Q. How extensive is alcoholism among older people?
Alcoholism is a serious problem among seniors. Here are a few statistics that tell the story:
About 70 percent of hospital admissions for older adults are for illness and accidents related to alcohol.
About half of older adults in nursing homes have an alcohol problem.
Older adults lose an average of 10 years off their lives because of alcohol abuse.
About 80 percent of doctors misdiagnose alcoholism as depression in older women.
The highest growing number of alcoholics is among 75-year-old widowers.
Q. What causes motion sickness?
Many people, including me, suffer nausea when traveling by boat, car or airplane. It also happens on rides in amusement parks and playgrounds.
The symptoms of motion sickness are caused by conflicting messages arriving at the central nervous system. Different parts of your body let your brain know where you are and what you're doing.
The inner ears let you know if you're turning, or moving forward-backward, side-to-side, and up-and-down.
Q. I have arthritis in my knee. I'm thinking about trying acupuncture, but my friends think I'm nuts. What do you think?
Several recent studies show osteoarthritis symptoms can be relieved with acupuncture. One Scandinavian study reported that 25 percent of patients canceled their plans for knee surgery after acupuncture.
About 15 million Americans have tried this needle therapy. The World Health Organization recommends it for more than 40 conditions as diverse as asthma and nausea from chemotherapy. The Food and Drug Administration regulates acupuncture needles.
Q. Whenever I drink a little too much wine, I find that I wake up at night and my heart seems to race for a while. Can wine do that?
The short answer is yes. But, first, it sounds like you haven't told a doctor about this. And you should, immediately. What you're describing could be atrial fibrillation. The risk of atrial fibrillation increases with age, particularly after age 60.
Q. Is it my imagination, but am I getting fewer fevers than I did when I was younger?
The immune system doesn't function as efficiently in older adults as it does in younger people. The body's fever response to infection is not always automatic in elderly people. More than 20 percent of adults over age 65 who have serious bacterial infections do not have fevers.
This brings us to germs, which are defined as microbes that cause disease. Infectious diseases caused by microbes are the leading cause of death.
Q. What exactly is congestive heart failure?
If you have congestive heart failure (CHF) your heart can't pump enough blood. This condition develops over time. It is the No. 1 reason people over age 65 go into the hospital.
Heart failure is most common in older people, and is more common in African-Americans. Men have a higher rate of heart failure than women. But, because women usually live longer, the condition affects more women in their 70s and 80s.
Q. I heard that marijuana helps glaucoma. I'd like to try it, but won't I get in trouble?
Marijuana can help your glaucoma and it could get you in trouble because there are legal restrictions upon its use. If you are interested in trying medical marijuana for your glaucoma, discuss this treatment with your doctor.
Marijuana refers to the parts of the Cannabis sativa plant, which has been used for medicinal purposes for more than 4,800 years. Doctors in ancient China, Greece and Persia used it as a pain reliever and for gastrointestinal disorders and insomnia.
Q. Does caffeine bother you more the older you get?
Sensitivity to caffeine, the pick-me-up in coffee, tends to increase as you get older. Children metabolize caffeine quicker than adults.
About 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine daily. More than half of American adults consume more than 300 milligrams of caffeine every day, making it America's most popular drug.
Q. Does fiber in your diet reduce cholesterol?
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber is acted upon by the normal bacteria in your intestines.
Insoluble fiber is not digested by the body and promotes regularity and softens stools. Wheat bran, whole grain products and vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber.
Q. How common is back pain?
Back pain affects about eight out of 10. Back pain becomes more common with age.
Back pain is more common among those who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. If you're sedentary most of the time and then exert yourself on rare occasions, you are more likely to injure your back than someone who exercises daily.
If you're carrying a big belly, you put added stress on the muscles in your low back and are a candidate for agony.