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Can you protect your family and the planet? Let your medicine cabinet soothe your conscience

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More and more products on the market claim to care for the Earth as well as for us.

It’s essential to find ways to lessen our impact on the world around us, say experts. 

Tracy Lyons, a pharmacist at Poole Hospital in Dorset, with a special interest in planet-friendly pharmacy, explains: ‘I’ve recently been in a medical meeting where we discussed how the impact of Covid will be dwarfed by that of climate change in the next few years. It’s the largest health crisis we will ever face.’

Tracy plus Hampshire pharmacist Sultan Dajani and James Goolnik, a London dentist, gave their verdicts on the eco-friendliness and effectiveness of products. We then rated them.

Bamboo plasters

Patch aloe vera plasters,

25 for £6.99, hollandandbarrett.com

Patch aloe vera plasters

Claim: Made of 100 per cent biodegradable natural bamboo fibres. The gauze contains aloe vera extract to soothe minor burns, blisters and abrasions. ‘Free of chemicals and suitable for all sensitive skin types,’ the manufacturer claims.

Expert verdict: ‘These are very good,’ says Sultan Dajani. ‘Aloe vera is soothing and acts as an anti-inflammatory, while moisturising the area to minimise damage to the skin and promote healing.’

Tracy Lyons adds: ‘If these are plastic-free and made purely of bamboo, there is no reason they shouldn’t biodegrade easily. We use these at home and have found them just as effective as normal plasters for everyday cuts and grazes.’

8/10

Petroleum-free jelly

Beauty Kitchen Natruline Vegan, 20g for £2.99, lloydspharmacy.com

Claim: ‘Scientifically proven to hydrate and protect,’ says the maker of this natural carnauba wax and castor seed oil treatment. It contains no petroleum or parabens (chemicals thought to disrupt hormones).

Expert verdict: ‘Petroleum jelly [such as Vaseline] is a by-product of the petroleum manufacturing process [part of the fossil fuel industry],’ says Tracy Lyons.

Sultan Dajani adds: ‘Some people are allergic to Vaseline but it’s effective for protecting the skin and locking in moisture. The oils and waxes [used here] won’t provide moisture —and castor seed oil could be an allergen.’

4/10

Beauty Kitchen Natruline Vegan

Biodegradable anti-bac wipes

Cheeky Panda biodegradable handy wipes, 12 wipes for 75p, cheekypanda.com

Cheeky Panda biodegradable handy wipes

Claim: These bamboo wipes are ‘100 per cent biodegradable, naturally hypoallergenic’ and contain no chlorine or ‘chemical nasties’. 

The wipes are biodegradable but the packaging isn’t currently widely recyclable in the UK.

Expert verdict: ‘There’s nothing in these to harm the skin — it looks like just water and aloe vera for a bit of moisturising,’ says Tracy Lyons.

Sultan Dajani adds: ‘The antibacterial action of aloe vera is very mild. And just because it’s a mild antibacterial doesn’t make it antiviral. But at least they’re biodegradable. These would be good for cleaning a small cut but not for disinfecting — so you won’t find them in my first-aid kit.’

6/10

Organic sanitary pads 

TOTM organic cotton pads, ten pads for £3.35, tesco.com

Claim: These sanitary pads are 100 per cent organic cotton. They come wrapped in a compostable cornstarch film, packed in recyclable cardboard.

Expert verdict: ‘These appear to be as absorbent and comfortable as traditional pads, so you could easily make the swap,’ says Sultan Dajani. 

Tracy Lyons adds: ‘Compostable pads are infinitely better for the environment than normal sanitary pads, which it is estimated can each contain up to four carrier bags worth of plastic.

‘Compostable pads have the potential to tackle a significant pollution problem — and they have good reviews.’

9/10

TOTM organic cotton pads,

Forest friendly muscle rub

Little Green Skincare & Soap Muscle Balm, 65g for £8, peacewiththewild.co.uk

Little Green Skincare & Soap Muscle Balm

Claim: Comfrey and yarrow reduce swelling and aid healing of sore muscles, and lavender oil has pain-relieving properties. Not tested on animals.

