Five nagging ailments to contend with as baby boomers age


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As baby boomers march toward retirement at the rate of 10,000 a day, they are encountering unexpected ailments along the way. These are not diseases that will kill them but nuisances that remind them they are aging.

Though doctors struggle to explain why the immune system takes a dip between ages 40 and 50, they suggest the best way to avoid these irritants is to practice a healthful lifestyle.

"The key to middle age is to stay active, eat healthy and don't give up," said Dr. Seth Johnson, a family practitioner in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Here are some ways to slow down and combat five common baby-boomer ailments.


This painful skin rash occurs when the virus that caused chickenpox during childhood returns for round two.

Before age 50, the chance of developing shingles is just 1 percent to 2 percent. But after 50, that chance nearly doubles: 2 percent to 3 percent.

A vaccine can decrease the likelihood of contracting shingles, but it might not be best for patients younger than 50. The vaccine cuts the risk in half, but it costs $200 to $300.

If untreated, the virus can cause tender water blisters and worse.

The most effective treatment is anti-viral medication used within 72 hours of an outbreak.


A sensation of dizziness, benign vertigo is most likely caused by natural aging or a head trauma that lodges tiny crystals into the wrong area of the ear. This sends bad information to the brain and knocks off the sense of balance.

Vertigo can happen to anyone of any age, but it is more common among patients aged 40 to 60.

If you suspect you have vertigo, get tested by an ear, nose and throat specialist to rule out more-extreme causes such as a tumor or stroke.

If correctly diagnosed by a doctor, benign positional vertigo is treatable through the Epley maneuver.

The Epley maneuver involves sequential movements of the head, staying in each of the four positions for 30 seconds.

Benign vertigo can slowly disappear on its own over time.


Reading glasses often become a necessity for aging eyes, but many Americans don't realize that depth perception also can become an issue, even creating a driving hazard.

As vision deteriorates over time, eyes can become less symmetrical. For instance, one eye might see things near while the other sees far. This difference affects depth perception.

Research shows that as depth perception begins to deteriorate, one of the most dangerous driving maneuvers is a left turn in traffic, said AARP spokesman Dave Bruns. The advocacy group has created a defensive-driving program that includes strategies for dealing with depth-perception loss.

Along with dulled depth perception, baby boomers might find that they can't see as well in dim light, which also affects their driving abilities.


That ringing, buzzing, hissing, sizzling sound in your ears has a name: tinnitus. And it's fairly common among baby boomers.

"A lot of us grew up listening to hard rock in the '70s and '80s, and it can take a toll," said Dr. J. Daniel Mancini, Winter Park, Fla., internal-medicine practitioner.

The condition can last for a week to several years. Tinnitus is related to high-frequency hearing loss and is cumulative.

The ringing of the ears makes up for the absence of sound, and once you hear a ring, it's likely to recur.

There isn't a tried-and-true solution for tinnitus, but for patients who have hearing loss and wear hearing aids, there's a 50 percent to 70 percent chance of recovering from tinnitus.

To prevent the condition, wear earplugs to loud concerts and ear protection at a shooting range.


It's like being a teenager all over again: Oily skin and red bumps can reappear around the time women enter menopause.

As a teenager, acne develops because of a surge in hormones. During menopause, estrogen levels drop and testosterone-like compounds form, causing acne. Menopausal acne might not be as severe as a teenager's, but it could last as long as one to two years.

Retinoids, more commonly known as Retin-A, help prevent and deal with acne. In addition to reducing puffy oil glands, the topical medicine also combats fine lines, wrinkles and skin cancers.

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