Top Tips On Staying Healthy

  • Watch your diet –  Swap biscuits and treats for nuts, pulses and seeds, all of which are high protein, minerals and vitamins. Also eat bananas, which have natural sugars which are released slowly into the body, and is a great substitute for other sweet snacks.
  • Exercise – You do not have to stay in shape through exercise  alone.  Doing physical work appropriate to your health can be an extremely effective way of keeping trim and staying healthy. This could be taking dog for brisk walks or working in the garden for 30 minutes.
  • Another form of exercising, while having fun, could be to take up dancing if your health permits. This is a great way of keeping fit and meeting new people.
  •  Look after you – One of my favourite “feel good” tips is to have fresh flowers around your home, something that is guaranteed to make anyone feel great. Another tip is to open windows as much as possible to get fresh air around the house and into your lungs.
  •  Finally, speak with people if you have a problem – a problem shared really is a problem halved, and could result in some good advice. A new perspective from someone could also add clarity to a situation.

Putting A Spring In Your Step

The late great, Marilyn Monroe once said, “Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world.”

Well, with the warmer weather here [honestly!] it’s time to get out and put a spring in our step.  I tend to think flat shoes are good for my feet.  So, I’ve kicked off my heavy winter boots and am now in light fashionable ballet pumps. But these have thin soles and offer little support and indeed can change the way I walk and encourage my arches to drop. [note to self: – maybe they’re why I’m feeling aches and pains in my knees and back?  Everyday shoes with a low broad heel are a more comfortable option.  I must look some out! On second thoughts my achy, creaky body could be the result of overdoing the gardening – but at least I’m being active which is good for my health.

Did you know that the average step is 2.1 – 2.5 feet in length?  Although it sounds a lot just 2,000 steps make a mile.  Sedentary folk walk only 1,000 – 3,000 steps each day, but the majority of us walk between 3,000 – 4,000 steps. For health’s sake we should all aim for 10,000 steps a day (5 miles) minimum.

With all this activity it’s not surprising our feet sometimes develop lumps and bumps and may be in need of a little TLC.  To ensure mine are fit for spring, especially following a winter hidden away in boots, I intend to spend time pampering and treating them to a pedicure, in order to keep me on my toes and in tip top condition for summer.

A change is as good as a rest, and some shoes can exacerbate many common foot complaints.  If like me you’re out a lot and want to wear high heels, make sure you keep a pair of flats in your handbag to change into. Wearing high heels with pointed toes can be uncomfortable and particularly bad if you have bunions. As are restrictive winter boots, keeping the bunions enclosed and adding to the pain.

When you feel pain act fast, because it’s well-known that discomfort shows on the face!  Today I refuse to be a slave to fashion and now older and wiser listen to my body and make footwear changes if necessary.

And what a relief…it makes me look and feel much better!

Question 1 CELLULITE  

My husband and I recently retired and have booked a summer cruise to celebrate.   My only worry is that my thighs and bottom are not in good shape for lazing around a swimming pool all day!   Is there anything I can do to shift cellulite in time? Janet Poole – Bristol


Janet you are not alone!   Cellulite is a word horribly engraved on most women’s minds if not their bottoms and thighs! This stubborn “orange peel” type skin affects so many women at many stages of life, with hormones playing an important part in its formation – at puberty, during pregnancy and around the time of the menopause.

A combination of a good diet and exercise is my advice to rid you of it. A critical assessment of one’s eating habits is essential. Out go fats, refined sugar, excess salt and alcohol. In come lean meats, raw vegetables, skimmed milk and plenty of water and fresh fruit juices.  The aim is to purify your body’s system and rid it of excess toxins which encourage cellulite.

Exercise will tone and strengthen your body and massage will work on cellulite spots by breaking down the nodules of fat, improving the circulation, and helping disperse excess fluids and toxins. Use over the counter anti-cellulite preparations in massage to soften and revitalize the skin.

One exercise for bottom and thighs is to lie on your back, knees bent, shoulder width apart with arms at your sides.  Clench buttocks, pull in tum and lift pelvis up off floor transferring weight onto your shoulders.  Hold for 10 seconds, relax down, and repeat 6 times. Janet that will turn your wobble into a wiggle! Enjoy your cruise.


My partner recently discovered a small lump the size of a pea in my right breast.   I am terrified it might be something awful and don’t want to see my doctor.   What do you think I should do? Jessica Brown – Liverpool


Jessica, with a breast lump, however small my advice is to go and see your GP as soon as you can. The chances are it’s nothing serious, but it might be something that needs attention and if diagnosed earlier, treatment can be more successful. I know first-hand the effects breast cancer can have on someone. I was 47 when I was diagnosed and my advice is that all women should get to know their breasts and to recognize if there are changes.  According to Breast Cancer Care the signs and symptoms of breast cancer can include:

  • a lump or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue
  • a change in size or shape of the breast
  • redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
  • a change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling (like orange peel)
  • discharge (liquid) that comes from the nipple without squeezing
  • your nipple becoming inverted (pulled in) or changing its position or shape
  • a swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
  • constant pain in your breast or your armpit

The older you get, the more important it is to be aware, as one in three women who are diagnosed are over 70.  Each year 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK – that’s one person every 10 minutes.

