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Growing up back in the 40s, 50s and 60s was vastly different to how people grow up nowadays. With no social media or access to their friends and family’s virtual lives 24/7, more time was spent valuing real-life encounters and relationships. One of the ways in which people used to socialise back then was to go to local dances together, in order to have a good time and often meet a potential future partner. However, people would gather at such venues for one thing over everything else: A collective love of music.

According to the British Geriatrics Society, evidence shows that four in ten older people living in nursing homes in England are depressed. One way to combat depression in older people is with a technique called music therapy.

The British Association for Music Therapy explains: “Everyone has the ability to respond to music, and music therapy uses this connection to facilitate positive changes in emotional wellbeing and communication through the engagement in live musical interaction between client and therapist. It can help develop and facilitate communication skills, improve self-confidence and independence, enhance self-awareness and awareness of others, improve concentration and attention skills.”

More specifically, music therapy can be a brilliant aid for those living with dementia. An article published by the NHS describes music and memory as powerful connectors. “Music lights up emotional memories – everyone remembers songs from their past – the first kiss, the song at a wedding, seeing their parents dance and we often use music to remember people at funerals.

“Music can have many benefits in the setting of dementia. It can help reduce anxiety and depression, help maintain speech and language, is helpful at the end of life, enhances quality of life and has a positive impact on carers.”

According to Aging Care, music is particularly beneficial for people struggling with memory loss “because it’s easier for them to access the memory of a melody than to recall a person’s name or a past event. ‘The memory of the song stays with them much longer than regular memories’”, says Snyder-Cowan, director of the Elisabeth Prentiss Bereavement Center for Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.

The elderly often fall into the routine of not being as active as they should be if they find that they are stuck indoors a lot and can become demotivated by feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression. The NHS states that many adults aged 65 and over spend, on average, 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary age group.

However, there is some hope. It is a well known that regular exercise has been scientifically proven to delay the effects of ageing on the body, and introducing music therapy can encourage older people to get up and moving to their favourite songs. Regular exercise can lower the risk of getting heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia.

In an article published by Age UK Mobility, Retire at Home comments: “It has been found that even such minimal movement as tapping a foot or clapping hands is enough activity to release pent-up mental and physical stress, and bring a little joy into the room. For many seniors who are able, dancing to music is a wonderful way to exercise. Being swept into the rhythm of music can lower blood pressure and stimulate organs in the body.”

Music therapy can also encourage social interaction between lonely, older generations. As we mentioned in the introduction, dancing is how many used to socialise years ago, and so introducing music therapy can be nostalgic for lots of older people, a joy which they can all share together. Music therapy can initiate dancing, laughter and sharing stories – all being great ways to communicate and to keep the brain ticking.

The website of Bethany Village explains that music is known to bring people together. “In music therapy programs, older adults are encouraged to communicate and connect with other members of their group, often making new friends in the process. The social aspect of music therapy helps seniors alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.”

Your feet are the foundations of the body, yet they are often neglected over the years. This can negatively affect our balance, increase the risk of falling and on the extreme end of the scale prevent us from walking; all things that become more difficult as we age anyway. It’s important to look after your feet and to go to see a professional if you experience any pain or anything that feels out of the ordinary.

Health in Aging says that one in three people over the age of 65 has foot pain, stiffness, or aching feet. “Older people who are living in long-term care facilities tend to have even higher rates of foot problems. In the United States, up to 87% of people have painful feet at some time in their lives. Most of these problems derive from poorly fitting shoes, such as pointy-toed or high-heeled shoes.

“Older or obese people, women, and people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, or knee, hip, or back pain have much higher rates of foot problems. For women, pain in the toes and ball of the foot is much more common than in men, and it gets worse with age. However, pain in the heel tends to decrease as we get older.”