Expert verdict: ‘This seems quite ‘green’ — but not terribly effective,’ says Sultan Dajani. 

‘Muscle rubs work in several ways. One is by using anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation.

‘The action of massage also increases blood flow to the area, removing lactic acid that can build up during exercise, causing muscle pain. But none of the ingredients in this balm have been proven to help in any other way than as a nice massage oil.’

Tracy Lyons says this product is palm oil-free — the market for palm oil is a major contributor to deforestation.

3/10

Khakibos insect-repellent gel

‘Natural’ insect repellent  

Khakibos insect-repellent gel, 60ml for £7.95, peacewiththewild.co.uk

Claim: This contains aloe vera, citronella, geranium and lemon eucalyptus oils, ‘renowned for their insect-repellent properties’, says the manufacturer.

Expert verdict: ‘You cannot risk your health with something like this,’ says Sultan Dajani. 

‘If you’re going to a foreign country that has malaria, you mustn’t risk it with anything weaker than 50 per cent DEET [an insect-repelling chemical]. None of these natural alternatives match up. It’s great that it’s eco-friendly but the bottom line is it is not effective.’

1/10 

Ethique The Perfector

Moisturiser in a recyclable box

Ethique The Perfector, 65g for £26.99, hollandandbarrett.com

Claim: Made with kokum butter for dry and mature skin, this moisturiser is sold as three bars in a compostable box. Each pack is equivalent to three 60ml plastic bottles and 500ml of water saved. One tree is planted for every order, the maker says.

Expert verdict: Sultan Dajani says: ‘The ingredients are kind to the skin and much the same as in many moisturisers — hyaluronic acid [to attract moisture], vitamin B5 [for skin health], and kokum butter helps form a barrier to keep moisture locked in.’

‘Compostable is the best option for anything disposable,’ adds Tracy Lyons.

8/10

Green People scent-free sun cream SPF30

Ocean-kind sun screen

Green People scent-free sun cream SPF30, 200ml for £25, greenpeople.co.uk

Claim: SPF30 broad-spectrum protection cream in recyclable packaging, Green People promises the formula is reef-safe (as it does not contain common UV-blocking chemicals oxybenzone or octinoxate, which studies have shown can cause coral bleaching).

Expert verdict: ‘I like the fact it’s SPF30 — the minimum protection I’d recommend,’ says Sultan Dajani. 

‘Most creams claim to suit sensitive skin but it’s great this one doesn’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate.’ 

Tracy Lyons adds: ‘This product also has a great social link-up with the Marine Conservation Society.’

9/10

Bio-plastic toothbrush

Tepe Good Soft Toothbrush

Tepe Good Soft Toothbrush, £2.75, ocado.com

Claim: Made from bio-based plastic — 96 per cent sugar cane — and produced using renewable energy.

Expert verdict: ‘A lot of eco-friendly toothbrushes are fine for a weekend but get soggy, smelly and not very good at removing food and plaque,’ says Dr Goolnik.

‘I like the Tepe Good as the handle is made of renewable sugar cane, so it’s good for the planet but also lasts the three months a toothbrush needs to last. The filaments are effective at removing food and plaque. The issue with many other toothbrushes is they are not made from recycled or renewable materials.’

8/10

Brushd toothpaste tablets with added fluoride

Toothpaste tablets in a jar

Brushd toothpaste tablets with added fluoride, 62 for £5, boots.com

Claim: Packaged in glass jars, the maker urges you to ‘Bite. Chew. Brush’ with these ‘no paste, no waste’ toothpaste tablets.

Expert verdict: ‘These contain similar ingredients to normal toothpaste, including fluoride, and are better for the environment,’ says Sultan Dajani. 

‘Brushing is the most important element and I am concerned these would not bite down into a uniform paste.’ 

Dentist Dr Goolnik adds: ‘Brushd contains sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, which can lead to mouth ulcers.’

3/10 

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Vaccines available for all over-25s from today

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Only three Britons have contracted the Indian variant of Covid-19 after having both jabs, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.  