Old Enough to Know Better

Ouch my achy back, I’ve done it again!

It’s that time of year when my delightful small garden calls out for attention.  Given a fine day I’m more than happy to respond but I do get carried away with my enthusiasm. I know I’m old enough to know better, and I know I’m informed enough to prepare my ageing body for such an event by stretching it out.  Trouble is I only intended to prune a plant or two, cut back a hedge or two, or dig a patch or two.  But I ended up doing it all, scaling ladders to hedge, digging deep to plant, and heaving rubbish to tip.  End result…severe back ache which happens every spring. So when will I learn?

What to do?

My local Osteopath Mark, to whom I have resorted for sympathy and treatment, advises me to attack the garden for half an hour at a time, rest for 10 minutes, then attack again to help prevent problems. Of course keeping my back strong and supple is the best way to avoid getting back pain. Regular exercise, maintaining good posture and lifting correctly all helps.   Most times my back pain gets better on its own and I don’t feel the need to see a doctor. The pain usually lasts for a several days so I remain as active as possible and try to continue with my daily activities. I sometimes take over-the-counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen if I’m really uncomfortable, which usually occurs at night time.

Although it can be difficult to keep cheerful and to be optimistic when I’m in pain, I know it’s important to stay positive as this helps me recover faster. Of course I’m now religiously doing the stretches and movements Mark has advised me to do, and promising myself not to act so impulsively next time! Back pain isn’t funny but sometimes a little laugh helps, especially if you realise its bad news – when you get to the age your back goes out more than you do!

What better motivation do I need for doing my preparation exercises than that?

Question 1 STRESS

I know I am fortunate to have a busy life and shouldn’t complain but I find myself getting stressed out. My friends are losing patience and I know I need to get a grip. How can I stop panicking and getting angry, its irritating my friends?

Ruth Stein, Watford


Stress is an instinctive reaction for self-survival which automatically switches your body to a state of red alert.   So Ruth when you feel fear and your senses sharpen hormones flood into your bloodstream.   You breathe more deeply, your heart rate soars and your muscles tense ready for action.   Some stress is an essential part of everyday life and helps keep us out of danger.   For example we need to be alert when we cross the road.   But sometimes we all feel we can’t cope with our stress, even simple things make us “blow a fuse”.   Know the difference because this is distress and is detrimental to your health.   Pent-up feelings push up blood pressure and put a strain on the whole body including the heart.   So learn not to panic and find ways to reduce your stress levels

To be happy and productive you need to manage your life, have a positive action plan and take control.   Create a routine, set yourself realistic goals, and learn to prioritise and focus.    Don’t say yes to everything you are asked to do, you are only human, so guard your time jealously.

Ruth make a list of things that cause you stress and consciously try to relax and tackle the source of the problem wherever possible.  Gentle rhythmic cycling, jogging or swimming reduces tension; helps release pent up energy and encourages deep refreshing sleep.   Yoga, body conditioning classes and relaxation techniques are also helpful.


Hi Diana I have been very busy lately with lots of late nights and I haven’t been getting enough rest.  My problem is it shows around my eyes which look puffy and have dark circles under them!  What can I do to brighten them up!

Lucy Craig, Glasgow

Answer 2

Well Lucy I have a several homemade remedies to help with your puffy eyes.    Either you can apply cold, damp used tea bags to each eye, or slices of cucumber, or cotton pads soaked in witch hazel, or simply 2 cold teaspoons (all kept in fridge).  Give yourself time off, lie back, apply and relax for a soothing 10 mins.  All the above can work wonders!

With regard to the dark circles, they may indicate an excess of alcohol, cigarettes or coffee?  If that’s the case cut back!  In the meantime, try applying thin slices of potato or taking a brisk walk will get the lymphatic drainage system going to clear away the toxin build up, the cause of dark circles. Matt concealer helps disguise dark circles if all else fails!  If you have under eye bags you can again kick start the lymphatic drainage by tapping along lower eye socket with your fingertips – working from the inside to outer corner of your eyes.

Lucy you’ll soon be bright eyed and bushy tailed again!

Putting on A Happy Face Can Work ..

We all feel insecure about our body image, none of us are perfect. But I’ve found the trick is to make the most of what you’ve got and put on a happy face!

At what age did I feel my best and confident of my body image? You’d think I’d say in my hey-day as the Green Goddess on breakfast telly 30 years ago, when my slinky body was held up as the picture of health. But no! Not only was I insecure about my lack of curves back then, but I was soon to be diagnosed with cancer which was to challenge my self confidence.

