I try to keep up to date with developments in health – particularly when it concerns issues connected with ageing.

And I often read something in a new book, or article, or on a medical website which I find fascinating and didn’t know about before.  

Sometimes what I discover turns into a column for you. But often it’s just a short sentence or idea and I file it away in case it’s useful for another time.  

This week, I found myself going through that file and I decided to share some of the facts and figures in it, because I thought you might find them as interesting as I do. 

For example, I was totally unaware that if women and men do the same exercise, women derive more benefit from it than men do.

A new study, which came out in February, found that women who exercise are 24pc less likely to suffer death from any cause than women who don’t exercise. Perhaps you would expect that.

But the findings also revealed that men who exercise only improve their chances by 15pc. 

This seems extraordinary, doesn’t it? Particularly as, by nature, women are less likely to exercise than men. But maybe it will give fresh impetus to us females to get out there and walk or do whatever is our thing. 

I wrote about the brain a couple of weeks ago. This is an endlessly intriguing subject. Did you know that the brain’s composition is 73pc water? And that it is very easy for it to become dehydrated and, as a consequence, impaired? In fact, if you’re only dehydrated by 2pc, your memory, co-ordination and focus can suffer, and you can get that horrible brain fog feeling and experience a dip in your mood.  

So, make sure you’re drinking enough water. Often as we grow older, we don’t. And when we are insufficiently hydrated, it’s not just our brain that’s affected. Commonly, we feel irritated, hungry or generally unwell too. 

I often talk about keeping an optimistic attitude – and going through my file I noted that I had kept many links on this subject.

A very recent one, in New Scientist, highlighted research which found that people who perceive their older age in a positive way – and I take that to mean they value their lives, have plans and projects and feel purposeful – live on average more than seven years longer than individuals who don’t.  

Negative folk have a much harder time because their views tend to increase damaging stress chemicals in their bloodstreams as well as raise blood pressure. 

And while we’re on the subject of blood pressure, it seems that gardening is particularly good for lowering it.

This is because of the combination of physical activity plus the exposure to sunlight and vitamin D. Of course, one has to admit that gardening can sometimes lead to injury but on balance the bonuses far outweigh any downsides.   

Even if you don’t want to work in the garden, various studies over the years have demonstrated that simply being there, or in another natural and green environment, can boost our spirits and improve our mental health. 

The charity MIND once commissioned research which compared the effects on people of walking through gardens and shopping complexes.

There are no prizes for guessing that the green areas improved mental health while the urban areas made it worse. 

Other pioneering and randomised research by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich showed that post-surgical patients who were able to view plants and trees from their hospital beds, had less need of painkillers, fewer complications from their surgery and were able to go home sooner. 

We’re so lucky in East Anglia because we’re never far from fields and woods and greenery so let’s be sure we make full use of them and reap the benefits.   

And do remember, when we enjoy nature, this often leads to us doing more walking or other exercise in it. And the extra activity is good for us. In fact, the Department of Health and Social Care estimates that if the population increased its exercise levels by just 10pc, this would postpone 6,000 deaths and save the NHS £500 million every year. That’s a lot of people and a lot of money!

Are we doing all we can to keep ourselves healthy? 

Finally, perhaps you’re thinking that you might enjoy a cup of coffee in a moment.

Well, here’s some excellent news. It used to be that experts believed coffee could damage our cardiovascular systems. But according to Professor Tim Spector of Zoe Science and Nutrition, it can actually reduce heart attacks by 25pc.

More than that, it contains a surprising amount of fibre and also plenty of polyphenols, which are plant compounds that defend our bodies against environmental stresses. 

So, on the strength of that, I’m going to indulge in another cup!