The health commandments all women should know based on research examining more than a MILLION of us

Even a small glass of wine a day increases the risk of breast cancer. That was the shocking news for women earlier this month from the Million Women Study, a survey of female health involving 1.3 million British women aged 50 and over.

Run by Oxford University scientists, it was set up in 1996 to examine the effects of HRT and possible links to cancer and other diseases. Already the study has produced key findings about health issues - from the Pill to alcohol consumption and childbearing.

Combined with other women's health research, all this information works as a blueprint for women's future wellbeing.

  • DON'T BE TOO CLEAN

Around 30 per cent of British women don't wash their hands enough for good hygiene, according to studies by the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

However, soap and water are sufficient - and using too many high-tech anti-bacterial products can be counter-productive. Not only will they not stop colds and flu (which are transmitted by viruses, not bacteria), but they could affect the delicate balance of bacteria in our bodies, allowing stronger bugs to become dominant, says leading American microbiologist Dr Mary Ruebush, author of Why Dirt Is Good.

Most micro-organisms cause no problem, and many, like the ones that normally live in the digestive tract and produce life-sustaining nutrients, are essential to good health - these are the ones, she says, that are usually wiped out by anti-bacterial agents.

  • GO ON THE PILL

It will dramatically cut your risk of ovarian cancer, the silent killer, as the Million Women Study found. Furthermore, you will continue to be protected for at least 30 years after you stop. The study has shown that for every five years a woman has been on the Pill, her relative risk of ovarian cancer is cut by 20 per cent.

Those who take it for 15 years cut their risk by half.

  • DRINK TEA

Gum disease is emerging as a major factor in heart disease. The germs in the mouth create thousands of tiny blood clots, which can cause a narrowing of the arteries, a common cause of heart attacks.

With cardiovascular disease killing more women a year than breast cancer, it's essential to keep gum disease at bay. One of the best ways to fight cavities and reduce plaque - a precursor to gum disease - is drinking black tea. American researchers have found compounds in it not only kill cavity-causing bacteria in dental plaque, but affect an enzyme - glucosyltranferase - which helps convert sugars into the sticky material plaque uses to stick to teeth.

On exposure to black tea, bacteria also lose their ability to form clumps with other bacteria in plaque, thereby reducing the total mass of the dental plaque.

  • TAKE FOLIC ACID

It's a supplement most women associate with preventing birth defects - you should take 400 mcgs for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. But it also reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in women. AMD is a progressive eye disorder which is often untreatable, and leads to blindness.

Now the world-renowned Harvard Medical School has shown folic acid taken with vitamins B6 and B12 reduced the risk of this debilitating condition by a staggering 41 per cent. 'The beneficial effect of treatment began to emerge at approximately two years of follow-up and persisted throughout the sevenyear trial,' said the researchers.

In the trial, participants (who were aged over 40) took a daily 2.5 milligrams of folic acid, 50 mgs of vitamin B6 and 1 mg of vitamin B12.

Source - Daily Mail