At the height of my career in 1988 I discovered I had breast cancer, I was 47 years of age and it was found on a routine mammogram. Anyone being told they have cancer finds it difficult to come to terms with. I felt cancer happened to other people not to me and for a week after diagnosis I believed there had been a mistake, I was in total denial. But in August 1988 I finally I signed the consent form and underwent a double mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction in which implants were inserted directly under my skin.

Along with facing the physical battle of breast cancer many women feel the treatments of the disease are an onslaught to their femininity and have a tough time battling body image issues. A poll by the charity Breast Cancer Care found “88% of people who have had breast cancer say the disease has had a negative impact on the way they feel about their bodies…. and 68% say that it affected their sexual and intimate relationships.” Possibly due to my fitness level I made a remarkable physical recovery and was back on television within three months, but the emotional journey was to be ongoing.

My own body image had never been good. I grew up in the Fifties when femininity was associated with the voluptuous bosoms and waspish waists of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Meanwhile, I was 5ft 10” positively skinny, and stooped a bit to conceal my towering height. I bought a size 32A bra to boost my small boobs and made my own clothes in an effort to disguise them altogether!

I married at 19 and soon started a family. My breasts swelled to double their size during pregnancies and I felt a like a ‘real woman’. It was fun to dress in more flirty feminine fashions which made it easier to put on my happy face! I was disappointed when my boobs eventually shrunk back, but with two boisterous boys to contend with my priorities were in perspective!

In 1983, and by then in my 40s with 2 adult sons, I joined the BBC for the launch of Breakfast TV as their fitness guru, dressed in a green lycra leotard. Millions admired my lithe physique, and the national papers praised me with headlines like ‘Who is this “Green Goddess?’ which spawned my nickname! Life on TV every morning was hectic and exciting, but sadly during this time… and after 27 years… my marriage floundered.

Regrettably I took up with a Jack the Lad character and the relationship progressed with us getting married on my 50th birthday. It wasn’t an easy time, during which my body rejected the breast implants, resulting in more surgery and new prosthesis. Within a short time of marriage my new husband betrayed me. Divorce followed immediately but I pulled myself up by my boot straps and (with some difficulty) put on a happy face.

But the betrayal had shaken my confidence and I had body image issues. However, I found that talking to other women helped put my problems into perspective. My female friends are very important to me, many of whom have also battled breast cancer. These special friends I call my “bosom pals”!

But my battle wasn’t yet over… and just 2 years ago an MRI scan revealed that after more than 20 years my replacement prosthesis had ruptured. Again I underwent major breast surgery, but thanks to my brilliant NHS surgeon I now look as good as new and life goes on! At the age of 74, and after my recent third bi-lateral reconstruction in as many decades, I finally feel at ease with myself. I’m happy, healthy and lead a very active life, both socially and professionally and live life to the full; you do when you’ve been given a second chance!

Most of us will experience a problem or two during life which may affect our body image and knock our confidence. My advice is to think positive, try to put on a happy face, and who knows…… perhaps the best is yet to come!

Love Later Life

Love Later Life… a positive attitude to ageing appears to be the key to enjoying longevity.

It’s time for a reappraisal of ageing. Recently there has been a lot in the daily papers about research from AgeUK which found that more than ¾ of adults are looking forward to living longer. However, 9 out of 10 feel strongly that something needs to be done to ensure quality in later life plus a change in the negative view of getting older. It concluded that a positive attitude to ageing appears to be the key to enjoying longevity.

1 in 5 people in the UK will be aged 65 and over by the year 2020 and this should be a real cause for celebration. But research revealed that treating older people with dignity and respect in care homes and hospitals is one of the most important aspects of later life that needs to be addressed.

AgeUK is the national charity that supports people in later life and with this in mind recently launched its new vision of older age entitled “Love Later Life”. I am delighted to have been personally associated with AgeUK for the past 25 years, and as an Ambassador was asked to launch their project with a series of radio interviews around the UK. The charity hopes to challenge the negative perception of ageing and to inspire people of all ages to come together to change later life, for the better.

A more inspirational approach needs to be encouraged to show people, young and old alike that longevity can be fulfilling. We need to reassess ageing, the perceptions of later life, to think differently about growing older and to demonstrate that older people have a valued role in society. Everyone should have the opportunity to be happy in their older age and should be inspired to make changes for the better to insure they will enjoy the rest of their life, as far as is possible. Of course we must acknowledge the realities of getting older and facing new challenges, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting and preparing as best we can, for a fulfilling, independent later life.

Speaking personally I believe it is of the upmost importance to maintain good health throughout life. It’s a bit like an insurance policy; the more you put into it over the years the more there is to pull on in times of adversity. Wellbeing can prepare your body and mind for the many challenges, physical, mental and emotional, that most of us will experience with the passing years.