It comes as all over-25s in England will be able to get a Covid vaccine from today. 

Mr Hancock announced the change in Parliament as he said Britain’s rollout is moving at an ‘extraordinary pace’. 

Until now only over-30s had been able to book appointments, save for surge clinics in some areas where they had been temporarily opened to younger groups.

People in their 20s are the adults at lowest risk from Covid but the NHS has now given a first dose to 77 per cent of people already so only around one in four are left.

The chief of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, said England is now entering the ‘home straight’ of the vaccine programme and added ‘getting the jab is the most important thing you can do’.

Britain is now in a race against the Indian variant as medics try to vaccinate as many people as possible to protect them from the strain which Mr Hancock said is likely 40 per cent more transmissible than the Kent variant was. 

In a boost for vaccine effectiveness, just three people who have had both vaccine doses were admitted to hospital with the Delta variant. 

‘The jabs are working, we have to keep coming forward to get them and that includes, vitally, that second jab, which we know gives better protection against the Delta variant,’ Mr Hancock said.  

Public Health England warned last week a single dose of vaccine does not appear to work as well against the now-dominant ‘Delta’ variant as it did against the Kent strain, meaning getting the booster jab is crucial.  

Scientists have said as many people as possible – including teenagers – need to get vaccinated to stop the new variant from spreading.

Meanwhile, Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford said the NHS there will have offered vaccines to all adults over 18 by Monday, putting it six weeks ahead of the end-of-July schedule. 

The Health Secretary announced the change in Parliament yesterday as scientists warned jabs must be given to as many people as possible to stop the new variant

Mr Hancock said in the House of Commons: ‘From this week we will start offering vaccinations to people under 30, bringing us ever closer to the goal of offering a vaccine to all adults in the UK by the end of next month.

‘From tomorrow morning we will open up vaccination to people aged 25 to 29. 

‘Over the remainder of this week the NHS will send texts to people in these age groups and of course GPs will be inviting people on their lists to come forward…

‘The latest estimates indicate the vaccination programme has averted over 39,000 hospitalisations and over 13,000 deaths. 

‘So the vaccination brings us hope and I’m sure the whole house will join me in thanking people for their perseverance and patience as they’ve waited for their turn.’

Sir Simon added: ‘Tomorrow is a watershed moment as the world-beating NHS vaccination programme enters the home straight of our race to offer everyone their first dose.

‘The NHS vaccination programme is a real team effort and it is a testament to NHS teams across the country, that we are able to open up to people in their twenties just six months on from delivering that world first jab to Maggie Keenan.

WALES COMMITS TO JABS FOR ALL OVER-18s BY MONDAY

Wales today committed to offering jabs to all over-18s by Monday. 

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the milestone will be hit six weeks ahead of the UK target for giving vaccines to everyone over the age of 18 by the end of July.

Wales has given a first jab to 2.18million people, or 86 per cent of the adult population, which is currently the best record of any country in the world.

However, Wales is lagging behind England and Scotland when it comes to the proportion of the population who have received both doses. 

Mr Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff: ‘We will make the offer of vaccination to all eligible adults six weeks ahead of schedule and we expect to reach 75 per cent take-up across all priority groups and age groups a month ahead of target.

‘This is a remarkable achievement and a tribute to the hard work of all those involved in the programme – to all those doing the complex work of planning behind the scenes and to the thousands of people vaccinating and helping to run the clinics across the country.’ 

He said the government would now ‘switch our efforts to accelerate second doses’, with a target of covering the whole population by September. 

‘Subject to supply, we’re confident that we can deliver second doses as fast and as successfully as we have first doses,’ he said.

The updated strategy expects to deliver around 28,000 second doses every day over the summer months.

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‘The tireless efforts of NHS staff to protect the people they care for and their communities has quite simply saved lives, and when you get the text, you’re next.’  

The vaccine rollout has given 40.3million people across the UK their first dose and 27.9million both jabs, meaning half of all adults are fully vaccinated. 

Mr Hancock said the vaccines have saved thousands of lives already and kept even more people out of hospital.

