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Me and my health: Heather Monteverde on her lifestyle

 

The 55-year-old is head of services for Macmillan Cancer Support in Northern Ireland. The eldest of six children brought up on a farm near Desertmartin, Londonderry, she trained as a general nurse and a registered sick children's nurse at the Ulster Hospital before undertaking oncology training at Belvoir Park Hospital. She lives in Ballygowan with her husband of 33 years, Peter, and they have three daughters, Giuliana (28), Sara (24) and Katie (20).

Q: Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?

A: I work quite irregular hours and commute a lot across the UK so committing to regular exercise is a challenge. I try to fit in a good walk when I can during the week and make a concerted effort at the weekends to get out and enjoy the fresh air.

Q: What's the worst illness you have had?

A: I am very fortunate that I have never had a serious illness. I have had some relatively minor surgery over my lifetime but nothing life-threatening.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I think I have a healthy diet but there's always room for improvement. It is well-known that a healthy diet is important in not only reducing the risk of developing cancer but many other serious health conditions.

I really try to have a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. I'm not a great lover of processed food and believe that cooking from scratch is always the healthier option.

We are so blessed in Northern Ireland to have such good quality produce.

Having been raised on a farm I am very fussy about buying meat from the butcher and not pre-packaged from the supermarket.

When I cook, I tend to make extra so that there's always something in the freezer for during the week when I have less time. I am a bit of a foodie and love cooking and entertaining at the weekend. My general belief is everything in moderation and enjoy a treat at the weekend and on holiday.

Q: Do you drink and/or smoke - if so, how much?

A: I have never smoked. I do enjoy a glass of chilled white wine from time to time.

Q: Do you have any bad habits?

A: I often offer to do things without thinking how I am going to get time to do it. I usually pull it off but put myself under pressure in the process!

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: I take multi vitamins regularly and, over the winter, a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones. We get it mainly from sunshine, which is in short supply in Northern Ireland over the winter months! It would be a real challenge to get what you need solely from your diet.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: I joined Ballygowan Community Voices, our village choir, last year. We meet in the village hall every Friday night and sing for an hour and a half, which is followed by a cup of tea and a chat.

I have found this to be a great way to relax and wind down after a busy week.

My cousin and I have been meeting for coffee every Saturday morning for the past 20-odd years where we put the world to rights, share our worries and support each other through the good and bad times. I'm a great believer in the old adage 'a problem shared is a problem halved'.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: I'm not a good sleeper and have tried all sorts, to no avail. Cutting out caffeine and having no screens for an hour before bedtime has been the only thing to help a bit.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: I don't worry about getting old but I do all that I can to stay healthy. I'm not sure what 55 is supposed to feel like but I still have lots of energy and there's so much I still want to do with my life.

For instance, I want to see more of the world. Both Peter and I really enjoy travelling and visiting different countries, trying different foods and experiencing other cultures.

Now that the girls are independent we would definitely like to travel more.

Q: What is your go-to product/habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: I don't really have a go-to product but when I'm under pressure or need some time out I love to go for a long walk by myself, by the sea if possible, to think and come up with a solution.

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