There is now more and more scientific evidence linking the health of your mouth and your general health.
A link between gum health and heart disease, diabetes and strokes has already been established. There is
also increasing evidence for how your lifestyle and diet affects your health. We know that gum health may
be affected by things such as stress, diet, obesity and smoking and your risk of mouth cancer is related to alcohol consumption.
As your general health and mouth health are so closely interlinked, we thought we would give our patients some practical advice to help you be as healthy as you can be.
DietThe main messages for a healthy diet are:
- Try to eat 5 portions of fruit/veg per day - this may help to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Avoid too much salt - salt is often hidden in every day foods. Too much can lead to high blood pressure which increases the risk of getting heart disease or having a stroke. Adults should have no more than 6g per day.
- Cut back on fat - too much saturated fat can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Examples of foods with a lot of saturated fats are butter, cakes and fatty meats. Unsaturated fats are good for us, examples include nuts, avocado, oily fish, sunflower/olive oil.
- Limit sugar - sugary foods are a source of energy but with few other nutrients. Sugar is the main cause of tooth decay.
- Keep an eye on your calories - calories are a measurement of energy in food. If we eat more calories than we need, our bodies store this as fat. If we carry too much fat this increases our risk of problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and strokes.
Know your GDA (guideline daily amount) - soon to be called your RI (reference intake), these guidelines give you an idea about whether
you are eating the right amount and type of foods to stay healthy. An individual's nutritional requirements vary depending on gender,
weight, activity levels and age but as a rule of thumb, most people should stick to the following daily limits:
- Calories - 2000kcal
- Sugar - 90g (WHO target 50g)
- Total fat - 70g
- Saturated fat - 20g
- Salt - 6g
- To make it easier to follow these guidelines, food manufacturers often list the food's constituents on the label and may also use a traffic light style system to let you know how healthy they are.
Exercise keeps your heart healthy and is a great way of reducing stress levels. The guidelines are that adults need at least 150mins of
exercise a week (roughly 20mins a day), and children need to be active for at least 60mins every day.
Exercise for adults means doing something that increases your heart rate (so you can feel your heart beating faster) and perhaps breaking into a slight sweat.
The recommended guidelines for alcohol are that women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units per day (1 unit being about 1/2 pint beer or 1/2 large glass wine) and men not more than 3-4. Weekly targets are 14 units for women and 21 for men. Regularly drinking over the guidelines can lead to problems ranging from liver damage to greater risk of getting cancer or having a heart attack.
We all know about the serious effects of smoking on the body, but stopping is not always straight forward. To get help with stopping smoking, advice can be found by seeing your GP, going online to the NHS Smokefree website or calling the smokefree national helpline on 0800 0224332.
Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental pressure and is very common these days. It effects how you feel, think, behave and how your body works (including leading to high blood pressure). Signs of stress include sleeping problems, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating and irritability. Try the following stress- busting ideas:
- Be active - exercise is good at 'clearing your head'.
- Take control - feelings of loss of control are one of the main causes of stress. Take time to plan your strategy.
- Connect with people - 'a problem shared is a problem halved'.
- Have some 'me time' - you need to recharge the batteries.
- Challenge yourself - for example, try taking up a new activity.
- Avoid unhealthy habits - don't rely on alcohol, smoking or caffeine as your ways of coping.
- Do volunteer work - helping others has been shown to make you feel better.
- Work smarter not harder - good time management means quality work rather than quantity. You need to spend more of your time doing the most important things.
- Be positive - look for the positives in life and the things for which you're grateful.
- Accept the things you can't change - concentrate on the things you can actually do something about.