I also feel very strongly that interaction between my generation and young people is vital in order to create respect and admiration for all concerned. I’ll admit to being a bit “techy” myself, but would encourage everyone of my generation to be computer literate too. Today being conversant with technology is increasingly important because it helps bridge the generation gap by making communication easier, particularly with young people.

Speaking personally, and as a grandmother of four teenagers, I’m interested in, and like to get involved with whatever youth gets up to, albeit music, art, fashion, street language or dance. And fortunately for me it seems I’m appreciated by younger people for my experience of many years in the media, which appears to make me “cool” in their eyes and a more interesting person to know! Interaction between old and young needs to be encouraged, it’s special and can be very beneficial to all concerned.

Now in my mid 70’s I still work as a broadcaster and writer. Each week on the new DAB radio station “The Wireless” I have a regular one hour programme called “We’ve Got Mail” where with the help of experts we tackle older people’s problems and concerns. Broadcasting, plus my voluntary charity work keeps my very, very busy! But I’m lucky in that I do have a positive attitude to later life which helps me to keep physically and mentally active. I also watch what I eat, and when I do have time for myself I love to travel and pursue my hobbies – painting and sketching being my favourites. You see I really do Love Later Life!

Radio station http://www.thewireless/ageUK

New Horizons

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it”
W.H.Murray – The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
The Active Ageing project called; “Winning the Generation Game: Improving Opportunities for People aged 50 – 65 in Work and Community Activity” was set up by the Prime Minister in 1999 and the results published in 2000. The project consulted the Government and sources throughout the country looking for advice, and came up with suggested solutions to the problems which included;

• changing the culture
• enabling and encouraging over 50’s to stay in work
• helping and encouraging displaced workers to re-enter work
• helping older people make use of their skills and experience for the benefit of the wider community.

The report was encouraging and a small step forward to ensuring a fairer deal for those in the 50 – 65 generation, and can be seen as offering radical new approaches to difficult situations. There was a suggestion that Government may even consider introducing legislation on age discrimination, if the current voluntary Code of Practice on Age Diversity, proves to be ineffectual. Government departments are themselves reviewing their own employment practices, and steps are being taken to reduce early retirement in their departments, in the hope of setting themselves up as role models, to other employers.

I have spoken to many of my contemporaries about plans they might have made for the rest of their lives. Did they see their older age as a time of retirement and well-earned rest I enquired, or did they view it as a time of opportunity and challenge? As the Millennium drew nearer I became increasingly aware from their responses that their perception of older age was radically changing. The traditional image of ageing was being shaken off, and being replaced by a far more encouraging picture. I discovered that most of my friends were feeling very positive about growing older, particularly my women friends. I enquired further and asked them what more they hoped to achieve in their later years. Many of my female acquaintances appeared to have a very practical approach to their future, which they perceived with a positive mental attitude. They were realistic about their limitations and were busy making preparations as to how best to enjoy the rest of their lives. This optimistic approach appears to be the vital key to keeping many older folk young at heart. Most viewed as a bonus, the predicted increase in longevity and were determined not to waste the extra years.

However my men friends didn’t always have the same positive attitude, and many saw years of retirement stretching out before them and shuddered at the thought. Many who had been single minded, high-powered businessmen, or workers with responsible jobs, found it hard to come to terms with their loss of status. Their career position had been their status for all their working life and many of these men had just concentrated on their jobs leaving little or no time for hobbies or sport. Of course they were interested in sport they assured me – but from the safe physical confines of the armchair or newspaper. Other men too old for active sports such as football, squash, or rugby had taken up golf. But even for them there was a limit to how much golf one could play in a week! With their testosterone hormone levels dropping, men do have a tendency to look back at what has been. And when they do what they see is their power, both physical, sexual and in career terms, all lessening by the minute. They don’t like it and many are pessimistic of their futures. By contrast women have had years, and months in particular, coming to terms with the physical and emotional changes that hormonal swings create! At this stage in life an competent woman’s ability to previously juggle, family, career, sport, cooking, gardening and caring for everybody including her man, eventually pays off. With more time on her hands she looks forward with optimism, satisfied to at last have the opportunity to concentrate her efforts on just one thing or person at a time.

Speaking personally I find that being involved with younger people helps me to have a youthful outlook on life. I try to listen to my offspring, and their own children and their friends, in order to keep an open mind. I hope it will help me to avoid getting set in my ways and narrow in my opinions. I sense that it pays to keep up to date with current trends, fashions and attitudes in order to understand the aspirations and frustrations of youth. It enables us older folk to help the young sort out their problems. (However, we don’t necessarily have to agree with them) It’s interesting to notice how older men and women who are in regular contact with young people have a far more relaxed and accommodating way of dealing with youngsters. Many of these people are teachers or organisers who are active in their social life, running youth clubs or sport or hobby orientated events. They also appear to be more satisfied and fulfilled in their own lives compared with other older folk, many of whom have become bigoted and disillusioned with the antics of a some of today’s youth. I feel that taking a broader, well-informed overview of life creates a healthier mental attitude. Surely it’s better to live for the day, and to take an interest in current affairs, and to be generous in your opinions. When the old do communicate with the young in a well informed manner it creates respect on both sides and goes a long way to bridging the generation gap. Young people have a lot to learn from the experience and wisdom of older people, and many are prepared to respect their seniors, provided they don’t come over as bigoted, opinionated and dismissive of youth.