The good news is that a lot of these foot-related ailments that occur as we age are preventable. Here are some things you can do to keep your feet in tip-top shape as you get older:

1. Check your feet

We’ve all got used to checking the rest of our body for lumps and bumps, but how often do you check your feet? Make it part of your daily routine to inspect your feet for anything unusual. Check for dryness, discolouration, cuts and blisters. If anything looks like it could cause you concern – immediately or in the future – it’s a good idea to get a professional to look at it and give you some advice.

2. Practise good hygiene

You should wash your feet every day using warm soapy water, but avoid soaking them as this can destroy your skin’s natural oils. After washing make sure that you dry them thoroughly, as this can prevent infections such as athlete’s foot.

It’s also important to trim your toenails regularly and carefully, cutting straight across and not down at the edges as this can cause ingrown toenails.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

According to Harvard Health Publishing, being overweight affects your feet by putting greater force on them with each step. “It can also increase your risk of having a condition like arthritis in the feet and worsen pain from other foot problems. Being overweight can also harm foot health by putting you at higher risk for diabetes or poor blood circulation, which can lead to foot pain and loss of sensation in the feet.”

4. Wear the correct size of socks and shoes

Wearing ill-fitting shoes and socks can cause a number of health problems for your feet. Try new shoes on in the afternoon as our feet tend to swell during the day and make sure you change your socks daily to maintain good hygiene.

5. Stretch your feet

Stretching the tops and bottoms of your feet can help to ease foot pain. Stretching can also prevent a condition known as a shortened Achilles tendon.

The Verywell Health website says: “Tendons connect muscle to bone, and, if these are shortened due to water loss, you may end up with a more flat-footed gait since you will be less able to flex your ankle, mid-foot, and toes. This is especially true of the Achilles tendon which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone.

“Unless steps are taken to routinely stretch your Achilles tendon, you may be at greater risk of a tear or rupture if you overexert the tissues.”

6. Moisturise

Verywell Health adds: “Dry skin, especially on the soles of the feet, is a problem that may require a daily application of moisturiser to prevent cracking and infection. The gradual depletion collagen, exacerbated by the lack of consistent foot care, can lead to the formation of cracked heels and calluses.

“If left untreated, cracked skin around the heel can make it painful to walk or even stand.”

7. Get a foot “check-up”

Like going to the dentist, make visiting a podiatrist on a regular basis a habit. Such experts will be able to pick up any signs of foot problems that might cause you future bother far sooner than you might. They can offer treatment and advice to keep your feet at their best.

The word anxiety has become a real “buzzword” in recent years. As popularised by the Kardashian’s who describe not getting the perfect Met Gala dress as having “major anxiety”, it’s no wonder that we all seem to be a little confused when it comes to what the word means and whether we have legitimate reason to be anxious or not.

Anxiety is a mental disorder which can make everyday tasks seem overwhelming or impossible. The NHS explains that “anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe”. While everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, and this can be perfectly normal, they add that “some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives”.

If when you feel anxious you have any psychological or physical symptoms of feeling restless or worried, have trouble concentrating or sleeping, or experience dizziness or heart palpitations, you may be suffering from a condition known as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). “GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed.”

When does feeling anxious become a mental health problem?

Mind the mental health charity says that “anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem for you if our feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time, your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation, you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious, your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks, or you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy”.

A panic attack, according to the NHS, “is when your body experiences a rush of intense mental and physical symptoms. It can come on very quickly and for no apparent reason”. This can be a very scary thing to experience and panic attacks can be very frightening and distressing. Most panic attacks last for between 5 and 20 minutes, however some have been known to last up to an hour. Some people have attacks once or twice a month, while others have them several times a week.

The NHS adds that “although panic attacks are frightening, they’re not dangerous. An attack won’t cause you any physical harm, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be admitted to hospital if you have one”. You might be experiencing a panic attack if your symptoms include feeling faint, sweating, chest pain, chills or a feeling of dread or a fear of dying. There are many other symptoms that people experience when having a panic attack, but those are just a few examples.