It is rare for people who have had both doses to end up in hospital or die, even after catching the Indian variant, he said.

Scientists’ and ministers’ biggest fear is that a new variant that the vaccines don’t work against will come along and cause a gigantic third wave – but the current Delta strain is still susceptible to jabs. 

The Health Secretary said the vaccine is ‘breaking the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths, a link that was rock solid back in the autumn’.

Cases in Bolton, the first hotspot for the strain, have started to fall, he said as he attributed some of this success to surge vaccinations, offering proof that the variant could be controlled without lockdowns. 

He added: ‘Despite the rise in cases, hospitalisations have been broadly flat. 

‘The majority of people in hospital with Covid appear to be those who haven’t had the vaccine at all.

‘I want to update the House on some new information that we have on this. As of the third of June our data show that of the 12,383 cases of the Delta variant, 464 went on to present at emergency care and 126 people were admitted to hospital. 

‘Of these 126 people, 83 were unvaccinated, 28 had received one dose and just three had received both doses of the vaccine.’

He said: ‘The jabs are working, we have to keep coming forward to get them and that includes vitally that second jab which we know gives better protection against the Delta variant.’

Wales today committed to offering jabs to all over-18s by Monday. 

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the milestone will be hit six weeks ahead of the UK target for giving vaccines to everyone over the age of 18 by the end of July.

Wales has given a first jab to 2.18million people, or 86 per cent of the adult population, which is currently the best record of any country in the world. 

However, the country is lagging behind England and Scotland when it comes to the proportion of the population who have received both doses. 

Mr Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff: ‘We will make the offer of vaccination to all eligible adults six weeks ahead of schedule and we expect to reach 75 per cent take-up across all priority groups and age groups a month ahead of target.

‘This is a remarkable achievement and a tribute to the hard work of all those involved in the programme – to all those doing the complex work of planning behind the scenes and to the thousands of people vaccinating and helping to run the clinics across the country.’ 

He said the government would now ‘switch our efforts to accelerate second doses’, with a target of covering the whole population by September. 

‘Subject to supply, we’re confident that we can deliver second doses as fast and as successfully as we have first doses,’ he said.

The updated strategy expects to deliver around 28,000 second doses every day over the summer months. 

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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How can I avoid side-effects of blood pressure drugs? DR MARTIN SCURR answers your health questions

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I have high blood pressure but can’t get on with any of the blood pressure tablets I have been treated with over the past 30 years. The side effects have affected me terribly. Are there any other treatments I could try?

Margaret Delaney, Ealing, London.

At 73 you are not long past middle-age and you should have years of life ahead of you — but keeping your blood pressure under control is essential to ensure this.

The medications commonly prescribed for hypertension (high blood pressure) have changed considerably over the past three decades, and there is a range of good drugs available.

These include thiazide-type diuretics (e.g. hydrochlorothiazide, chlorthalidone and indapamide), which work by helping to widen blood vessels and therefore lower blood pressure.

At 73 you are not long past middle-age and you should have years of life ahead of you — but keeping your blood pressure under control is essential to ensure this

Other options are ACE inhibitors (e.g. enalapril and lisinopril), which relax blood vessels; angiotensin receptor blockers or ARBs (e.g. losartan and valsartan), which act on hormones involved in restricting blood flow; and calcium channel blockers (e.g. amlodipine, diltiazem and verapamil), which reduce the amount of calcium entering the artery walls, making it easier for the heart to pump blood.

All of these are equally effective in between 30 and 50 per cent of patients. It is not unusual for there to be some trial and error when it comes to identifying the best drug for each individual, as side effects are common.

With any of these medications, you start by taking a low dose and only increase the level very gradually, perhaps over four to eight weeks. 

Constant supervision — often from a practice nurse — is essential, though monitoring your blood pressure is something you can do yourself. This reduces the frequency of face-to-face appointments, but you must still attend clinic at regular intervals.

In terms of your particular case, it is uncommon — though not unheard of — for patients to react negatively to all four classes of the drugs I’ve mentioned.