Let’s now concentrate on the positivity of growing older, and here I believe that women are faster in learning how to control the march of time than most men are. For example women take more care of their physical appearance by looking after their general health, and by maintaining their looks. Women today are well informed, they avidly read books on fitness and specialist magazines and many seek advice from health and beauty consultants. From advertisements and advertorials older women are aware that with a little help from skin care and beauty products, and slight changes to their diet and exercise, they can hope to delay some of the visible signs of ageing. An increasing number of women are resorting to plastic surgery, which they regard as the most positive way of superficially holding back the years. Many other women less fortunate would love to be able to afford plastic surgery while there are others who won’t admit to wanting it. Some women just cringe at the thought of cosmetic surgery and rely on nature being kind to them.

With the dramatic and positive changes in the attitude to ageing, the thought of “retirement” becomes more attractive. Retiring from work, and retiring from the traditional concept of ageing, leaves us free from the constraints that have bound and gagged previous generations of women. With no written criteria or acceptance of being old, we now have the unique opportunity to break with tradition and re-write the rules! It’s exciting, so we must grab at the chance presented to us and make important changes. If we have good health and adequate financial provision, we could find to our pleasant surprise, that just when we thought we were”over the hill” we find the world is our oyster!

Over the past few years the words used to describe older people have changed too, and definitely for the better. Words like “retired” “mature” or “older person” “older adult” are commonplace today – compared to the labels “old age pensioner” or ” a senior citizen” which were used to describe someone over 60 years of age just a few years back. The changes are encouraging, but for me the most amusing label is one I heard at Help the Aged celebration of older people in Gloucester Cathedral recently. A delightful elderly gentleman described himself as being “chronologically advantaged.” This label is my favourite to date – perhaps you have a better one?

All too often people in mid life and later years find themselves in surprising and sometimes unbelievably upsetting situations. As most of us soon learn, life doesn’t always goes according to plan, and there are times when we need to dig deep down within ourselves to find and use our natural resources and strengths in order to move on. Difficulties have to be overcome after the death of a loved one or the trauma of a divorce, and strength regained after emotional or physical problems. Sometimes we feel like “opting out” when it all gets too much but we need to reach out to others and force ourselves to keep in contact with people and the world around us. Social contacts can help sustain us in times of crisis, keep us strong and positive in our attitude and help us adapt to strange or new situations. We must be prepared for change, today we may not find ourselves living the life or being where we had planned to be all those years ago.

• Keep yourself fit
• Keep yourself busy
• Set yourself goals – but make certain some are easily achievable
• Consider those wild dreams that were previously out of the question
• Investigate ways to achieve your specific dreams or aspiration
• Learn to use a computer
• Find details of local groups, social clubs, day centres or adult education from the local Library
• Consider joining a local religious organisation or group
• Find fulfilling ways to contribute to your social world
• Give a little bit back to society
• Volunteer for charity work
• Write to friends, family and grandchildren
• Try to keep your diary full and plan ahead
• Don’t put off till tomorrow what you could do today.
• Write a daily diary or your memoirs – it can be cathartic
• Detail your family history or traditions or special personal possessions
• Arrange short stays with friends and relatives
• Invite friends or neighbours in for a social drink, coffee or a meal
• Free evenings? Offer to baby sit for friends or family
• Consider a pet for company (dogs make good walking companions)
• Book a holiday or residential course
• Learn to relax and pamper yourself

“Look to this day
Yesterday is but a memory
Tomorrow is but a vision
But, today well spent
Makes every yesterday
A memory of happiness
And every tomorrow
A vision of hope
Look well therfore to this day”

A recent Mori poll on behalf of Help the Aged found that “younger older” people had high disposable incomes and that many had substantial savings. The age group was found to be the biggest spenders on foods, goods and leisure, than were the rest of the UK population. Fewer than half of those people aged 55-64 were still working, and many had leisure time to spend. They had time to enjoy the fruits of their labours! The young adult figures are rising and as the babyboomers join the ranks. There are going to be a huge number of powerful people soon crossing the threshold into retirement, and they all have needs to be catered for. With this increase it should be perfectly obvious by now to corporates, retailers, leisure and recreational concerns, and the media that the 50 plus age group is an economic power, and a key consumer group. Those who continue to ignore us, do so at their peril!

