Good nutrition = healthy ageing

man olderLife expectancy was 45 in 1840 and now it’s around 90 on average with huge variations according to where you live. But, and it’s a big ‘but’, the average 90 year old may spend the last 10 to 20 years of their lives in ill health. Some 90 per cent of them take prescription drugs, and normally two or more types. Is this inevitable?Apparently not according to speakers at the British Nutrition Foundation conference on healthy ageing, ‘Good nutrition defends the body against the ageing process’.

The best ways to stay healthy into old age were said to be:

– don’t smoke
– exercise regularly
– eat plenty of fruit and veg
– drink alcohol in moderation

None of this is rocket science nor is it particularly new, but it does give people a sense of control over their own destiny. We all have to die one day but who wants to spend years lying in a bed, dependent on other people, in pain or unable to communicate?

The good thing is that it isn’t hard or even expensive to do any of the things that lead to a long healthy life, so everyone can do them. But it is often mindset that makes people think that they won’t be healthy, or that they can’t do anything about their health.

Hopefully the next generation will be less dependent on doctors and drugs and take more responsibility for their health. And in fact it will probably become a necessity because the NHS is unlikely to be able to prop up the baby boomer generation if they all are dependent on it.

Obviously there are no guarantees in life and the above doesn’t take account of stress or difficult lives that may wear people down. Or people who never really have a good start in the first place, but there’s no harm in trying!

Why we don’t want GM

Most of the British public are really adamant that they don’t want genetically modified food products. So much so that when GM products first came into the UK there was such an outcry by the public that all the supermarkets ensured that they didn’t sell anything under their own label that had GM ingredients.

Apparently one quarter of agricultural land worldwide is now given over to genetically modified crops. So they are rife around the world but not here.

Just why we are all so against GM is not clear and most people don’t exactly know why either. But most of us feel instinctively that we do not want our food meddled with. And because of precedents we don’t always trust scientists when it comes to our best interests.

So it is of considerable concern to find that the GM industry has been lobbying parliament insisting that GM crops are a solution to the global food crisis. This seems like a result of big marketing and PR budgets, which opponents do not have. Yet there is no evidence that GM increases yields.

Some of the objections to GM include the ability of crops to damage wildlife and farmland and for bees to spread the pollen on to nearby organic crops. One of the principals of organic farming is that produce cannot be genetically modified.

Unfortunately so far there is no big money behind sustainable and/or organic farming and it is corporate giants who are involved in GM. The only answer is for the public to stand firm and make sure that their MPs do too. To find out more about GM and to make your voice heard go to: Friends of the Earth,

Why HRT?

Women with hot flushes, anxiety and night sweats become desperate to do something about it, so they go to the doctor. Many GPs will recommend that they go on HRT. How wonderful, all the symptoms go and they feel like a human being again.

But what the doctors don’t always tell them is that when you come off HRT in your 50s, 60s, or even 70s, you will get all the symptoms of menopause back again. So now you’ve got much older and you are supposed to cope with the hot flushes, anxiety and night sweats. What’s the point of that?

Many older women who have been on HRT for 20 years (more than even the manufacturers now recommend)are struggling to come off it. People who do come off HRT after any amount of time often find that their symptoms are much much worse and they become depressed as well.

If they deal with menopause in the first place in a natural way – through nutrition (for example eating lots of soya), through appropriate supplements (especially made supplements for menopause) or with herbs such as Red Clover or Sage – they get it over with without too much pain and they never have to go through it again.

Interfering with nature can cause more problems that it’s worth. There is a very good reason for the menopause because your body is past its childbearing age. Why prolong the agony still having simulated periods when you can get through menopause and move on to the future without a monthly cycle or the pain of periods?

Stress – can you cope?

Life is stressful enough without banks collapsing, homes being repossessed and jobs being wiped out. When I was writing Stress – The Essential Guide I realised how often we make life for ourselves.

There are so many things in life that we cannot do anything about, such as divorce, bereavement, caring for someone who is seriously ill, losing your home, or even moving, changing jobs, or seeing the kids off to nursery or uni. These kind of stresses will always happen, as well as the niggling day to day ones like traffic jams and call centres.

But human beings seem to make life more difficult for themselves. For instance, sometimes people who are working long hours may be doing so because of their fear of failure or perfectionist tendencies.

When you are having a genuinely difficult time do you accept help from others, say no when you just can’t do any more, ensure that you still do everything in a set way (that could make life more stressful) or stick to fixed beliefs or judgements that are unhelpful?

By looking at your own behaviour and trying to let some of your habits go you can actually avoid making a bad situation worse.

There are plenty of other things that you can do including exercising, eating healthily, allowing yourself time and space alone, relaxation, and therapies like massage which are very relaxing.

It is too difficult to change your lifestyle when stress is at its worst. It is better to try to arm yourself against stress by taking up exercising, eating well and learning to relax when times are good. Otherwise you may find that drinking alcohol may become your only stress relief, and unfortunately that can make matters worse.

Stress – The Essential Guide costs £8.99 and is published by Need2Know,



Healing hands help victims of Bosnian war

Years after a war has finished most of the world has forgotten about the people whose lives were torn apart. I recently had the chance to go to Sarajevo with the charity, Healing Hands Network. From April to October each year they have four therapists in their centre in Sarajevo who provide massage and healing treatments for victims of the terrible war and atrocities.

People who have lost loved ones, whose limbs have been blown off, who have been tortured, raped and sexually abused still live with their pain – both emotional and physical. There is precious little help from the government and while psychological help is available, there is no NHS to fall back on.

Among the people I met were members of the Union of Civilian War Victims and The Association of Concentration Camp Victims. Many of them had endured multiple rape and sexual torture, others had had legs or arms blown off in bomb attacks or from shells or grenades. Others had lost entire families.

One man said that 50 of his wife’s family were locked in a house and it was burnt to the ground. Another woman told how she hid in her Catholic and Serbian neighbour’s house when the Serbian soldiers came because she was a Muslim. It was common for the soldiers who held Sarajevo under siege for four years to take a sports hall, a gym, library or school and turn it into a makeshift concentration camp.

The war has been over since 1995 and the people are living more normal lives but there is incredible poverty – unemployment levels in Hadici are running at 80 per cent. Many buildings are still pock-marked by bullets.

Healing Hands Network has given some 25,000 treatments to people from the various associations for victims of the war in the last 11 years, giving up to 3,000 each year. Many of their clients say that having massage treatments makes them feel like ‘a new born person’. Receiving touch in a caring, nurturing way is important when you have been physically abused, and for many it has gradually helped them to sleep and to heal.

Healing Hands Network needs therapists and funds: