1. Have regular check-ups

Why have a check up? Because prevention is better than the cure. Being proactive by having regular check-ups will enable your GP to nip many problems in the bud. Early detection has been shown to save lives and help people avoid the trauma of a lot of treatment down the line. It can also mean that you are better able to manage chronic conditions if you have one. Don’t underestimate the postive impact of checking in with your GP about your mental health. He/she can advise you if it has become a concern.

2. Avail of free screening programmes

Take advantage of free screening opportunities available nationally, eg, BowelScreen, the National Bowel Screening Programme. It is free for men and women between the ages of 59-69. If you have diabetes, it makes sense to also avail of the free Diabetic Retina

Screen Programme. For more information, visit bowelscreen.ie or diabeticretinascreen.ie

3. Know our numbers

You can’t manage what you don’t measure, which is why knowing your risk is critical to preventing illnesses like cardiovascular disease, and this means knowing your numbers, according to the Irish Heart Foundation. Talk to your healthcare provider to learn about these numbers; your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and BMI (Body Mass Index). This will give you a sense of how healthy you are at present.

Also, check out the HSE’s Know Your Numbers Card (available at hse.ie). As well as reminding you what the numbers should be, the card also includes signposting to evidence based websites for further information on maintaining these key numbers.

  • Healthy BMI is 18.5 – 24.9
  • Waist measurement – women 80cm (31.5”) – men 94cm (37”)
  • Cholesterol – 5.0 or less
  • Blood pressure – 120/80 is normal
  • Blood sugar – fasting – 5.6 or less
  • You can help manage stress with regular exercise. \iStock

    4. Manage stress

    Mental Health Ireland suggests these helpful strategies to help you manage your stress.

  • Realise when it is causing you a problem
  • Identify the causes. It is important to remember some stressors can be changed while others are beyond your control. Sometimes it is helpful to take a look at your lifestyle choices. Are you taking on too much? Can you schedule some time to relax?
  • A healthy diet – there is growing evidence that suggests what you eat positively affects your mood and mental wellbeing
  • Sleep – when you are stressed your sleeping patterns can be disturbed
  • Try to keep a good routine and reduce screen time in the evening
  • 5. Remember vaccinations

    Vaccinations can help you ward off winter illnesses. The flu jab is available free of charge to at-risk groups and to those with medical cards, but it is also available to others from pharmacies and GPs at a small charge. The pneumococcal vaccine (also called the pneumonia vaccine) is available free of charge also to at-risk groups. Vaccination and immunisation services for children are free of charge.

    6. Think dental checks

    Your overall health is intrinsically linked to your general health and wellbeing. Signs of ill health such as diabetes and heart disease can show up in your mouth and be discovered by your dentist on examination.

    The Irish Dental Association has these tips for good oral health:

  • Visit your dentist for an examination of your mouth, teeth and/dentures at least once a year, especially if you are having problems
  • Cut down on how often you have sweet drinks and foods, especially between meals
  • Clean teeth and gums twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Quit smoking as it can cause gum disease, bad breath and even mouth cancer
  • 7. Vision and hearing checks

    Eye Doctors of Ireland encourage people to take positive steps to protect their sight by having regular sight tests. More than half of all sight loss is avoidable when detected early and a regular eye test can identify early indications of eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, diabetes and Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

    Get your hearing checked regularly as you age also and safeguard it by using hearing protections such as earplugs or earmuffs when engaging in loud activities such as lawn mowing, using power tools or attending music concerts.

    8. Sexual health

    The HSE points out that sexual health is an important part of overall health. Looking after your sexual health means the absence of disease and infections, but also covers wellbeing, fertility and the ability to enjoy fulfilling relationships.

    Rising rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Ireland are a concern. Apart from the initial symptoms and discomfort, they may result in long-term health problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancies and genital cancers.

    Free, confidential, HSE STI screening services are available in hospitals and special community clinic settings around Ireland. A list of public STI services is available on sexualwellbeing.ie.

    9. Eat healthily

    The Government’s Healthy Food for Life booklet is a good refresher about what constitutes a balanced diet. It also has an infographic of the food pyramid, sample daily meal plans, guidelines on portion sizes and fact sheets, but the key messages are:

  • Eat more vegetables, salad and fruit up to seven servings a day
  • Limit your intake of high fat, sugar, salt (HFSS) foods and drinks
  • Size matters: use the food pyramid as a guide for serving sizes
  • Increase your physical activity levels
  • The Healthy Food for Life resources can also be ordered from healthpromotion.ie
  • 10. Exercise

    The Irish Heart Foundation has this advice about exercise:

  • Start gradually and work towards building up to at least 30 minutes of any activity five days of the week at moderate intensity
  • Activity can be spread over two to three shorter sessions
  • Choose an activity that you enjoy and makes you feel good
  • Did you know?

    Key Trends report shows that life expectancy at birth in Ireland is now above 82. The publication records the improvements in health outcomes in the past decades and highlights challenges in the access of timely and efficient healthcare. The information is used by the Department of Health in policy making.

    The results showed that, in 2022, Ireland had the highest self-perceived health status in the EU. It also showed that numbers of doctors had increased in the public health service by 57% and the number of nurses and midwives by 27% since 2013. The mortality rate from cancer also fell as did that from heart disease during that time.

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