We all know how important looking after your health is. Changes can happen for lots of reasons and can have a big impact on how you feel. But there are things you can do to stay healthy and places you can get support.
Benefits of healthy living
It's never too late to improve your health. A healthy lifestyle can help you live well for longer and feel at your best more often. By making healthier choices each day, you can:
- boost your energy
- improve your mood
- maintain or regain your fitness
- fight off seasonal illness, like cold and flu
- help prevent or manage long-term health conditions
- keep your independence for longer.
How to create healthy habits
Healthy living is personal. What works for one person may not work for someone else. If you’re looking to develop healthier habits, consider:
- doing things with others – starting a healthy habit with a friend or relative means you can support and encourage each other
- finding ways to make it fun – for example, if you want to exercise more and know you like chatting to others, group sports may motivate you more than exercising alone
- trying different things to see what you like – for example, you could spend a week trying new recipes to find some healthy meals, or try a new type of physical activity
- making changes slowly – pick one thing to focus on for a month or two, before adding anything else in. This gives you time to see if the new habit works for you. It also makes changes easier to manage if you have other responsibilities, like caring or work, for example
- planning it into your routine – it’s easier to keep up a new habit if it fits into your usual routine. For example, if you want to go outside more, you could say to yourself that you’ll visit a park every day after breakfast
- finding your own ‘why’ – often we already know the reasons to become healthier, but this doesn’t always motivate us. Finding your own reasons can make it easier to keep going with a new habit
- being patient with yourself – building healthy habits takes time. Don’t be too hard on yourself if there are days when you don't stick to it. If you can manage even a few minutes exercise for example, that's great. But if not, just start over and build up the habit again.
The rest of this page covers different habits for a healthy lifestyle. You can use them to guide your own routines.
Regular activity is good for your overall health. It can also help prevent falls, boost your energy, help you sleep better and improve your mood.
You don't need to be sporty to move your body every day. There are lots of exercises you can try and many everyday things that get you moving also count.
Try to find activities you enjoy, and make sure you include some exercises for your flexibility, strength and balance.
Find more tips and ideas on staying active in later life.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet keeps you feeling your best. It can also help you recover after an illness.
In general, a healthy, balanced diet includes:
- plenty of fruits and vegetables
- starchy foods, like bread, rice or potatoes
- protein, such as meat, fish, dairy, or pulses
- healthy fats, such as from olive oil, oily fish or nuts.
Find out more on our page Eating well.
It’s easy to become dehydrated without realising, so drink plenty of fluids even if you’re not thirsty. Drinking enough will give you more energy.
Try to drink 6-8 glasses of fluids a day. This can include:
- lower-fat milk
- low-sugar juices
- tea or coffee.
Cut down on alcohol
Having a drink can be one of life’s pleasures, but as you age your ability to process alcohol changes. Too much alcohol can:
- affect your health and relationships
- cause conditions like insomnia, anxiety, incontinence and depression
- interfere with medication
- increase your risk of having falls.
In extreme cases, heavy drinking can lead to dementia.
For more information and to find out about the support available, see our page on alcohol and drug misuse.
Get help to stop smoking
Smoking can affect your breathing, circulation and general fitness. It can also lead to heart disease and stroke.
Giving up smoking could be the biggest single improvement to your health that you can make. You can get free local support and advice to help you quit. It’s never too late to stop.
Visit the NHS website for more on services to help you quit smoking.
Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep can make you more prone to medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
If you're having trouble sleeping, you could try:
- sticking to a regular bedtime routine
- relaxation exercises or CDs
- having a warm bath
- reading a book or listening to the radio.
For more on improving your sleeping habits and help for sleep problems, see our page on getting a good night's sleep.
Socialising is good for your physical and mental health. Staying in touch with friends, meeting new people and trying new things can help reduce feelings of isolation and take your mind off health problems.
For information on how to boost your social connections, visit our page Staying connected.
Look after your mental health
If you experience anxiety, low mood or depression, you’re not alone. It’s important to talk to others about how you feel and ask for help. Treatments can be very effective and there are ways to manage your condition.
Find out more on our page Looking after your mental health.
Get regular health checks
As we get older, our risk of developing certain conditions increases, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia. Getting any health checks you are offered can help to spot the early signs of these conditions.
You could also talk to your local pharmacy. They usually offer a range of services, such as reviewing your medications, or providing advice on treating minor symptoms or living a healthy lifestyle. Some pharmacies may also offer screening for conditions such as diabetes, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol checks.
To find out about the health checks and services available, visit our section on using NHS services.
You can find lots more information and advice about healthy living on the NHS Live Well website.
For practical tips and tools, visit the NHS Better Health website.