Nifty After Fifty

You Don't Take Your Medicine? I Can't Believe It!

by Sheldon S. Zinberg, M.D.

Come on, guys. Why the heck do some of us go to the doctor and get a prescription if you’re not going to take it? What’s the matter with some of us? Anyway, that’s what a lot of people are thinking about us older folks because of a recent study in the American Journal of Medicine. This study was made available online July 14, 2012, and it suggested that about half of us (even with heart disease) don’t take our medications or get them refilled. What in the world are those folks thinking? This is really serious!  It’s estimated that this accounts for almost 130,000 deaths each year. Not taking our medications can have catastrophic results; not to mention the fact that much of the health care costs are spent taking care of us during these catastrophes…especially during the last 48 hours of our lives.

Cancer and an Old Wonder Drug

by Sheldon S. Zinberg, M.D.

A recent study by the Macmillan Cancer Support found that only 20% of patients who have gone through cancer treatment are properly informed as to the very important benefits of exercise. You might say, “Don’t give me more bull about exercise and don’t try to tell me that exercise cures cancer.”  Well, exercise doesn’t cure cancer, but it sure looks like it helps to prevent it; and that makes it a Wonder Drug.

Here are some real examples shown in this study.  Exercise has been shown to reduce the recurrence of bowel cancer by 50%, and reduce the risk of recurrent breast cancer by more than 33%. While multiple studies have shown similar results, this new research shows that the message is still not being passed on to cancer patients. Why? Because according to Jane Maher, Chief Medical Officer, “It’s easier to tell patients to take it easy and rest.”  That simply re-enforces the myth that resting is always the right thing to do. It’s a myth that has to be broken by health care providers when advising patients who have been afflicted by cancer.

Swacked or Cracked

by Sheldon S. Zinberg, M.D.

In my last few chats, we talked about osteoporosis. Now there’s another study of interest I want to bring to your attention: I like to call this one Swacked (inebriated) or Cracked (our bones).  

At Oregon State University, a recent study indicated that alcohol consumption in postmenopausal women, mostly in the form of wine, can significantly improve bone health. The group studied showed that drinking 1 or 2 glasses of wine three or more days a week can significantly improve bone health. When they stopped drinking for 14 days, they showed a significant decrease in bone health; but remarkably, improvement was re-established within one or two days of resuming their alcohol consumption.

There’s More to the Vitamin D Story

by Sheldon S. Zinberg, M.D.

Milk, butter, eggs, fortified cereals, and seafood are all good food sources of vitamin D. As I’ve previously said, exposure to the sun is important because sunlight actually helps our body produce vitamin D. But we’re also told that exposure to the sun is largely responsible for skin aging, skin cancer, and the development of melanoma. Because of this, the authorities who urge us to limit our exposure to the sun are quite correct. But if a lack of sunlight is coupled with a poor dietary intake, vitamin D deficiency can develop. This sequence of events is common in lots of us older folks, but particularly in people who are institutionalized and also in the homebound elderly.

Take It (vitamin D) or Break It (bones)

by Sheldon S. Zinberg, M.D.

Okay!!  We've been told time and time again that vitamin D helps to prevent osteoporosis and fractures. Then again we've been told that vitamin D doesn't prevent osteoporosis and fractures. Confusion, confusion, and more confusion. When will we doctors get it right?

It’s clear that vitamin D is important for good bone health, but don’t we get enough? How and where do we get it? Aren’t many of our foods fortified with vitamin D to help ensure an adequate intake? Yeah, they might help, but not enough. For the most part, vitamin D is manufactured by our skin as a result of exposure to sunlight. But wait a minute! We’re told to avoid getting too much sunlight because this could result in the development of skin cancer…It’s true. So we put on sunscreen and we avoid too much sun exposure and then what happens?? We might avoid skin cancer, but we don't get enough vitamin D.

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