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1 Look in the mirror and quit smoking

YOU'VE heard a million times how smoking is bad for you, but now new research from The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital has revealed that looking in the mirror might tell you exactly how much damage the habit has done you.

The study found that the more wrinkles a smoker has, the more likely they are to develop a life-threatening disease, such as emphysema. It seems the loss of elasticity in lung tissues, associated with emphysema, is reflected by the loss of elasticity in the skin too.

The latest way to give up moking is the patch/puff ombo which seems to double your chance of success.

With this, you wear a nicotine patch for two weeks before you actually quit (check with your GP before you do this). The patch interferes with how smoking makes you feel, making it easier to stop when the day comes. "What reinforces the addiction to smoking is the connection between inhaling smoke and getting an immediate nicotine effect," says Dr Jed Rose, who conducted a trial at Duke University in North Carolina, US.

"When wearing the patch, the body and brain become accustomed to a certain level of nicotine, so the high from having a cigarette is not as noticeable. It's like eating when you're not hungry."

2 Cook some broccoli

THIS is the king of life-extending foods and we should be eating it at least three or four times a week to stay healthy.

It's so powerful that this green has been linked to a lower risk of breast, bowel and lung cancers.

And while any broccoli will provide protection, a new variety just hitting your supermarket shelves may even lengthen your life.

Sold in most supermarkets, tenderstem broccoli contains 45 per cent more glucosinolates than normal broccoli. For best results, steam it as this releases higher levels of the important ingredients than boiling.

Natalie Savona, author of Wonderfoods, published by Quadrille, says: "A member of the cruciferous family, broccoli is a rich source of ingredients called glucosinolates, three of which -sulforaphane, singrin and indole-3-carbinol - have been shown to be powerful anti-cancer substances."

3 Book a smear test

SMEAR tests detect changes in the cels of the cervix before they become cancerous - which might explain why the majority of women diagnosed with actual cervical cancer are those who haven't had a smear test in the last three years. If you've been putting off your test, book an appointment today.

Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant at Cancer Research UK, advises: "If you've been delaying a smear test because you find it uncomfortable, ask your nurse to use a Winterson's speculum, which is longer and thinner and reduces discomfort."

Some doctors will also prescribe a mild tranquilliser to take before the test if you're really nervous, or try the homeopathic remedy arnica, which is claimed to reduce the shock of the procedure, making the 60 seconds it takes to complete easier to handle.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of tests, knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol are two of the most important ways to lower your heart disease risk. If you haven't had yours tested recently, Flora is offering free BP and cholesterol checks around the country until the end of the July. Visit www.shapeofyourheart for details.

4 Switch to "chill-out" FM

YOU might like listening to dance music while you're driving, but research from Ben Guiron University in Israel has found that listening to fast music in the car makes people more likely to speed and makes them twice as likely to jump a red light.

A rapid beat more than doubles the risk of having an accident. Which means listening to more chilled sounds. This could help prevent the number of fatal road accidents in the UK every year. Oh, and watch that ipod too - swirling that dial to find a favourite track can also cause crashes. According to US studie s, it doubles your risk of having an accident.

5 Microwave your BBQ

MEAT eaters suffer higher cancer rates than vegetarians, and it used to be that fat levels were blamed. Increasingly experts are pointing the finger at carcinogenic compounds that form on meat when it's cooked.

Mark Knize, an analytic chemist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, explains: "Heterocyclic amines form when meat or poultry is cooked at a very high heat, like when you barbecue or fry meat. However if you microwave meat for 90-120 seconds before cooking, the juice that leaks from the meat contains the amino-acids and other compounds that HCAs are formed of. Throw away this juice, and you eliminate the HCA risk."

Another tip is to always microwave on a glass dish, not a plastic one.

The chemical used to treat these has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, and it's believed it can be released by microwaving.

6 Buy a tape measure

WRAP it around your waist to find your measurement. If you're a woman and the result reads more than 35 inches, or a man who measures over 40 inches, you're carrying too much fat around your middle and as a result have a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Lyndel Costain, from the British Dietetic Association, says: "We don't know why excess fat around the middle is worse for health, but strong theories are that it contains more of the metabolically active brown fat cels, and releases various chemical messengers and hormones that upset the way the body controls things like insulin and cholesterol."

Losing weight on a low calorie, low fat diet will help reduce abdominal fat, but when you're choosing what to have for tea, avoid foods containing hydrogenated or trans fats. These are often found in processed foods, and particularly in goodies like cakes and biscuits.

In new research, animals on diets too low in calories to trigger weight gain, did get fatter if their diets were high in trans fats, and most of that weight was round their tummies.

7 Have a cup of coffee

DETOX enthusiasts might hate it but it's becoming increasingly likely that having a cup of coffee in the morning could save your life. It's been linked to a lower risk of liver cancer, alcoholic liver damage, breast cancer, Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, and others.

Roger Cook, director of the Coffee Science Information Centre in the UK, says: "We're not sure exactly what's causing the health benefits. Whether it's the high anti-oxidant levels - coffee actually contains four times more anti-oxidants than tea -or the actions of a substance called chlorogenic acid which is showing promise, but you certainly shouldn't worry if you want to start your day with a cup or two."

In fact you shouldn't feel guilty for anything up to five cups a day. Any more than this and few extra benefits are seen, but some negative effects (including caffeine addiction and a higher risk of brain haemorrhage) do start to kick in.

8 Look after your telomeres

TELOMERES are the little caps that seal the ends of your chromosomes, and they seem to make the major decision about how fast you age, and potentially how long you live as they could be linked to cancer development.

"They're like the plastic seal on the end of a shoelace, if that falls off, the shoelace unravels - and that's exactly what happens to your chromosomes when telomeres get damaged," says Professor Elizabeth Blackburn, the world's number one telomere expert from the University of California in San Francisco.

So far, three main things have been shown to attack telomeres - smoking, obesity, and long-lasting stress, which seems to attack the enzyme, called telomerase, that re-builds telomeres when they get damaged.

So, if you've got an issue that drags you down, day after day, tackle it now.

9 Walk 4,857 steps

TEN thousand steps might be the amount that will improve your fitness, but roughly half that is all you need take to save your life, says a new research study called the STRRIDE trial being carried out in the US.

The trial found that people walking 12 miles a week, that's an about 4,857 steps a day, had positive reductions in 17 life-saving measures including waist size, cholesterol level and the amount of insulin in their body.

Buy yourself a pedometer and get walking - 3,400 steps is roughly a 30-minute steady walk.

Or you can achieve it by taking the stairs instead of the lift, or by using the loo on the floor above your office.


SOOTHING SOUNDS: Mellow music can be good for you Picture: GETTY IMAGES
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 27, 2006
Previous Article:YourLIFE: UNDER THE KNIFE.

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