There’s been a lot of emphasis the last few decades on the issue of “polypharmacy”, that is, patients who are taking too may drugs.
This is especially a concern, of course, for the elderly, who cannot tolerate most drugs as well as younger people can, and who also tend to develop far more complications from their drugs than younger people do, in part because seniors like me tend to have multiple health problems, and those problems can often affect how a particular medication works in us.
Plus, because seniors are often on a lot of medications, many seniors don’t fully understand how to take their meds, when to take them, when not to mix their pills, and so on, which also leads to a lot of preventable medication-related problems.
To illustrate how much of a problem this can be, in a recent study published in the journal Age Aging, over 750 “patients aged 60 and over who were taking five or more prescribed drugs simultaneously were asked about their medication”.
Only 15 % of these patients fully understood the nature of their medication use, and no surprise here, men, those taking the most meds, and the most elderly were the worst at knowing all they should know about their drugs.
So if you have to take any drugs regularly, even if it’s only 2 or 3, here’s a strategy that really cuts down on the potential pitfalls from using those meds: make your pharmacist into a very good friend.
It’s what I do: whenever I have to start on a new drug – I have had to change my blood pressure medication several times over the last couple of years, for example – I always try to ask my pharmacist about that new drug such as what are the likely side effects, what are some of the less common but more serious side effects I should look out for, when should I take my pills, with what can I take them, and how will this new pill react with the ones I’m already on, and so on.
In fact, if you’re taking 5 or more medications, there is a program called the Medication Review Service which specifically aims to answer all those questions – and some you haven’t even thought of – to help educate you about the drugs you are taking.
And one other useful medication-taking strategy that can be help a lot of people is the blister- packing service, which can help those of us who are somewhat forgetful about when to take our pills to actually take them at the time we’re supposed to.
See your pharmacist today to make sure you’re on the right track with your prescriptions.
If you believe you can boost either your IQ or even your memory by buying one of those apps that promise to “train” your brain, you may want to hold on to your hard-earned dollars just a tad longer because you may not be getting your money’s worth when you purchase such a program.
At least not according to a recent study published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National (US) Academy of Sciences. Specifically what these researchers concluded by looking at a bunch of studies that measured brain performance after brain training is that although these apps and programs can improve memory or IQ a slight bit, that effect is mainly due to a placebo effect because simply knowing that you’re taking a brain training app is enough to have a small positive effect on your cognitive abilities, which fits what most “memory experts” have been saying for a long time, that is, that the science behind these memory training apps is very scant at best, and that you should be wary about their positive promises.
But if you want to maintain or even improve your brain function, don’t get too discouraged by this news because there is at least one well-established way to do that and that is to do some regular exercise, which has proven time and again to have a positive effect on brain function. Plus, it can be done for free.
Summertime and yes, the living is easy, but on that ever-present other hand, the living can also be hard, especially on your skin – something you all know, I’m sure – but here’s the one you may not know, summertime is also very hard on your eyes.
Because long-term excess sunlight exposure raises the risk of at least two very common eye disorders.
One is cataracts which are “hardenings” in the lens of the eye (usually in both lenses, of course) and which eventually very often result in the need to have surgery to remove one or both lens.
That risk has been known for a long time but the eye problem linked to sunlight that’s been discovered more recently is macular degeneration (that’s a more recent link), the most common cause of blindness in North American seniors.
So if you want to see well into your senior years, and trust me, you do, you really want to protect your eyes from too much sunlight.
To that end, buy a good pair of sunglasses, and try to wear those sunglasses as often as you can when outside (remember that you still get some UV exposure even on cloudy days), and remember, too, that some surfaces such as water magnify the effect of sunlight on your eyes.
But be especially careful to wear your sunglasses on sunny days even if you are planning on being outside just for a few minutes.
If you smoke and you had to make one lifestyle adjustment that would provide the maximum benefit to your future health (never mind adding to the health of everyone you spend any time with), nothing comes even close to offering you the life-enhancing benefits than stopping your smoking habit.
I’m old enough to remember when there were only 2 types of diabetes named juvenile onset diabetes (JOD) and adult onset diabetes (AOD).
Why did they have those names?
Because of when they tended to be diagnosed, so that JOD was nearly always diagnosed very early in life while AOD was never diagnosed before the age of 40.
Now, however, it’s quite different.
We now acknowledge that there are other forms of diabetes including one that comes on with pregnancy.
But the most interesting change, I think, is that we now have different names for JOD and AOD, namely Type 1 diabetes (the old JOD) and Type 2 diabetes (the old AOD).
As everyone must know by now – given how much horrendous facial hair has sprouted on your friends by this point in the month – November has become Movember for a great many men. Movember is a campaign to grow a moustache, which is in turn geared at raising awareness of prostate cancer (as well, perhaps of prostate health in general).
The problem with raising awareness about prostate cancer is that most of the raised awareness centres around screening tests for prostate cancer, and the simple reality is that there is still very little consensus about which men should get tested with PSA (that’s the blood test for prostate cancer) and when they should get that test, if ever.
The real problem with sore throats, especially during the winter, is that it’s very, very hard to tell the difference between a strep throat, which is a bacterial infection and hence can be treated with antibiotics, and a sore throat caused by a virus, which should never be treated with an antibiotic because, well, because antibiotics don’t kill viruses.
And when we use antibiotics inappropriately, such as in the treatment of viral sore throats, we increase the risk of several very significant health problems: rising resistance to antibiotics, development of hardier and hardier bacteria, and complications from antibiotics, such as significantly higher risks of developing a Chlostridium difficile infection, a potential nightmare.