If you think you could have an anxiety disorder, which is making life more difficult that it should be, the best thing you can do is go to your GP as a starting point, explain your symptoms and get a diagnosis if required. Your GP can then point you in the direction of treatment options and support to help you cope with your anxiety.

The waiting list in the UK for mental health help and referrals is notoriously long (and growing), as resources and funding continues to be squeezed in a difficult economy. If you have been put on a waiting list to receive treatment for your anxiety disorder, you might want to seek out other self-help options while you wait.

Healthline offer some great suggestions on how to manage anxiety on your own:

Identify and learn to manage your triggers

Try to think about the circumstances that make you feel anxious. Maybe this could be drinking caffeine or alcohol, or maybe hanging out with a specific person in your life. When you know what triggers you then you can try to limit your exposure; if you can.

Keep your body and mind healthy

Exercise regularly, eat well, get enough sleep, and hang around with people who help you to feel calm.

Do a daily or routine meditation

Meditation, when done regularly, can help you to train your brain to dismiss anxious thoughts when they appear. If you find sitting still and concentrating difficult, try starting with yoga.

Although the number of people who smoke has dropped significantly by 1.6 million over the last six years, according to Chemist 4 u, more than 15% of over 18s in the UK still currently smoke while 5.5% vape. “Current records state that smoking is responsible for around 96,000 deaths in the UK every year, and smoking-related diseases cost the NHS £2 billion a year.” The website adds that over 60% of current smokers want to quit.

If the majority of smokers want to quit, why is it so difficult for them to do so? The British Lung Foundation explains: “Tobacco smoke contains over 5,000 chemicals, including nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive, and smokers will develop a level of physical dependence to their use of tobacco. Nicotine is thought to be as addictive as heroin and cocaine.

“Some people who smoke also have a greater physical dependence on tobacco than others. This may be because they smoke more cigarettes or have smoked for a long time. Those people will experience more extreme withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.”

It’s true that quitting smoking is difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible. There are lots of reasons to want to quit smoking, but the most pressing would be for its health implications. The NHS says that smoking causes around 7 out of every 10 cases of lung cancer. It can also damage your heart and your blood circulation, increasing your risk of developing conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and cerebrovascular disease.

Additionally, smoking can worsen or prolong the symptoms of respiratory conditions such as asthma, or respiratory tract infections such as the common cold, and in men it can cause impotence because it limits the blood supply to the penis.

If all of that isn’t enough to help you quit, here are some additional tips to help you give up the cigarettes for good in 2020:

1. Let others know of your plans to quit

If everyone knows that you are trying to quit smoking then they can hold you accountable if they spot you with a cigarette in your hand. If there is societal pressure on you to quit you are more likely to stick to it.

2. Talk to your doctor first

Your doctor can offer advice on the best ways to quit according to your own individual health needs. They can suggest aids such as nicotine patches and gum, or suggest you take up vaping instead to ease the transition.

3. Focus on why you want to quit

Think of the implications of smoking on your health as listed above. Make a list of your own reasons for quitting and place it somewhere visible so that you can read it when you are feeling like you want to give up. This will motivate you to keep going when things get difficult.

4. Consider altering your diet

The NHS says that a US study revealed that some foods, including meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. “Others, including cheese, fruit and vegetables, make cigarettes taste terrible. So swap your usual steak or burger for a veggie pizza instead.

“You may also want to change your routine at or after mealtimes. Getting up and doing the dishes straight away or settling down in a room where you don’t smoke may help.”

5. Same goes for drinks

The NHS adds that “fizzy drinks, alcohol, cola, tea and coffee all make cigarettes taste better. So when you’re out, drink more water and juice. Some people find simply changing their drink (for example, switching from wine to a vodka and tomato juice) affects their need to reach for a cigarette”.

6. Hang out with people who don’t smoke

It’s much easier to turn down a cigarette if you are with people who aren’t nipping outside every 20 minutes for a smoke. Explain to your smoker friends that it’s nothing personal, you are just trying to distance yourself from temptation to smoke.

