Over the last week the BBC and a lot of the media has focused as their lead story on the challenges facing the NHS in the U.K. Terms like crisis, pictures of queues in corridors, patients sitting on the floor, long waiting times, postponed operations, over-worked and stressed doctors and nurses. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt agrees that the NHS problems are unacceptable.
With the population living longer, elderly people needing more care and families more spread out so that there is often no-one close by to help, the demand on our hospitals has grown enormously. I am certainly not here to comment on how the NHS is run and there is no doubt that in places, we have the very best health service in the world, and it's absolutely free at the point of use! My own experience and that of my family has been second to none and I think our doctors and nurses are outstanding and we should be very thankful for their care and dedication.
What I do feel strongly about is the need for us, as a nation, to take more responsibility for ourselves and to look after our health the best we can. To eat more healthily, to be more active and to drink less alcohol. These choices are ours to make - and no one else's. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers are all potentially avoidable if we take control of our lifestyle, make some changes and take positive action personally to be healthier.
So many people are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes it is frightening. Yet it is a condition that is almost completely avoidable and curable by reducing our weight, eating more healthily and being more active. The problem is that Type 2 diabetes is invisible. And because you can't see it or feel it, patients ignore it - but at their peril. One of the patients featured in the BBC News footage was a lady of 84 who was waiting for surgery to amputate her foot entirely due to her Type 2 Diabetes. Can you begin to imagine the impact such drastic surgery will have on that poor woman and her husband, also in his 80s? If a Type 2 diabetic patient in a similar situation were to lose weight and become more active the likelihood would be that such a devastating operation could be avoided saving unimaginable pain and life-changing disruption to the patient and their family, and huge expense to the hospital.
Heart disease is a major killer and for many there is no warning. Of course there are other factors to consider here - genetics being a major one. If heart disease runs in your family then you need to be extra careful in what you eat, make every effort to keep your weight in check and take regular responsible exercise and activity. In some cases a heart attack or stroke may not be preventable but hopefully, even if the odds are against you, you can prolong your life by many years by taking a responsible attitude to your lifestyle.
We have been told so many times that being overweight increases our chances of contracting various cancers. I am also acutely aware that some very fit and healthy people fall victim to this cruel and vicious disease, but that must not deter the rest of us to do everything we can to try to prevent it. We can make responsible choices about what we eat, take action if we need to lose weight and increase our activity. Why don't more people do it? Is it lethargy? Is it 'It won't happen to me' syndrome? Do we keep making the promise to ourselves, 'I'll start tomorrow!' But everyone needs to act right now.
This is serious and it is OUR LIFE we are talking about. Not someone else's.
As the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies said on ITV's Tonight Programme, "If we could take a pill that would give us the same benefit to our health as exercise, we would all be taking it". And I agree wholeheartedly. Being active is fundamental to our health.
Lack of exercise costs our nation a staggering £20bn a year and causes 370,000 premature deaths! Lack of exercise is blighting the final years of many of the elderly who are living longer but enduring frailer lives as they lose confidence in their mobility because of lack of activity. Being overweight makes activity harder too, so we have to take a two pronged attack here. 1) Eating more healthily in order to achieve an appropriate weight and 2) Increasing our activity to improve our health. If we are slimmer and more active, we are more mobile and independent. It is a win/win situation.
"Physical activity has been proven to have massive benefits. Not only does it improve our physical, mental and emotional health, it improves relationships. It is a fantastic way of enhancing one's life" says Professor Paul Gately of Leeds Becket University, on the Tonight programme.
And it all makes such sense and we really need to hear it. Let's make a decision right now to increase our activity levels - only a little to start with if you have been very inactive - and then to pledge to increase it over time, day after day, week after week. We should aim to do 150 minutes of exercise every week. You will be amazed how quickly you can increase your fitness levels. The great big bonus is that as you get fitter your weight will drop much more easily and your body will look unimaginably better. And guess what, you will feel 100% better too!
Here at Rosemary Conley Online we have lots of easy-to-follow workouts to suit all ages and abilities and, of course, we have healthy eating plans to help you lose those unwanted lbs. Find a form of exercise you enjoy and keep it up.
After my recent injury (I fell down two stairs and pulled a load of ligaments in my foot on New Year's Eve - and in case you're wondering, no alcohol was involved!), now, six weeks later, I am going to get right back into exercise again and increase it further from the level I did before, to keep myself fit and strong, so why don't you join me? And let's keep ourselves out of our already over-stretched hospitals!