Indeed, I have come across such a patient myself, and I referred her to a cardiologist who had a research interest in treating hypertension.

Constant supervision — often from a practice nurse — is essential, though monitoring your blood pressure is something you can do yourself. This reduces the frequency of face-to-face appointments, but you must still attend clinic at regular intervals

My patient’s blood pressure was eventually stabilised with moxonidine, a drug that binds to receptors in the brain, which in turn relaxes the blood vessel walls. Moxonidine is used when other medications have failed to help, and it has fewer side effects.

The best ‘natural’ approach involves weight loss if you are overweight, daily exercise (proven to play a role in lowering blood pressure), and eating less salt.

A regular meditative activity such as yoga or — my favourite — tai chi may also pay dividends. Unfortunately, there are no natural supplements proven to be effective in lowering blood pressure.

I had a carcinoma removed from my nose two years ago. Although the procedure was successful, it’s left me with a runny nose whenever I have hot meals and drinks. Do you have any suggestions for a remedy?

P. A. Williams, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

This is clearly a troubling symptom, but fortunately there is a solution. The type of skin cancer you had is basal cell carcinoma (BCC), which appears as a small, shiny pink or pale lump. 

It’s caused by damage to the basal cells (found at the bottom of the outermost layer of skin) and is most often triggered by sun exposure. Typically BCCs are found on areas often exposed to sunshine, including the face, scalp, back of the hands or ears.

BCCs are often like an iceberg, i.e. a greater proportion of the cancer is found below the surface.

I suspect that this ‘iceberg effect’ was the case with you, and that, as a result, the surgeon had to remove more of the tissue underneath, because the cancer had been embedded deeply into the nose.

This affected the interior of your nasal cavity, triggering the streaming nose, or gustatory rhinorrhoea (‘gustatory’ refers to its link to eating, and ‘rhinorrhoea’ is the term for a runny nose).

Many people experience this streaming after eating spicy foods, because these affect nerves that stimulate the release of saliva and mucus.

But your response has become worse, possibly as a result of surgery.

The good news is that there is medication which may help.

Your GP should be able to prescribe a nasal spray called ipratropium (trade name Rinatec), which prevents the nerve impulses that trigger a runny nose.

By using a tiny amount of this spray in exactly the right place, once daily, you will be able to control the symptom.

The spray can be used for as long as is needed.

Write to Dr Scurr

Write to Dr Scurr at Good Health, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email drmartin@dailymail.co.uk — include your contact details.

Dr Scurr cannot enter into personal correspondence. Replies should be taken in a general context and always consult your own GP with any health worries.

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Spider-shaped device could help millions of men get a good night’s sleep

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An implant shaped like a spider could help millions of men with an enlarged prostate get a good night’s sleep.

The device, which expands to up to two inches long, pushes swollen prostate tissue away from the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body.

It could cut night-time trips to the loo for men with an enlarged prostate, which is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia.

The condition affects an estimated 3.2 million men in the UK. It occurs when the prostate — a walnut-shaped gland that surrounds the urethra and makes some of the components of semen — gets bigger with age, possibly due to changes in hormone levels.

As the prostate grows, it can push against the urethra and the bladder, restricting the flow of urine.

The new device — a small cylinder attached to three thin metal ‘legs’ — is designed to ease urinary symptoms without causing side-effects

This can lead to frequent bathroom trips, especially at night, as well as problems in starting urination and difficulty in fully emptying the bladder.

Treatments range from lifestyle changes, such as not drinking too much at night, to taking prescribed medicines that relax the muscles at the base of the bladder, making it easier to urinate.

But drugs may have side-effects, including nasal congestion, swollen ankles and ejaculation problems, and up to two-thirds of men stop taking them after one year.

Excess prostate tissue can be removed through a procedure known as transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), but it can lead to incontinence and impotence if the surrounding nerves are damaged during the surgery.

The new device — a small cylinder attached to three thin metal ‘legs’ — is designed to ease urinary symptoms without causing side-effects.

It is made from nitinol, a ‘memory metal’ that at room temperature can easily be compressed, but at body temperature expands back to its original shape. 