7. Exercise!

The NHS also says that if you want to quit smoking, it helps to get moving. “A review of scientific studies has proved exercise, even a 5-minute walk or stretch, cuts cravings and may help your brain produce anti-craving chemicals.”

It also helps to have another healthy habit to distract you from wanting to smoke, so why not try different sports, go walking with friends or join a local sports team. If you’re busy you can delay your urges to smoke more easily.

In the aftermath of the shocking suicide of Caroline Flack on February 15th 2020, the world has been forced to take a look at what they share online and the impact that could have on the mental health of other users. Obviously the scale of the online abuse and trolling towards Caroline was heightened due to her celebrity status, but lots of us are still subject to daily online abuse from “keyboard warriors” who seem to suffer no or little consequences for their actions.

An enquiry by Young Minds said that 38% of young people reported that social media has a negative impact on how they feel about themselves and that cyberbullying is “distinct and potent, particularly due to its potential to be relentless”. It found that young people thought social media companies’ current responses to cyberbullying were inadequate and that 83% of young people think that they should do more to tackle cyberbullying on their platforms.

Caroline’s story is tragic, and it is difficult to pin-point who or what is responsible for such an unnecessary loss of talent, but lots of people have taken to social media to blame a combination of harassment by the media centring on a story of an alleged assault by Caroline against her boyfriend at the time, and also the public’s response which was to hound her with messages of disgust online; some resorting to intense trolling.

An article published by the BBC explained that “trolls are people who leave intentionally provocative or offensive messages on the internet in order to get attention, cause trouble or upset someone”. In the article they spoke to Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), who explained that there are two main types of troll:

“The first type of troll targets public figures with large social media followings in the hope that they respond. The trolls then have their hateful messages re-broadcast to a wider audience when the target of their trolling, or their followers, respond. The other type of trolls are people who exhibit a psychological trait known as ‘negative social potency’ – this means they enjoy causing harm to others.”

Although it’s common sense that negative comments directed at someone will make them feel bad about themselves, the anonymity of the internet means that the bullying can be relentless and more damaging to our mental health. According to Thrive Global, victims of cyberbullying are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to their peers. They added that teen victims of cyberbullying are more depressed, irritable, and angry, and that cyberbullying affects 60 million working age Americans, or roughly 24% of the adult population.

According to The Sun “online bullying has grown by 88% in just five years, with thousands of children and teenagers being targeted”. They added that in October 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) introduced new laws that could see those who create “derogatory hashtags” or post “humiliating” Photoshopped images jailed. “Inciting people to harass others online, known as virtual mobbing, is among the offences included in the guidance. Baiting – when someone is humiliated online by being branded sexually promiscuous – is also mentioned in the guidance.

“The CPS also announced the launch of a hate crime consultation, issuing a series of public policy statements centred on combating crimes against disabled people, as well as racial, religious, homophobic and transphobic hate crime.”

Although not all of us have experienced trolling, many have, and it can have devastating consequences. So how can you protect your mental health when dealing with trolls? Harley Therapy offer some tips on how to do this:

• ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ is a popular phrase used online. Meaning ‘ignore them and they’ll go away’.
• Many websites and social media platforms have options for reporting abusive behaviour. It’s OK to use these or to report serious attacks to the police if necessary.
• Accept how you feel. It’s not nice being trolled and it’s understandable to feel angry or upset. Putting pressure on yourself to shrug off unpleasant comments may make you feel worse in the long run. Once you’ve accepted what’s happened, it’ll be easier to put the incident out of your mind because it’s not worthy of your attention any longer.
• Many trolls are trying to get a reaction because they are unhappy. It doesn’t excuse their behaviour, but it may help you to see that their comments are more about themselves than they are about you.
• If you have a blog, Facebook page or other public space to share your thoughts, you can use privacy controls to help you choose who can and can’t see your content. You can also switch off comment options and make it so that only certain people can send you messages.