Growing older and feeling good is about having a positive attitude to life. We women should never look back and dwell on our failures or have regrets. We must always look forward with optimism. It’s never too late to adjust your lifestyle. You’re never too old to change your habits or to help yourself to better health. Let’s aim to extend healthy life and not merely prolong death – let’s plan for quality life not merely quantity of life. Begin by taking good care of your body and your looks. Be more active and eat a well balanced diet. Be aware of your finances. Nurture your relationships, love and respect your family and friends. Continue to listen and learn, and always keep an open mind. You know despite its ups and downs it’s still a wonderful world, and it’s good to be alive.
Now dear reader it is my sincere hope that the advice and information I have presented in the previous pages has been beneficial and encouraging for you. If it has been – NOW – could be the very moment to take control of the rest of your life! Whatever you do – enjoy it.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been”
George Eliot

See The Person

These days the world seems to be obsessed by beauty and looking good, but to my mid being healthy and happy is more important. If you put health to the forefront of priorities then many aspects of beauty follow on naturally. One thing I would never do is go under the knife for aesthetic reasons in order to hold onto youthful looks. I’ve had my fair share of surgery from past health problems to even consider that.

What I say is – look at the person not the age! What matters most is who and what they are, not simply how they appear. People may have aged, retired or become a grandparent but that doesn’t make them unattractive or invisible. Like most mature folk I have embraced life and the opportunities I was given and this has allowed me to reap the rewards of good health and contentment at the age of 70.

Throughout life I believe the trick is to discard weakness and conceit and to build on one’s inner self. Externally it’s OK to help nature a little by enhancing your good points and learning to disguise the not so good! But I’m sure you will agree that when you meet someone with personality, confidence, health, happiness, vitality and understanding their inner self shines through and surpass external looks. That is when you see the real person and in my mind that is true beauty!


Redundancy is devastating and often happens when least expected.  Sadly it continues to happen to thousands in this turbulent economic crisis turning an ever increasing number of people’s lives upside down.  A man I spoke to recently told me “I felt numbness and incredulity and an initial sense of isolation – it affected my self esteem.  I hadn’t expected it, I was so shocked. I felt disappointed and cheated.”

Going from two wages to one is very hard for any family.  Redundancy can put a strain on any partnership, but if you have been together a long time it may be easier to understand each other and work the problems out.  For many who have spent a lifetime dominated by the rat race of work, always on the go running here and there, the idea of sitting around the house for hours on end is horrific.   Many older people will have worked conscientiously for 30 years or more and the thought of signing on for unemployment benefit is particularly distasteful to proud people.  One of the biggest worries is whether or not there will have enough money to survive albeit at a lower level of living than before.   But the biggest challenge of all will be with yourself for you are the only person who can rebuild your ego.

And to compound the problem there is still a huge bias against older people when it comes to re-employment. It seems grossly unfair that Government spends billions of pounds helping young people find employment and only a fraction to assist older people who really do need help to find another job in order to support both themselves and dependants.   People are desperate to work, they have family and commitments and yet employers tend to favour younger applicants.   Younger bosses in particular should be discouraged from shunning older job seekers. They need to realize they are turning away experience and knowledge, both valuable assets.

If you have been made redundant and feel the need of a challenge whilst you look or wait for another job why not turn this valuable time to your advantage. There could be something far more interesting and rewarding around the corner. Maybe it’s time to make important changes to your life?  Could this be the opportunity for some further education?  Maybe you now have time to get up to speed with Computer skills to keep up with the modern world?  If being alone hours on end depresses you why not offer your services to one of the many charities who might find your skills very beneficial.  Help both you and them by doing voluntary shop work, driving patients to and from hospital appointments, visiting the elderly or assisting young people with sports or crafts.   It will be difficult coming to terms with existing on a small pension and just managing to live within your means but voluntary work could give you that sense of pride by putting something back into society.

Maybe it’s time to search for your inner self?  An opportunity to explore the religions of the world?  You may surprise yourself with your discoveries religious faith can give many people comfort, support and provide the necessary courage to face adversity.  It’s very hard to cope with redundancy but you have a responsibility to yourself and your family to look after yourself in particular.   The last thing you must do is give up and give in. Who wants to be a burden to others?

Families can try to be supportive but you need to take a conscientious effort to look after your health as best you can.  One of the most positive ways is to keep active in both body and mind and don’t let yourself go or allow yourself to get out of touch with what is going on around you.  So get off you’re your bottom, get out there and continue to listen and learn.  When the prospect of another job does eventually arise you’ll be fit and ready to reach out and grab it!

Reflections On Ageing

At 19 I started working voluntarily with a charity for older people in Bristol. For the past 22 years I’ve been a member of Stage for Age, the show business arm of Help the Aged, and work voluntarily to raise funds and awareness of older people’s issues. We live longer these days, but we need to be as healthy as possible to enjoy those extra years, so the work of Help the Aged/Research into Ageing plays a vital role.

