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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

From gum disease to high blood pressure: why prevention is better than cure

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I believe there are two types of people in the world: a small number who diligently wear sunblock every day; and then the rest of us, who step out on a sunny day, think “Oh, it’s warm”, but only reach for the SPF once we realise we’ve turned three shades darker (or redder).

And, to be frank, it’s the same with many aspects of our health. Even with the best intentions in the world, many of us are more reliant on cures than preventative measures. We forget to drink enough water and then rely on painkillers for dehydration headaches, fail to correct the posture that gives us back pain, and only start looking after our complexion when we accidentally flip our camera to selfie mode (the horror). After all, if it isn’t broken there’s nothing to fix, right?

But what if there was another way of looking at things? Could little tweaks in our behaviour and lifestyle prevent bigger problems? The universal answer from health experts is a resounding “yes”. Study after study finds that proactive, preventative changes can help us live a happier, healthier, longer life. Take the cornerstones of good health, for example. Not smoking – or giving it up if you do – would prevent 78,000 smoking-related deaths a year; dialling down alcohol consumption could reduce our risk of seven different types of cancer; while taking regular exercise may slash the risk of mental health problems such as depression.

But aside from the big guns, what other health issues could we stave off?

A little bit of knowledge has big preventative power, so keeping up to date with your NHS health checks (free every five years from the age of 40) could help you pinpoint specific areas to focus on. Discovering your cholesterol is becoming high could inspire you to take steps to avoid heart disease, while understanding how your weight relates to your health could help you sidestep type 2 diabetes.

Health Screening, A stethoscope on a patients blood results after a a consultation
Your family health history can highlight hereditary conditions such as high blood pressure. Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

Similarly, asking your parents or other relatives about your family health history can give you pointers for hereditary conditions that you might want to keep an extra watchful eye out for – whether that’s heart disease, high blood pressure or certain cancers. Although it’s vital to note that a family history doesn’t mean you will develop the condition and, on the flip side, not having a family history doesn’t give you the all-clear (lifestyle is also a huge factor).

And, of course, you shouldn’t forget your oral health either. “Taking better care of our mouths, and going to the dentist regularly, will significantly prevent the need for treatment further down the line,” says Dr Ian Dunn, a leading periodontist. Gum disease – which he specialises in – is both very common and, at the early stages, easy to treat. “Most of us will get gingivitis – known as early gum disease – at some point but, if it’s left untreated and becomes severe, it can result in intense gum inflammation that affects the bloodstream,” he says.

Blood in the sink after brushing or flossing, along with red, inflamed gums are some of the early easy-to-spot signs, and kicking it to the curb is as easy as brushing twice a day with Corsodyl toothpaste – which is four times more effective than a regular toothpaste at removing the main causes of bleeding gums*.

So, while you can’t prevent every health condition, there’s no ifs or buts about it: prevention is better, and easier, than cure. Think small tweaks with big health gains – your body and mind will thank you.

Healthy gums don’t bleed – if yours do, it’s time to take action. Brushing with Corsodyl toothpaste twice a day is clinically proven to help stop and prevent bleeding gums – so that’s one thing off your to-do list. To find out more, head to corsodyl.co.uk/products/toothpaste

*With twice daily brushing. For verification, email customer relations: customer.relations@gsk.com

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