The coronavirus is spreading, both across our news channels and the country of China at a rate far quicker than any of us would like to hear. The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the new coronavirus “will be with us for at least some months to come”, according to the BBC, and that the number of new cases worldwide was “doubling every five days”. There have so far been more than 17,000 confirmed cases of the virus in China and sadly approximately 425 people have died there.

The Independent have reported that British officials are continuing attempts to trace 239 people who flew to the UK from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, before travel restrictions came into force. “Some 94 UK nationals have been evacuated from the city to Britain and are now undergoing 14 days in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.”

According to the NHS, the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new respiratory illness that has not previously been seen in humans, and although the risk of getting the illness in the UK is low, it’s a good idea to be aware of its symptoms and how to prevent it spreading. The symptoms usually include a cough, a high temperature and difficulty breathing. They add that “because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread by cough droplets”.

The biggest concern for preventing the spread of the illness is for travellers returning from Wuhan and Hubei Province in the last 14 days. If you have, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people. Call NHS 111 to tell them of your recent travel to the city. The NHS add that “if you get a cough, a high temperature, or you feel short of breath, continue to follow this advice. Do not leave your house without getting advice from a doctor”. Those in Northern Ireland should call their GP.

If you’ve returned from other areas of China (but not Hong Kong or Macao) in the last 14 days, and get a cough or fever, or you feel short of breath, again, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people and call NHS 111 to tell them of your recent travel to China. Follow this advice even if your symptoms are mild. The UK Government says that generally the coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

Sky News have reported that a UK-wide campaign has been launched offering the public advice on how to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The public have been told to always carry a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes and bin it after use and to wash hands with soap and water or use sanitiser gel; in addition to the information above on what to do if you have visited China recently.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all travel to Hubei Province due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, according to an article in the Standard. They add that some airlines, including British Airways, have suspended flights to and from mainland China. “Other commercial airlines are still operating, but it may become harder over the coming weeks for those who wish to leave China to do so.”

What happens if you have already booked a trip to China in the next few weeks? If you decide to cancel your trip, normal policy would apply according to your insurance and chosen airline guidelines in terms of being refunded or rearranging your trip. Sadly, airlines are not obliged to refund tickets whatever the Foreign Office advice, but in past emergencies they have offered some flexibility.

If you have a holiday booked for a neighbouring country to China, the best thing to do is to keep an eye out for the Government’s advice and news on whether the illness has been contained or has spread to these countries and what to do in both scenarios.

As it stands there is no specific treatment for coronavirus, however, the UK Government has donated £20 million towards producing a vaccine to treat sufferers, which aims to fast-track the process to within six to eight months.

Having high blood pressure is something we are brought up being warned to avoid as we travel towards old age, but it is more common than you might think. According to the UK Government, high blood pressure affects more than 1 in 4 adults in England, which was around 12.5 million people in 2015 and of that affected 31% of adult men and 26% women.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) explains: “Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries – the vessels that carry your blood from your heart to your brain and the rest of your body. You need a certain amount of pressure to get the blood moving round your body.

“Your blood pressure naturally goes up and down throughout the day and night, and it’s normal for it to go up while you’re moving about. It’s when your overall blood pressure is consistently high, even when you are resting, that you need to do something about it.”

High blood pressure is also known as hypertension, and having it can lead to heart and circulatory diseases like heart attack or stroke. It can also cause kidney failure, heart failure, problems with your sight and vascular dementia. It’s not something you should ignore and hope will go away on its own. The symptoms of severe hypertension can include headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, flushing, dizziness, chest pain, visual changes and blood in the urine. If you experience any of these then please go and see a doctor.

The best way to know that if you have high blood pressure is to go to your GP and get it measured. All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years. The NHS says that “blood pressure is recorded with 2 numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body”.

They add that as a general guide:

• high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you’re over the age of 80)
• ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg

You could be at risk of developing high blood pressure include if you are middle-aged, have a family history of high blood pressure, are of African or Caribbean origin, have a high amount of salt in your food, you don’t do enough exercise, are overweight, drink large amounts of alcohol, if you smoke or if you have had long-term sleep deprivation.