Sadly, my mother died prematurely when I was young but I received support, comfort and advice from older family members and friends. Two strong women in particular were to influence me. The first was my lady boss and personnel and welfare officer, a devote Christian who was a mentor to me. The second was an older vibrant lady called Betty. who came into my life by chance when I had breast cancer 22 years ago. She had survived the disease and gave me encouragement and new hope that I too would survive and resume my life again. There was a stigma about cancer back then and people didn’t talk about it, but happily since then people have started to discuss cancer openly and attitudes are now very supportive…

People do still feel uncomfortable talking about many age-related illnesses. Of course we need to talk about all the conditions that affect us as we get older. For some older people in the UK the problems they face are having to battle with isolation and depression, while Overseas the problems can be to even access medical care. Poverty and health are vital issues too wherever we are in the World we all need to feel valued and cared for as we get older. Having recently celebrated my 70th birthday I’m thankful to be healthy and to have the confidence to be myself. My lifestyle consists of keeping active – both physically and mentally and I eat a varied diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. I spend as much time as possible in the company of my 4 grandchildren and am thankful to be conversant with computers which keep me in touch with them and the world at large. I find being on the same wavelength as younger people stops me becoming bigoted and broadens my horizons.

5 Top Tips For Health And Beauty

1) STRESS is an instinctive reaction for self-survival it automatically switches your body to a state of red alert. You feel fear and your senses sharpen – hormones flood into your bloodstream. You breathe more deeply, your heart rate soars and your muscles tense ready for action. Some stress is an essential part of everyday life and helps keep us out of danger. For example we need to be alert when we cross the road. But sometimes we all feel we can’t cope with our stress, even simple things make us “blow a fuse”. Know the difference – this is distress and is detrimental to your health. Pent-up feelings push up blood pressure and put a strain on the whole body including the heart. So learn not to panic and find ways to reduce your stress levels

2) To be happy and productive LEARN TO MANAGE YOUR LIFE, have a positive action plan and take control. Create a routine, set yourself realistic goals, and learn to prioritise and focus. Don’t say yes to everything you are asked to do, you are only human, so guard your time jealously. Make a list of things that cause you stress and consciously try to relax and tackle the source of the problem wherever possible. Gentle rhythmic cycling, jogging or swimming reduces tension; helps release pent up energy and encourages deep refreshing sleep. Yoga, body conditioning classes and relaxation techniques are also helpful.

3) STRETCHING is a fantastic way to improve your posture and make you look slimmer and younger. It keeps the joints flexible, eases aches and pains and fights stress. Start by standing tall and stretching out your entire body preferably first thing in the morning or early in the evening after a hot bath. Breathe normally and relax completely as you gradually reach up and stretch as far as possible. Don’t strain but hold for 8 seconds and relax. You may feel a little stiff and sore at first – it shows that your muscles are elongating to reach their full potential and your body is releasing stored up tension.

4) As part of the process of growing older we are all susceptible to intrinsic, chronological AGEING OF THE SKIN. But we don’t need to experience photo -ageing, which is the damage caused by exposure to the sun. Sun damage includes coarse wrinkles, age spots, small broken blood vessels and a leathery texture to the skin. The effects of the sun can also kill off skin cells and pose health threats and sadly cell damage occurs even before the signs of sunburn appear. The redness indicates deep-skin burning, which usually results in peeling, as the skin’s healing response. Whenever possible avoid the sun or take full advantage of the skincare products containing sun protection factor (SPF). Daily use of at least SPF15 on exposed areas is recommended, but anything higher than an SPF30 is considered unnecessary. The extra protection it affords is minimal and the additional chemicals can irritate the skin.

5) CALCIUM is essential for the development and maintenance of strong teeth and bones. 99% of the calcium in our bodies is found in our skeleton, our bone nails and teeth. Calcium is needed for the nervous system and is essential for the clotting of blood. A regular intake of calcium throughout our lifetime will help prevent the fragile bone disease osteoporosis. Calcium plus vitamin D are essential elements for building and maintaining strong bones. Lack of calcium during childhood and adolescence leads to week bones, poor nails, teeth and growth. Rich sources of calcium are milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy produce, and fish such as sardine and pilchards. Importantly for vegetarians, leafy green vegetables including spinach, kale and broccoli, and nuts, dried fruit, dates, prunes, raisins and figs, kidney beans, lentils and baked beans are alternate sources of calcium. Bottled mineral water contains calcium in varying amounts.

How I Discovered I had Breast Cancer

As part of the original team of BBC Breakfast Time, from 1983 – 1987, I was a symbol of health and fitness for the nation in my campaign “Get Britain Fit” wearing my trademark shiny green leotard and tights!  It came as a complete surprise to me that I had breast cancer.  I was feeling as fit as a fiddle at the time and there was no indication that anything was wrong.  I was 47 when I was diagnosed and was at the peak of my fitness.

I was menopausal at the time and went to the menopause clinic to see if I would be a suitable candidate to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT).  As part of a series of medical checks they carried out a mammogram.  Later that week they called me back and suggested I went to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.  When I got in to see the consultant the mammograms were up there and I said to him “you’re going to tell me I’ve got breast cancer aren’t you!”  And he simply replied “yes you have”.  He told me it was in its early stages and that the cancer was in situ, which means it was contained in both the breasts.

