Tag Archives: OLD AGE

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS And CONDITIONS #23: OLD AGE / GROWING OLD

Old age is an inevitable condition if you are lucky enough to live a long life. Middle aged people say it begins at 70 years of age. According to an Elysium survey of people 40 and older, the average American FEELS old for the first time at age 47 years.

In the distant past, 50 was CONSIDERED to be old. The generally better conditions and Medicine of modern times keeps extending LIFESPAN, if not always HEALTHSPAN. Old age is certainly a Condition, and it is for sure Chronic, thereby qualifying for inclusion, but is it a Disease?

It is not considered a disease by the authorities, and so it doesn’t gather research funds like it should. What exactly IS old age? Being 88 Years old, and a physician, I feel qualified to comment. Old age is a collection of past accidents and sports injuries plus complications of past illnesses engrafted on a gradually deteriorating body.

Where does Obesity and Metabolic syndrome fit in this rubric? The Plague of our time fits in the disease category. It is definitely preventable, although with difficulty. Please search past postings for more information on this topic.

In what way does the body gradually deteriorate? Any organized, non-random high information structure gradually becomes more disordered, and “worn away” with the passage of TIME, the destroyer. Entropy (disorder) gradually increases, in the absence of corrective energy input.

Even rocks and mountains eventually erode, given enough time. One of the most interesting characteristics of life is that it maintains its integrity for an inordinate amount of time, given its complexity and furious dynamism.

Every day our DNA sustains thousands of molecular ruptures from high energy radiation and other stressors. Proofreading and repair mechanisms are employed, at high energy cost, to repair these breaks. This corrective is especially efficient when we are young and vigorous; In our youth, our reproductive years, growth and repair predominate. Gradually, growth ceases, repair mechanisms age, and we become old.

Our Darwinian “warranty” expires. We are left with an aging body, unimportant to evolution. We are long on experience and short on future. But we still have a marvelous metabolism at our disposal, depending on our lifestyle. There are a number of metabolic pathways which affect aging, 2 of which have been more studied.

The mTOR pathway is most attuned to youth, senses nutrients and gears up for ANABOLISM, or growth. If you have not been careful to tailor your food intake to suit your decreasing requirements, your efficient metabolism stores it away for a rainy day, around your belly and in your arteries, a bad effect from an essential mechanism. Antagonistic Pleiotropy is the name for a body mechanism that can be good for one function (or age) and bad for another.

The Sirtuin system is also important in aging, and has a variety of housekeeping functions, including mitochondrial maintenance. It is activated by exercise. The cells of our bodies change with aging. In old tissues, there are less stem cells and other young, functional units. There are more damaged, dysfunctional “zombie” cells that don’t do much but promote inflammation, and hence more inflammatory cells accumulate.

Controlling the mTOR System and promoting the sirtuins help increase apoptosis and get rid of dysfunctional cells, including cancer. DOCTORS SHOULD PRESCRIBE EXERCISE, as well as SLEEP AND DIET, like they do medicine, and maybe we wouldn’t need so many pills. We might also feel better into old age.

–Dr. C.

Disease, Metabolic syndrome, Entropy, DNA, Metabolism, Apoptosis, Zombie cells

HEALTH & RETIREMENT: A LOOK AT MEDICARE, MEDIGAP AND PART D DRUG PLANS

If you’re enrolled only in original Medicare with a Medigap supplemental plan, and don’t use a drug plan, there’s no need to re-evaluate your coverage, experts say. But Part D drug plans should be reviewed annually. The same applies to Advantage plans, which often wrap in prescription coverage and can make changes to their rosters of in-network health care providers.

“The amount of information that consumers need to grasp is dizzying, and it turns them off from doing a search,” Mr. Riccardi said. “They feel paralyzed about making a choice, and some just don’t think there is a more affordable plan out there for them.”

November 13, 2020

When creation of the prescription drug benefit was being debated, progressive Medicare advocates fought to expand the existing program to include drug coverage, funded by a standard premium, similar to the structure of Part B. The standard Part B premium this year is $144.60; the only exceptions to that are high-income enrollees, who pay special income-related surcharges, and very low-income enrollees, who are eligible for special subsidies to help them meet Medicare costs.

“Given the enormous Medicare population that could be negotiated for, I think most drugs could be offered through a standard Medicare plan,” said Judith A. Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

“Instead, we have this very fragmented system that assumes very savvy, active consumers will somehow shop among dozens of plan options to see what drugs are available and at what cost with all the myriad co-pays and cost-sharing options,” she added.

Advocates like Ms. Stein also urged controlling program costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies — something the legislation that created Part D forbids.

Read full article in NY Times

COMMENTARY

Medicare is a blessing. It is a great help to retired and elderly people and generally does the job it was intended to do. There are a great variety of Medicare supplement plans and pharmaceutical purchase plans, And they jockey and change every year.

I get a headache just thinking about how to compare these plans from my individual needs and and whether their cost is worth it. The take-home message from the New York Times article is that you can get individual attention from an advisor who presumably knows the field well.

The key acronyms are SHIP and HICAP, which stands for state health insurance assist program and California health insurance counseling and advisor program respectively.