Some medicines can also increase your blood pressure, including the contraceptive pill, steroids, some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, some pharmacy cough and cold remedies, some herbal remedies, cocaine and amphetamines and some antidepressants.

Your doctor will recommend whether you need to be on medication for high blood pressure, but there are also lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your blood pressure or to prevent it rising in the first place.

The Healthline suggests that you could start by developing a healthy diet including lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein like fish. They explain: “A heart-healthy diet is vital for helping to reduce high blood pressure. It’s also important for managing hypertension that is under control and reducing the risk of complications.”

They also suggest increasing your physical activity and reaching a healthy weight. “Reaching a healthy weight should include being more physically active. In addition to helping you shed pounds, exercise can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure naturally, and strengthen your cardiovascular system. Aim to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. That’s about 30 minutes five times per week.”

Another factor that increases our risk of developing high blood pressure is stress, so it’s a good idea that we are able to learn to manage it appropriately. “Exercise is a great way to manage stress. Other activities can also be helpful. These include meditation, deep breathing, massage, muscle relaxation and yoga or tai chi.”

It’s also advisable to cut down on your drinking and to quit smoking if you want to lower your blood pressure back down to a healthy number. If you are struggling to do either of these things, speak to your GP for some advice.

It’s always a difficult transition when a parent becomes too old or too unwell to look after the themselves in the way that they have been used to, and a child has to intervene and step in to pursue a parent-like role ensuring they remain safe. Perhaps they have developed a form of dementia, or have significant heart concerns, there comes a time in most elderly people’s lives where they have to access whether it is safe for them to drive or whether that decision has to be made for them.

Age UK explains that some health issues can affect an older person’s reaction time, reflexes and other aspects of driving, such as:

• Medication: some medications can slow down reaction time or cause sleepiness.
• Eyesight or vision problems: poor eyesight can affect the ability to see clearly front-on or from the sides.
• Hearing loss: they may not be able to hear a car horn or siren.
• Mobility problems or pain: they may have difficulty or be slower pulling the handbrake, using the footbrake or moving their heads to check their side vision.
• Memory problems: they may get lost, confused or disorientated if they are in an unfamiliar area.

It can be difficult to approach the subject with a parent you are concerned, as driving gives people a freedom that is not the same if you have to rely on someone else to give you lifts everywhere. Stopping driving can be a sign that the parent is not coping as well as they thought they were and this trapped-like feeling can result in low moods and depression if they are unable to get out and interact with others. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all and over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone.

The RAC Foundation says that there are 191 people over the age of 100 with a licence and among 4,018,900 people aged over 70 with full UK driving licences. There is currently no requirement for drivers over 70 need to retake their driving test, however, according to Arnold Clark drivers need to reapply for their licence at the age of 70 and every three years thereafter.

“There is no requirement to take a test but applicants must declare that they are fit and healthy to drive and their eyesight meets the minimum requirements for driving via self assessment. A medical examination is only required if those over 70 want to drive a medium-sized goods vehicle or minibus.”

So if the responsibility lies with the elderly person to be honest about there ability to continue to drive safely, should we ever intervene for fear of them getting in an accident and harming themselves or another person?

Age UK says that ultimately it’s the older person’s decision (or the DVLA’s) to stop driving. “But if you feel that their driving ability is affecting their safety, or they’re putting other people in danger, then you have a responsibility to talk to them about it.

“Encourage the person to think about whether they’re putting themselves and others at risk which might help them consider whether their driving is a concern. They might be grateful that you’ve broached the topic with them, and find comfort knowing that they have support to find a way forward.

“If the person agrees to stop driving, be conscious that it can be difficult for them to accept and adjust to life without a car. Find ways to help them through this transition as they may feel a sense of loss and have practical issues regarding getting around now they’re no longer driving.”

