Q: I’m fuming. I’m getting surgery on my hand for arthritis, and it just hit me that when I saw the surgeon, I believe he made all kinds of assumptions about me because of my age (67). He assumed I’m not athletic (I am), I’m not working (I am), and that having my hand in a cast for a couple of weeks wouldn’t be an inconvenience! I know I should have been clearer about my lifestyle and expectations, but still, he was very dismissive. Should I say something to him? What do you think? -- Cal D., New York
A: Unfortunately, ageism permeates every aspect of life and, according to a new study in Nordic Psychology, negative attitudes about it often are adopted unconsciously while you’re young and damage quality of life as you grow older.
That’s why it’s important to stand up against ageism when you experience it and to feel positive about both your age and aging in general. Studies have shown repeatedly that accepting the view that aging is “all downhill from here” pushes you downhill pretty fast. In fact, a 2002 study found that those who felt positive about aging lived 7.5 years longer than those who were pessimistic about it.
So in every part of life, including health care, it pays to speak up when you encounter ageism and to proactively counter it. From the get-go, tell your doctors: “My health goals are just as robust as they were 20 years ago. I expect you to aim for a high level of results.” (Your RealAge may be younger than your doc’s!) Then, hold up your end of the bargain by making sure you live a life that embraces healthy aging and energetically follows medical instructions for treatment, physical therapy, etc.
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But it’s important to note: You don’t have to be an older super-athlete to deserve to be treated with respect and not written off because of your age. Everyone should make health care providers aware of concerns about ageism and how it may affect your long-term wellbeing.
Q: I hear there are bacteria lingering in dental equipment! That’s bad enough. But I had a second hip replacement recently, and now the American Dental Association says it’s no longer necessary to take an antibiotic before having my teeth cleaned. Wouldn’t that protect me from joint replacement infections triggered by contaminated equipment? -- Joselyn K, Moline, Texas
A: True, there was a recent French study that found it wasn’t possible to completely get rid of biofilms in dental waterlines when using recommended disinfectants. But you shouldn’t be too concerned if you go to a reputable dentist. You risk a lot more if you don’t go to the dentist! Regular checkups can ward off gingivitis and periodontal disease, known risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. There’s even new research indicating that gingivitis may be a risk factor for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma -- throat cancer.
But about those antibiotics. The American Dental Association stated recently that antibiotics generally were not needed for people who’ve had surgical implants, like your hips, because there’s only a very slim chance of getting an infection from a dental procedure. But with all due respect, an orthopedic surgeon who’s seen what an infection can do to a joint replacement won’t give you the same recommendation as the ADA.
So should you take an antibiotic before your dental procedure? Since you’ve had a recent implant, yes. And then consult your surgeon about doing so in the future. The reason you take an antibiotic before dental work is to protect your implant from the bacteria in your mouth more than bacteria in dental equipment.
Fortunately, taking that single dose of antibiotics doesn’t promote antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is a much greater threat because of the American food supply. About 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are used in livestock. So make sure you eat foods that say “no antibiotics,” and get to the dentist!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.