The California number is 1-800-434-0222. Be sure to write down the medications that you are taking and Your diagnosed illnesses, as well as your financial status in order to make best use of the service.

—Dr. C.

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS 21: PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY

Peripheral Neuropathy is a common problem, and almost a quarter of the population will eventually suffer from it. It is very common in diabetes and metabolic syndrome, alcoholism, and in cancer therapy.

Even getting older is a risk; almost 10% of individuals 65 years old have some symptoms. There are more than 100 different types of peripheral neuropathy, and often it is just one feature of a primary illness.

Sometimes there is no known cause, such as in 2 of my older friends. I have a diminished vibratory sense in my feet, which causes me no noticeable problem. The longer nerves are more likely to be involved, except for the rare sensory ganglionopathy which is symptomatic of some cancers ( a “paraneoplastic disorder”) , some infections and autoimmune diseases.

When the sensory ganglia are involved, the numbness, tingling or pain can be more central, such as in the face or upper arm. There are 3 types of nerves that can be involved in peripheral neuropathy; Sensory, Motor and autonomic.

The sensory nerves deal with sensations, such as hot, cold, touch, pain, tingling, and numbness. Motor nerve involvement results in weakness or paralysis of an arm, leg or other area under Voluntary control. The autonomic nervous system coordinates activities beyond voluntary control, such as sweating, salivation, food propulsion and heart rate, which can be activated or inhibited.

The symptoms of neuropathy depend upon the type of nerve involved. Balance is a complex ability that can be disturbed by a lack of proper sensory nerve function (Position sense or proprioception) motor weakness, vision or coordination which involve higher centers.

The medical evaluation of peripheral neuropathy begins with a family practitioner or internist who does a detailed history, asking about such things as diet, medications, alcohol consumption, and injuries. Vitamin intake is important, but can be overdone.

Peripheral nerve symptoms can actually be caused by excessive B6, pyridoxine. The upper limit is 100 Mg.. A physical exam checks for weakness, sensory problems, reflexes and balance. Blood tests may reveal diabetic, kidney, liver, thyroid or immune problems problems.

A major disorder associated with neuropathy may be revealed and pursued. If nothing turns up, and the neuropathy is significant, referral may be needed to a neurologist, or other appropriate specialist. Many specialized tests and treatments may be needed.

Even with the best of care, a specific “cure” may not be found. Peripheral neuropathy can often be avoided by a healthy lifestyle.

–Dr. C.

Article on Peripheral Neuropathy

THE HEALING POWERS OF YOUR POSITIVE ATTITUDE

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

From “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

My brother recently sent me a video  featuring a confident man with a famous last name and a winning message: You beat Covid by fighting it. I would like to comment on several recommendations in his inspiring speech.

It is usually best to approach a problem with a POSITIVE ATTITUDE and a PLAN (1). This is particularly true with the ravages of old age (my area of expertise). Memory loss? Try to memorize poems. Balance loss? Practice standing on one leg. However………….

One person’s good experience is not a medical study. Medicine calls it a testimonial. This applies to my individual experiences as well. Going forward, I will be recounting many personal experiences with common diseases and conditions. Be careful about applying my solutions to your condition.. EXERCISE CRITICAL THINKING.

Be especially careful not to equate fame with medical expertise.

Mr. Cuomo’s result, if indeed the outcome was changed by his efforts, was most likely influenced by a powerful PLACEBO effect (2) which can be associated with striking outcomes, as we know from countless inspiring testimonials  of “hopeless” cancer and other terminal conditions.

Even if we KNOW a treatment is likely due to the placebo effect, it remains effective. I don’t believe I’m doing harm with my speculations.

A couple of generations ago, confidence in doctors was much greater than it is now. We had fewer effective treatments, but surprisingly good results. As medical information of various quality proliferates and medicine loses prestige, it it is losing a valuable tool. Still, we have the placebo effect.

Mr. Cuomo was fortunate to have a good, positive doctor, and to believe in him. Positive affect is powerful.

FEVER is not the virus incarnate, but the bodies RESPONSE to the virus. Fever survived the culling of evolution because it confers a survival advantage, and is helpful.(3) Viruses replicate less rapidly at higher body temperatures.

I always told my patients: “ if you are stuck with the infection, enjoy the fever”. Of course high fevers, above 104 degrees F should be reduced.

I’m not sure that Covid patients should hold their breaths to “fight the virus”, although the length of time you can hold your breath is a good measure of breathing difficulty.  Blood CO2, the main driver of dyspnea (shortness of breath), must not be allowed to accumulate. The accompanying hypoxemia (low blood oxygen ) is not desirable either.

I agree with most of the advice quoted by Mr. Cuomo. Lying on the back has proven dangerous in severe Covid. Taking deep breaths (even if painful) will help keep the alveoli (air sacs) expanded. Change of position is important for the same reason,  and adequate fluids, including water, is always beneficial.

So educate yourself as much as you can about your condition. Pick out the best doctor you can find (the subject of a future opinion piece) and place yourself in her care. Enjoy a sense of relief and confidence. Even physicians need the objectivity and support of their own doctor.

Finally, armed with a positive attitude, make the most of whatever placebo effect you are accorded.

—Dr. C.