According to Market Watch, here are some common warning signs that it is time to talk to your parents about their ability to continue driving:

• If there is confusion between the gas and brake pedals or if there is difficulty in working them. If they lift their legs to move from the gas to the brakes instead of keeping a heel on the floor and pressing with their toes. This can be a sign of waning leg strength.
• If they appear to ignore or miss traffic signals especially stop signs.
• When the traffic stream is moving slowly, see if they tend to honk or pass other drivers. This can be an indication that they have a tough time keeping pace with fast-changing conditions.
• If you notice they are weaving or straddling lanes. Not signalling when changing lanes or checking mirrors and blind spots is especially dangerous.
• Any type of cognitive decline could lead to becoming disoriented and getting lost easily.

What happens if your parent is incredibly stubborn and refuses to stop driving even after your conversation with them?

Age UK says that “if you’re seriously concerned about an older person’s driving, you should write in confidence to the DVLA. They may then follow up with the local police. Think carefully about how this would affect your relationship with the person and whether there is another way for you to get them to think about giving up.”

With the ravaging fires currently consuming Australia being watched by the world, it’s difficult not to consider the dangerous effects of air pollution and what this silent killer can be doing to our bodies without us even knowing it. We know that in China they are big on wearing face masks to protect themselves against the odds, but do we in the UK need to go that far? Should we be worried?

Pollution tends to be worse in big cities, with more people and higher volumes of traffic. According to Big Think: The worst spot in London for pollution is Marble Arch – as levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) here are five times the EU norm – the highest in the city. Almost as bad is Tower Hill, which is 4.6 times the EU norm and Marylebone Road is 4 times the norm.

Our Government has said that “air pollution has a significant effect on public health, and poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. In 2010, the Environment Audit Committee considered that the cost of health impacts of air pollution was likely to exceed estimates of £8 to 20 billion”. Studies have shown that long-term exposure to air pollution reduces life expectancy, and this is mainly due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer.

They add that: “The UK Health Forum and Imperial College London, in collaboration with and funded by Public Health England (PHE), developed a modelling framework and estimated that a 1 µg/m3 reduction in fine particulate air pollution in England could prevent around 50,900 cases of coronary heart disease, 16,500 strokes, 9,300 cases of asthma and 4,200 lung cancers over an 18 year period.” So there is hope!

The impact of air pollution on our bodies is frightening, as according to Clean Air Day it can spread from your lungs into your bloodstream and reach many organs. “Air pollution can affect us all – from asthma and stroke, diabetes and dementia, pregnancy loss and cancer – it increases the risk of a range of health problems and makes some existing conditions worse. Every year, air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK.”

More specifically, air pollution potentially increases the risk of getting dementia, can also cause heart disease and is linked to high blood pressure. It increases the risk of heart failure, heart attacks and stroke, especially in older people and those with existing cardiovascular conditions. As for our lungs, there is a strong link between air pollution and the worsening of asthma symptoms and it also plays a part in causing asthma in some people.

Vulnerable people are particularly susceptible to being affected by air pollution, especially babies and young children due to their developing organs and immune systems. Clean Air Day adds that exposure to air pollution, both during pregnancy and after birth, can affect children’s lung function development.

So what can we do to protect ourselves and our families against pollution? Here are some tips from The British Lung Foundation (BLF):

• Reduce or avoid strenuous, outdoor exercise. If you have a lung condition, exercise has many benefits, so if possible, keep doing your exercise indoors in a well-ventilated room or gym.
• Stay away from pollution hotspots such as main roads and busy road junctions.
• Try to get to work a little earlier before rush hour has begun and levels of pollution have built up.
• If you cycle, run or walk as part of your commute, use back streets away from the bulk of vehicle congestion.
• Make sure you carry your reliever inhaler with you if you use one.
• If you have asthma, use your preventer inhaler regularly.
• If you find your condition is getting worse, or if you’re getting wheezy or coughing from walking outside, get in touch with your doctor.