In a five-minute procedure under local anaesthetic, the collapsed implant is navigated down the urethra using a catheter — a thin tube — and a camera.

Once in place at the bladder neck, the ‘legs’ unfurl, pushing back the prostate tissue. This makes it easier for urine to pass into the urethra from the bladder, by widening the channel through which urine flows. The device is removed after five to seven days, but the prostate tissue remains pushed back.

A study on 185 men aged 55 to 70 found the procedure highly effective. Symptoms eased in eight in ten men, and urinary flow rate improved by more than 50 per cent, the journal Urology reports.

None of the study’s participants became impotent owing to the procedure. The researchers, from Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York in the U.S., and the University of Toronto in Canada, concluded that it provided a ‘safe and rapid’ treatment option for men with benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Professor Raj Persad, a consultant urologist at Bristol Urology Associates, said: ‘Any means of reducing this problem are to be welcomed.

‘This device does the trick. It is only used for a short period — any foreign body left in the urinary tract may induce infection.

‘The holy grail would be finding a device like this that can remain in situ, achieving its effects indefinitely.’

Men with asthma may be up to twice as likely to develop an enlarged prostate, a study involving 47,000 males found.

The link was particularly strong among younger men and those not being treated for their asthma, as reported in the journal Medicine.

The researchers, from Hallym University College of Medicine in South Korea, speculated that the chronic, low levels of inflammation involved in both conditions explain the link.

Paws for thought

The health problems we may pass to our pets. This week: Tuberculosis (TB)

Although no longer common in the UK, TB still affects about 4,500 people here — and can be passed between dogs and humans.

‘Human TB in Britain is usually caused by the bacterium M. tuberculosis (Mtb) which is fairly happy in a canine host,’ says Conor O’Halloran of Vets4Pets in Edinburgh. 

It can also pass from animals to humans. Mtb is mostly spread through droplets from coughing. Symptoms in dogs include chronic cough and enlarged lymph nodes, then weight loss and lethargy. As it’s rare in pets it can be hard to diagnose.

‘Sadly, as animals with Mtb infections are a risk to humans and other animals, those with Mtb are usually euthanised,’ says Conor O’Halloran.

‘If anyone in a household is infected with TB it’s important they take advice to reduce risk of infection to their dog.’

Exercise cuts risk of lung condition

The risk of suffering from a common lung disease is reduced by exercise, a study in the journal Radiology suggests.

Bronchiectasis is an inflammatory condition that prompts the airways to widen, causing a build-up of mucus, and increasing the risk of infection.

Scientists from Harvard Medical School in the U.S. looked at exercise levels and CT scans from more than 2,000 healthy adults over a period of 30 years and found that those who were more fit at middle age (the study began when participants were aged between 18 and 30) had a lower risk of bronchiectasis.

The researchers suggested that cardio-respiratory fitness may reduce inflammation, and also might play a role in improving the clearance of troublesome mucus from the lungs.

Eye checks could help spot dementia early

Clues to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease could be found in blood vessels at the back of the eye, according to researchers at the University of Southern California in the U.S.

Using advanced imaging technology, they analysed the tiny blood vessels or capillaries in 13 patients at different stages of an inherited form of early-onset Alzheimer’s and 21 otherwise healthy people.

The dementia patients had notably different blood flow patterns from the healthy control group.

These abnormal patterns might indicate early inflammatory changes involved in Alzheimer’s, reported the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

Clues to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease could be found in blood vessels at the back of the eye, according to researchers at the University of Southern California in the U.S 

Losing a tooth may be worse than you think

Tooth loss may be responsible for causing problems carrying out day-to-day tasks, such as shopping, gardening and taking medication, according to a study.

Researchers from Tokyo Dental and Medical University in Japan reviewed data from more than 5,600 adults aged between 50 and 60 and found that those who had fewer teeth were more likely to struggle with everyday activities.

The researchers, writing in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, said that this could be because people who have fewer teeth may also have diets that are generally less nutritious — which could contribute to poor health overall, including brain function.

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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