Leave fads and wellness myths behind for 2023
January can be an inspiring time, with healthy habit setting and New Year’s resolutions in full swing, but for many, each New Year can also be a daunting prospect, especially as we get older. Luckily January is now behind us, and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief because the consensus of healthcare experts at Mater Private Network is that there is too much external pressure to dramatically overhaul our lifestyles in the first month of the year.
The team of medical experts at Mater Private Network are best-positioned to provide excellence in patient care at their network of locations across Ireland but above all else, they are champions of health and well-being who believe the Irish population should be striving to make longer-term lifestyle improvements rather than jumping on new fads or trends in 2023.
With that in mind, Jane McCarthy, Senior Dietitian at Mater Private Network and Stephen O’Rourke, Senior Spinal & Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist at Poynton SpineCare Institute with Mater Private Network, have joined forces to offer their top tips to promote positive health outcomes and inspire lasting lifestyle changes in mid-life. Together, they address two key areas of health and well-being: nutrition and exercise. Most importantly, each of these tips is expert-approved and backed by science.
Jane McCarthy, Senior Dietitian with Mater Private Network, is passionate about sharing small lifestyle changes which are scientifically proven to improve health and positively impact well-being as we age.
“There are many unsubstantiated nutritional claims buzzing about the internet – celery juice being one of the most recently debunked trends for example, but when it comes to the science, everyone should be aiming for five servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Fibre, Calcium, Vitamin D, Iron, Vitamin B12 and protein are crucial nutrients and become increasingly important as we age. The more colour in your diet, the better, with strong evidence associating fibre-rich diets to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and bowel cancer.” 
“As we age, we lose muscle mass, which is natural, so pick good sources of protein such as meat, poultry and fish or boost your protein intake by including eggs, beans and nuts in your diet. This will keep your muscles healthy as well as help to build new cells.”
“Three servings a day of low-fat dairy foods such as cheese, milk and yoghurts will keep your bones healthy into mid-life. Dairy foods with added calcium and Vitamin D are even better. Being a healthy weight keeps bones strong too, so should be actively considered.”
“For women specifically, the hormonal changes that occur with menopause and the natural aging process means that they often lose muscle and gain fat. Menopause-related weight gain can be very challenging but being careful about making healthy food choices and doing more physical activity can make a real difference.”
“Be mindful of salt consumption, as sodium found in salt can lead to high blood pressure in later life. Adults should have no more than six grams of salt a day which is about one teaspoon. Watch out because three-quarters of the salt we consume is hidden in manufactured foods such as ready-made meals, takeaways and processed meats, so scaling back on “convenience foods” is a good place to start.”
The World Health Organisation recommendations advise 30 minutes of regular moderate-intensity exercise five days a week to reduce the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes, colon and breast cancers. Bearing this in mind, the power of physical activity on our health cannot be underestimated. Stephen O’Rourke, Senior Spinal & Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist at Poynton SpineCare Institute at Mater Private Network is passionate about the life-enhancing benefits of exercise in later life which include improved sleep, reduced anxiety and a boost to brain health.
“Movement really is medicine! First, strive to be active throughout your day rather than leaving all your exercise until after work. As with anything, the mountain seems insurmountable if you leave it all to the end. Secondly, reflect on the intensity of your exercise; a lot of people exercise below or at moderate intensity without realising.”
“If I had to recommend one change to everyone’s routine as they hit mid-life? Introduce strength training. For a lot of people this will be a new experience, but new experiences can be fun, so it’s well worth giving it a try. Our muscles and bones need to be challenged by resistance and this is the aspect of activity that is most commonly missing when I meet patients in clinic.”
“Walking can help us get active, but 10,000 steps, hailed as a daily barometer to improve your health and fitness, was originally part of a Japanese marketing campaign and not medical research. Most people achieve between 3,000 - 5,000 steps daily which is below the recommended amount, but research studies have shown health benefits with between 7,000 - 8,000 steps daily.  So, if you are making a proactive change this year aim for this – you won’t regret it! Then progressively increase to 10,000 steps in time.”
“Age is a risk factor for most types of arthritis, so it is important to stay alert to this. Inactivity is linked to increased severity and progression of arthritis. So, getting active and staying active is important. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, with women over the age of 50 the most likely group to be affected. Put simply, some risk factors for arthritis are modifiable and others are not. While age is a non-modifiable risk factor, the good news is that exercise, diet and smoking are modifiable and all play a role too.”
Trust the experts. More movement, coupled with a healthy diet, will set you up for success so you can live life to the fullest for years to come!
 For more information visit https://www.safefood.net/healthy-eating/fibre
 For more information visit https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(21)00302-9/fulltext#back-bib1