Lastly should we be wearing a face mask everyday like the people of China? The BLF explains that “at the moment there’s very little evidence to recommend the use of face masks. Sophisticated masks with active charcoal filters can help filter out nitrogen dioxide, but these don’t keep out the smallest particulate matter which is most damaging to your health.

“Also, many people find wearing a mask very uncomfortable, and some people with a lung condition report finding breathing more difficult when there’s something covering their mouth.”

It seems that every day there is a new story in the news telling us how to eat, what to eat and when to eat; so it’s no wonder we are all confused about what we should be doing. Keto, low-carb, high-carb, fasting, Slimming World – the sheer volume of information and diet plans out there are enough to make you choke and through in the kitchen towel before 2020 even begins.

Approximately 26 million people will embark on a new diet or method of healthy eating at the beginning of every year, and sadly according to iNews nine out of ten (87 per cent of us) will break our new healthy eating habits as soon as 12th January. This figure could in part be because we are over complicating things. Maybe it’s as simple as just eating when we want and what we want and stopping when we are full?

The classic meal formula for a healthy lifestyle is said to be three meals a day and two snacks…but what happens if you can’t eat when you wake up, or just don’t like breakfast? Does this mean we are therefore destined for a life time of eating takeaways over the sink while lying to ourselves that we’ll “start again on Monday”?

The NHS published 8 tips for healthy eating, and one advises us to “not skip breakfast”. They add: “Some people skip breakfast because they think it’ll help them lose weight. But a healthy breakfast high in fibre and low in fat, sugar and salt can form part of a balanced diet, and can help you get the nutrients you need for good health.

“A wholegrain lower sugar cereal with semi-skimmed milk and fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and healthier breakfast.”

Approximately only two thirds of adults in the UK eat breakfast regularly, which could be a concern if you’re worried about your waistline. The BBC reported that there appears to be several studies linking between obesity and skipping breakfast. “Alexandra Johnstone, professor of appetite research at the University of Aberdeen, argues that it may simply be because breakfast-skippers have been found to be less knowledgeable about nutrition and health.

However, “a 2016 review of 10 studies looking into the relationship between breakfast and weight management concluded there is ‘limited evidence’ supporting or refuting the argument that breakfast influences weight or food intake, and more evidence is required before breakfast recommendations can be used to help prevent obesity.”

They add that “breakfast has been found to affect more than just weight. Skipping breakfast has been associated with a 27% increased risk of heart disease, a 21% higher risk of type 2 diabetes in men, and a 20% higher risk of type 2 diabetes in women.

“One reason may be breakfast’s nutritional value – partly because cereal is fortified with vitamins. In one study on the breakfast habits of 1,600 young people in the UK, researchers found that the fibre and micronutrient intake, including of folate, vitamin C iron and calcium, was better in those who had breakfast regularly.”

Breakfast is also associated with helping our brain functioning, including concentration and learning a language. “A review of 54 studies found that eating breakfast can improve memory, though the effects on other brain functions were inconclusive.” WebMD adds that “hunger hinders concentration”, so if you have a big exam coming up breakfast is a good idea.

There are lots of myths surrounding the benefits of eating breakfast is one that eating breakfast boosts your metabolism. The Healthline says: “Some people claim that eating breakfast ‘kick-starts’ the metabolism, but this is a myth. These people are referring to the thermic effect of food, which is the increase in calories burned that occurs after you eat.

“However, what matters for metabolism is the total amount of food consumed throughout the day. It makes no difference at which times, or how often, you eat. Studies show that there is no difference in calories burned over 24 hours between people who eat or skip breakfast.”

It appears that the science is a little wobbly when it comes to a definitive answer to the question “should we eat breakfast?”. Eating breakfast is a personal preference and if you are concerned about losing weight or gaining weight, the most important thing to look at is a calorie deficit (for loss) or surplus (for gain) rather than which meal to skip. Whether you like breakfast or not, try to focus more on eating high quality foods and ensuring you get the essential minerals and vitamins from these.