By Carol Abaya, M.A.
Question: My mother,
71, has been gaining weight since my father died and is now ten pounds
heavier than she should be. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get her to go
on a diet. How can I convince her that she needs to lose weight?
don’t say what her weight “should” be, her age, or her build. All these
factor into “ideal” weight.
In fact, ideal weight
may be more than what most people think it should be. I recently attended
a medical conference in Phoenix sponsored by The American College for
the Advancement of Medicine. There were two days of sessions on anti-aging
research and longevity.
Their studies show
that a person overweight as much as 20 to 30% lives longer than a thin
person. The body needs a certain amount of fat, which overly thin people
do not have. In common sense terms, a heavier person can withstand illnesses
better because weight loss at that time is not detrimental to overall
health. So, if your mother feels OK and is not depressed (thus eating
too much or snacking), then back off.
The College recommendations
as to diet also substantially differ from Federal Government guidelines.
Quite frankly, I am more inclined to go with The College conclusions.
The College recommends
a simple diet with low sugars and carbohydrates (even simple ones) and
high protein, with fats at a moderate level. The government pyramid of
foods stresses high carbohydrates -- breads, cereals, rice and pastas.
The actual recommended “serving” size is so small it is not realistic
and everyone eats considerably more.
Those at the conference
issued caution warnings on high carbohydrates. First, carbohydrates turn
into sugar, and this can be harmful to those with either diabetes or
low blood sugar. Second, breads and pastas have yeast, and many unknowingly,
(myself included) are allergic to yeast. This means the body does not
properly process it; hence weight gain instead of loss.
New medical research
is also finding that
- Healthy fats (olive
and canola oils, and certain nuts) reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) without
affecting HDL (good cholesterol).
fats are good for you.
fats, found in corn, safflower, sunflower, sesame and cottonseed oils,
- Ttrans-fatty acids,
found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and hydrogenated vegetable
oils are the worst.
- It’s not fat per
se that should be avoided; only the “bad” kind.
Studies on longevity
also indicate that:
Question: My father,
74, was in a car accident and suffered severe whiplash. The doctors seem
to have treated this. Now, however, he is complaining of hearing sounds
in his head, even if no one else is around. My mother says he can’t concentrate
and snaps at her constantly. Is he experiencing dementia?
- Those with a slower
metabolic rate live longer than those with a fast one. A faster metabolic
rate equals a lower life span. Couch potatoes or those who engage in
moderate exercise live longer than those who participate in extreme
exercise. High physical activity does not necessarily add years to one’s
- Yogurt helps eliminate
certain harmful bacteria and helps longevity.
- The B-vitamins
especially folic acid are recommended.
- Testosterone therapy
has slowed aging dramatically.
- Genetics is very
- Chronic anxiety
is a leading case of aging.
is probably not a factor. And yes, he really is hearing sounds in his
head, even if no one else hears them.
About 20% of people
experience tinnitis, which is the perception of sound even when none
is present. Often it is ringing in the ears. Other times it can be a
hissing or buzzing sound. It can be a one-level sound and very piercing
or several-level sounds.
The causes are not
really clear as often there are no physical elements to identify. It
is known that certain factors can exacerbate it: exposure to loud noises,
wax build up in the ear, certain medications (even aspirin or antibiotics),
ear or sinus infection, heart disease, tumor or auditory nerve damage,
under active thyroid or head or neck trauma. In your father’s case, it
probably comes from the accident.
First step should
be a visit to an ENT physician. Couple that with a review of his medications;
eliminate alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, and reduce stress.
More information from
the American Tinnitis Association, 503-248-9985.
Question: While my
father (recently died) used to do most of the driving, my mother (75) drove
regularly to run errands, meet friends, etc. Now she refuses to drive,
saying her heart starts to pound and she’s afraid of getting into an accident.
I have to run her errands, grocery shop, take her to the doctor. I work
part-time, have a family and am exhausted. Help!
mother may be having an anxiety or panic attack when she gets behind the
wheel. One theory is that the body’s normal “alarm system” - the set
of mental and physical mechanisms that allows a person to respond to danger
is triggered unnecessarily. Scientists don’t know exactly why.
Symptoms vary: racing
heartbeat, chest pains, dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing, numbness,
flushes or chills, terror, fear of losing control or even of dying.
Such attacks can seriously
impact a person’s daily life - as with your mother. Your doctor or psychologist
can provide help.
Question: My mother,
71, just had breast cancer surgery. The doctor says all the cancer was
removed, and she’s healed very well physically. Emotionally, it’s another
story. Her friends of many years don’t know what to say to her, and so
she’s losing contact with several she’s known for decades. What can we
do to help her make the emotional adjustment?
isolation is a big risk factor when it comes to the rate of healing.
Find a local breast
cancer support group, and take your mother. Studies show that regular
support therapies help extend the survival rate of patients.
Besides the emotional
support, such groups help patients better understand the importance of
taking prescribed medicine, exercising regularly, and adjusting lifestyle.
Such emotional connection
help sustain those with grave or chronic illnesses.
Also talk with her
friends and explain that they don’t have to avoid discussing her situation
- nor should they dwell a lot on it. They can help her regain a good
balance to her life and return to her previous lifestyle schedule.
Question: My father,
82, has been having trouble with his hip, says he has a lot of pain, and
needs help getting into and out of bed, chairs, etc. The doctor recommends
hip surgery. My sister says he’s too old for such surgery.
long as your father’s basic health is good, such surgery can eliminate
the pain. No one should have to live with pain if there is help available.
Age today, given new medical technologies, should not be a determining
The Mayo Clinic recently
released a survey which shows that even those over 100 years old can benefit
Helping your father
become pain-free and regain his independence will go a long way to ensuring
his last years are better.
Question: My uncle,
76, has to have a tumor removed from his elbow. The doctor recommends he
go to a nursing home for a week or two afterwards. He doesn’t want to go
to a nursing home. How can we convince him?
on the extent of surgery, he may not need a nursing home.
Elements to evaluate
include: is there someone at home to help him dress, bathe and fix meals?
Or can he hire someone?
He probably will need
physical therapy. He can get home visits via Medicare or at a hospital
on an outpatient basis or by a private licensed therapist.
Studies show that
people, especially the elderly, generally recover faster at home. They
are more comfortable in a known and familiar environment.
Even, if the surgery
is extensive, the visiting nurse can regularly change the dressing and
monitor his condition. However, when a chronic illness is factored in
and which needs to be controlled, a rehab or acute care nursing home might
Question: My parents,
in their 70s, were in a car accident and badly bruised - nothing broken.
My father continues to have pain in his elbow and refuses pain medicine
or physical therapy, as suggested by the doctor. His complaints are getting
my mother down.
one should have to experience constant pain when medicine and help, such
as physical therapy, are available.
After such an accident,
time has a way of healing what was bruised. However, because of the pain,
your father is probably using that arm less, which means the muscles get
weak very quickly.
Physical therapy can
help strengthen the muscles around the elbow and coupled with time should
help a full recovery. The therapy may be painful and tire him out, but
in the long run can be very beneficial. Someone else should drive him and
stay with him during the session, and over the counter pain relievers can
provide the comfort he deserves.
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