Vital 5 ways to stay healthy

The Vital 5 describes 5 things that have a big impact on your health. They are:

By measuring these 5 things routinely, we can find and manage any risks to your health earlier.

If you make improvements in the 5 areas, you can stay healthier for longer. The Vital 5 ways to stay healthy are to:

  • stop smoking
  • reduce harmful drinking
  • reduce obesity (being overweight)
  • identify and improve poor mental health
  • control your blood pressure


No matter how long you have smoked, quitting can improve your health straight away.

We offer a stop smoking service to help you. With this support, you are 4 times more likely to give up smoking than if you do it alone.

Call 020 7188 0995 or email: [email protected]

The NHS website has more information and help to quit smoking.


Regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week can damage your health. 1 unit of alcohol is half a small glass of wine, or half a pint of regular strength beer.

To reduce how much alcohol you drink, you can:

  • spread your drinking over 3 or more days, if you drink as many as 14 units a week
  • try to have drink-free days each week

There are more tips on the NHS website to help you drink less.

If you are pregnant or think that you might be, it's safest not to drink at all.

If you're worried about your drinking, please make an appointment with a GP.

If you have symptoms like shaking, sweating or feeling anxious before your first drink of the day, it's important to talk to a GP before you stop drinking.

Body mass index (BMI)

Keeping to a healthy weight is important for your general health. If you are overweight, this increases your chance of getting conditions such as:

  • heart disease
  • some cancers
  • type 2 diabetes

Body mass index (BMI) is when we measure your weight and height. We divide your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in metres squared. This gives a number that helps to show if you are a healthy weight.

BMI range Weight range
18.5 to 24.9 Healthy
25 to 29.9 Overweight
30 to 39.9 Obese
40 or above Severely obese

BMI is a starting point for us to check your weight and health, but we look at other things too.

Muscle is heavier than fat. Very muscular people might be a healthy weight, even if their BMI is classed as obese.

Your ethnicity can also affect your chance of getting some health conditions. For example, Asian adults might have a higher chance of getting health problems at BMI levels below 25.

The NHS website has information on eating well and moving more.

Mental health

Mental health describes your wellbeing. Like your physical health, this can be better or worse at times. Good mental health can help you to:

  • feel better
  • sleep better
  • do the things that you want to do
  • have more positive relationships with those around you

It's common for people with physical health conditions to have changes in their mood.

If you have a hospital appointment, we might send you a mental wellbeing assessment to complete. This checks your mood and levels of anxiety. Your doctor can share the results with you.

The NHS website has information about mental health and where you can get support.

Mind is a charity that has many self-help resources.

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) offers confidential and free support anywhere in the UK through a helpline and webchat service.

NHS psychological therapies

If you live in England and are aged 18 or over, you can access NHS psychological therapies (IAPT) services.

These include talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and support with mental health problems, like anxiety and depression. A GP can refer you, or you can refer yourself.

Blood pressure

High blood pressure is not something you can usually feel or notice. About 5 million people in the UK live with undiagnosed high blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure, you're more likely to get coronary heart disease (when the blood vessels supplying the heart are narrowed or blocked) or have a stroke.

As a general guide:

  • high blood pressure is 140/90mmHG or higher
  • the ideal blood pressure is between 90/60mmHG and 120/80mmHg

We do not always know what causes high blood pressure. Some things can make you more likely to get high blood pressure, such as:

  • smoking
  • being overweight
  • eating too much salt
  • drinking too much alcohol

If we tell you that you have high blood pressure, we might recommend some lifestyle changes to help reduce it. These could include:

  • losing weight
  • exercising or doing more physical activity
  • reducing the salt in your diet
  • cutting down on alcohol
  • eating a balanced and healthy diet

The NHS website has more information about the causes of high blood pressure and ways to reduce it.

The British Heart Foundation has guidance on managing your blood pressure at home.


Resource number: 4766/VER2
Last reviewed: June 2022
Review due: June 2025

Trusted Information Creator. Patient Information Forum

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Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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