Maybe you used to be a night owl, watching late night television or reading past midnight.
But now? Some older people discover that, as they age, they become tired much earlier in the night and rise well before dawn.
This actually has a name: Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome, according to the National Sleep Foundation. It shouldn’t be especially alarming, but it can be annoying. The natural circadian rhythms that coordinate body functions advance in time with age, so people get plenty of sleep (from seven to eight hours) but everything happens earlier. Experts do not know why this happens, but they usually treat the issue with bright light therapy, exposing the body to light when it should be awake.
Then there is insomnia. About 44 percent of older persons can’t sleep for a few nights per week. But insomnia can become chronic.
Medical conditions can be responsible for insomnia. Among them snoring, a primary cause of sleep disruption for 90 million Americans. Snoring can be due to weight and aging. Very loud snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, associated with high blood pressure, among other things. Sleep apnea causes people to repeatedly wake up as they breathe, then stop breathing. It can and should be treated, doctors say.
11 questions to ask when starting a new medication
Anytime you’re prescribed a new medication, it’s important that you understand its effects and how to use it. This makes it possible to avoid dangerous drug interactions and safely navigate side effects. You or your caregiver should ask your doctor the following questions when starting a new medication.
1. What’s the name of the medicine and why do I need to take it?
2. How often should it be taken, and when specifically should the doses be taken?
3. What’s the correct dosage?
4. Do I need to take it with food? Are there foods or beverages I should avoid when taking this medication?
5. If I need to take the medication “as needed,” what does that mean?
6. How long will the medication take to work?
7. Will the medication interact with other medications, supplements or vitamins I’m taking? Should any of these be discontinued or adjusted?
8. Can I drive when taking this medication?
9. If I miss a dose, what should I do?
10. What are the possible side effects? Should some of them prompt an appointment or an emergency room visit?
11. Will I need a refill? If so, do I need a new prescription each time (as is the case with some opioids)?
While it may seem excessive to ask so many questions, doing so will ensure your safety.
Andropause: what is it?
Testosterone levels in men gradually diminish as they age. As a result, many experience an array of changes as they get older. While there’s no such thing as a “male menopause,” some doctors refer to the collection of symptoms caused by shifting hormone levels in men as andropause.
As testosterone levels decline, men may experience the following:
• Sexual changes. This can include reduced libido, erectile dysfunction and infertility. In addition, the testes may become smaller.
• Sleep changes. Insomnia, disrupted sleep patterns and increased sleepiness are common.
• Physical changes. Increased body fat, decreased bone density and loss of muscle mass may occur. There could also be a loss of body hair and the breasts may become tender and swollen. Though rare, hot flashes and a decrease in energy are also possible.
• Emotional changes. Loss of motivation, decreased confidence, heightened irritability and even depression can occur as a result of declining testosterone levels. Memory and concentration issues can also arise in some cases.
Since these symptoms can be caused by many conditions as well as by poor lifestyle choices, it’s important to visit a doctor if you notice them.
Self care as you age
In many cases, the symptoms of low testosterone levels can be mitigated by a healthy diet and staying mentally and physically active. In addition, eliminating unhealthy habits (like smoking and drinking) will help improve your overall well-being.
It’s also important to consult your doctor if you notice any worrisome symptoms and to follow their recommendations.
Testosterone supplements can be used to treat age-related low testosterone, but it’s a controversial solution. It can relieve symptoms in some men but has little effect for others and carries significant risks of cardiovascular problems and could increase the incidence of prostate cancer.
The flu vaccine: a necessary precaution for seniors
Contrary to popular belief, influenza infection, better known as the flu, isn’t always benign. Elderly people and those with a weakened immune system are at risk for experiencing potentially fatal complications. This is why the flu vaccine is so important.
While its efficacy isn’t guaranteed, the vaccine can prevent vulnerable people from contracting the flu. Even when infection does occur, being vaccinated can mitigate the symptoms and prevent complications from arising. Finally, the risk of hospitalization is much lower for someone who’s been vaccinated.
Remember that you need to receive the vaccine every year as the flu virus mutates constantly. Speak to your healthcare professional to find out where and when you can receive the vaccine.
Always do this 1 thing before traveling abroad
Are you planning to leave the country? If so, be sure to visit a doctor who can help you protect your health while you’re away.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you see a healthcare provider or visit a travel clinic at least four weeks before your departure. Depending on your destination, you may need to take precautions.
The doctor you consult with will review your immunization history and give you any required vaccinations and preventive medications.
Taking this simple step will protect you from potentially severe diseases you can contract abroad.
For more information about travel immunization, consult cdc.gov/travel.
11 essential questions to ask about your treatment
Undergoing treatment for breast cancer can be worrisome. One of the best ways to prepare, however, is to get informed about what’s involved. Here are 11 essential questions to ask your doctor.
1. What are the different available treatments?
2. What are their risks and advantages?
3. Is there a treatment that’s more appropriate for my situation?
4. Will I need to be hospitalized?
5. How long will the treatment take?
6. How can we assess the treatment’s effectiveness?
7. What side effects should I expect? How long will they last?
8. If I need to have surgery, what are the different options? What’s the difference between them?
9. If I need to have a mastectomy, do I need to have both breasts removed? If I do, when should I have it done?
10. If I have breast reconstruction surgery, what will my breast look like? Will it look like my other breast?
11. When will I be able to wear a bra again?
In addition to these questions, write down a list of your own so that you don’t forget anything when meeting your treatment team. Feel free to ask a friend or family member to accompany you. They can write down the answers to your questions so you can refer to them when you need to.
Sophrology: what you need to know
Developed in the 1960s by the Colombian neuropsychiatrist Alfonso Caycedo, sophrology is an increasingly popular meditation and mindfulness technique. While it offers an assortment of benefits associated with meditation and relaxation, it should be approached with caution.
What is it?
Sophrology combines mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, body awareness and visualization techniques. It’s inspired by a wide range of Asian and European traditions.
It became popular when three Swiss skiers trained in sophrology by Caycedo won gold medals at the 1968 Winter Olympics. Before long, people were using sophrology to prepare for everything from exams to work presentations. Some French schools even teach it to students as a way to cope with stress.
What’s special about it?
Sophrology is more goal-oriented than other meditation techniques and focuses on visualizing yourself performing a difficult task or getting through a stressful situation successfully.
It doesn’t involve any physical work. All that’s needed is a chair and the voice of a trained sophrologist.
How is it practiced?
This meditation technique relies on being guided through a series of exercises by an expert sophrologist. Sophrology has 12 levels, each of which must be attained with the help of a guide.
What’s the bottom line?
The benefits of relaxation, meditation and visualization are well-known, and sophrology can likely help you lower your overall level of stress. It may also help you prepare for situations that worry you.
However, caution should be exercised. Many practitioners refer to sophrology as a lifestyle, but it’s only accessible if you pay someone to guide you through its 12 levels. While the majority of sophrologists are no doubt well-intentioned, this opens the door to abusive practices.
If you think you may benefit from sophrology, remember that it’s not a substitute for proper medical care. It might be an effective complementary treatment, but it shouldn’t replace the advice of a healthcare professional.