My reaction was one of utter disbelief, and then as the consultant talked it over with me my feelings were of intense fear and then intense anger and I thought “what have I done wrong?”  I knew nothing at all about breast cancer, and back then in 1988 nobody talked about it.  I looked for books about the disease and information, but it was to no avail, there was nothing at all, not like there is today.

My treatment was to have both breasts removed – a bilateral mastectomy – which is sometimes referred to as “the cruellest cut” for a woman.  Although breast cancer patients look and appear fine from the outside, we are all of us somewhat scarred inside.  It is an onslaught to our femininity.  The consultant talked about re-construction but to be honest I hadn’t got a clue what they were talking about.  All I knew was that they had cut the cancer away and because of that I thought there was no further treatment.

I hated the hospital I had gone to for the operation.  I went into the Cromwell Hospital and because I needed to keep my cancer absolutely secret had booked in under my maiden name.  Only my two sons, my former husband and a close friend knew.  I was high profile at the time and I did not want the press to find out.  It’s not what you want when you are ill.

When I came home I found the press had been sniffing around because I had not been on TV.  I was off screen for about 4 months before I came back and did a four minute segment.  Nobody knew my secret nor did they know how I had to steel myself in order to do it!  I hadn’t got my stamina or mobility back and could never have done a 45 minute fitness class.  It took about a year before I could again.

During all this time I kept a detailed diary of what was happening to me because I could not talk openly to anyone about it.   9 months after my cancer the diary was published by Bloomsbury called “A More Difficult Exercise” – which it was!  When members of the family and friends found out they were very angry with me because I hadn’t told them I was ill.

Today I am fighting fit.  Being fit is important and if you are going to be hit by a thunderbolt, like my cancer was, it pays to be fit.   Fitness helps you to get through such difficult times and assists a more speedy recovery.  Until my illness I had assumed I would go on for ever and had not thought about popping my clogs at 47.  However some years later – in fact it was 12 years ago – the time came for me to face all my demons.  I had to go for counselling, I just had to find somebody that I could talk to about all my suppressed anger.  I went to the Cancer Counselling Trust because they offer help to cancer patients – even a long time later – and they can help you, your family and friends.

One of the things that are important to me is that I am still around and I feel that I have been given a second chance in life.  My message to anybody going through the same trauma as I did is to share what you are going through with others.  You must not be left feeling that you are alone, because you are not alone.  This disease affects one woman in nine.   I was wrong to have kept the diagnosis to myself.  Breast Cancer Care run a marvelous support system which can not only provide you with the latest information, but will also put you in touch with other women who have been through just what you are now going through.  Both Breast Cancer Care and the Cancer Counselling Trust have websites and free help lines.

One of the most important things to me is that I am still around and have been given a second chance in life.  It gives me some urgency.  But my sons have presented me with the gift of 4 grandchildren and seeing this continuance of your life makes it all worthwhile.

Public Health Essentials

One of the complaints people make about Public Health is that every public health professional seems to describe it in a different way when asked.  This is necessarily so, to a degree.  The Director of Public Health or a Consultant in Public Health in an inner city  is likely to have a different set of priorities and problems than doing a job with the same title in a West Country  rural population.    We need people to understand that public health is a type of professional practice that is adaptive and is practised differently in different contexts.  However the criticism has some substance too.  If you were to ask twenty public health professionals to write down what they meant by ‘deprivation’ or ‘well being’ or the difference between ‘quality’ and ‘value’ then, at present, you would get very different results.  Similarly if you were to ask people what the ten most important texts that they studied training you would get different results.

What we need to do  in the creation of a common culture is to agree a common language and a common set of concepts.  Just as cardiologists have a common concept of what is meant by heart failure and psychiatrists of bipolar disorder so too do we need a set of concepts relating to equity or well-being or quality assurance.  This does not mean uniformity; cardiologists disagree about the management of chronic chest pain and psychiatrists of course disagree significantly about both the nature of the problem they tackle and the appropriateness of different interventions but these disciplines do have a common language and set of concepts.

The Public Health Essentials project seeks to identify those terms which we should use the same meaning wherever we are working.  This can be difficult because of a widely used term such as value often has more than one meaning so we will have to reach agreement as to which meaning is the most useful meaning for us to have throughout the Network of Public Health Organisations.  In identifying common concepts it is appropriate to use key texts from which these contexts have arrived for example Geoffrey Rose’s book on the Strategy of Preventive Medicine is a proxy for the concept of ‘shifting the curve’, the balance between high risk strategies and whole population strategies.

Because we are a distributed organisation, close to the populations we serve it is also difficult for people to know one another. We are also willing to show the texts that have influenced each member of the distributed leadership during the course of their professional life.