracker, so you see when your body needs to rest and recharge.
DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.