Health & Fitness

Juggling treatments for multiple chronic conditions; you’re not getting older, you’re getting better


King Features Syndicate

Q: I’ve had asthma for 25 years, and now, at age 58, I have been diagnosed with diabetes. I’m overwhelmed with all the meds and procedures I need. How do I keep things straight? -- Jeri H., Salem, Oregon

A: A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that overall, 25 percent of Americans (it’s 62 percent of those 65-plus!) are diagnosed with two or more of these chronic illnesses: arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, diabetes, hepatitis, hypertension, stroke and kidney weakness or failure. Each condition may be managed with multiple medications and lifestyle interventions, and some may require surgery.

As an empowered patient (that’s what YOU want to become), make sure each doctor knows about every medication and supplement you take. And rely on your pharmacist! To guard against conflicts and contraindications, ask for a review of all your prescriptions and supplements biannually and whenever you get a new prescription. And get all your meds from the same pharmacy. Also, ask your doc and pharmacist for suggestions on how to time your daily doses, diagnostic tests (like blood sugar monitoring) and lifestyle activities (can you swim right after taking your meds?). Write down answers or record them on your smartphone.

Then discuss using digital monitors and apps that can help you and your doctor track your treatment. For example, apps for diabetics can let your doctor know your daily glucose readings.

Once you have all the info you need, write out a medication and/or treatment schedule, and check off each item daily. You also can set up alerts on your smartphone for taking meds or testing blood sugar. And write down any questions that come up between appointments so that you can ask your doc and/or pharmacist the next time you see them. It’ll get easier down the road.

Q: I moved into a retirement community recently, after my husband died. I am amazed by how much “social interaction” there is. Do you think it’s weird for me to start dating again at my age (78)? -- Frannie K., Santa Monica, California

A: Before Monty Python gave their farewell performance on July 20, 2014 (they did 10 back-to-back sold-out shows), Eric Idle, 73, announced that the evening would feature “comedy, pathos, music and a tiny piece of ancient sex.” Well, according to a new study in the journal Leisure Sciences, a surprising number of seniors (John Cleese is 76; Terry Gilliam, 75; Terry Jones, 74; Michael Palin, 73) are pursuing more than just a tiny piece of ancient sex. In senior communities around the globe, residents told the researchers that they are using “myriad strategies to maintain sexuality, despite limiting constraints.” In fact, because of what those Canadian researchers termed an “abundance of leisure time in later life,” many older folks find exploring different sexual avenues a rewarding leisure activity.

This is good news, since the sharing of intimacy (how you do it is your business) fights isolation and depression, and has been shown in multiple studies to both prolong cognitive powers and lower blood pressure, improve heart health, reduce stress and just plain make you happy.

But some advice: A few years back, the rate of STDs in senior retirement communities made headlines, as did the fact that the men were frequent users of drugs like Viagra and Cialis and were less likely to use condoms (older, not wiser). The incidence of chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea and syphilis among older people nearly doubled from 1996 to 2003. Transmission of HIV has increased, too. And these continue to be often-overlooked problems.

So, our advice to sexually active seniors? Get out there, make new friends and enjoy intimacy, but get tested and stay protected. And if someone asks you about sex, you can reflect back on the 1971 Clairol ad and say, “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.”

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