Q. I’ve been getting lots of ear wax lately. Please tell me this has nothing to do with getting older.
I wish I could. Ear-wax problems are just one more indignity seniors have to deal with. I sympathize with your annoyance.
As you age, your eardrums often thicken and the bones of the middle ear and other structures are affected. Hearing sharpness may decline because of changes in the auditory nerve. Impacted ear wax is another cause of trouble hearing and is more common with increasing age.
Q. What causes my old teeth to decay?
Tooth decay and gum disease are caused by plaque, a layer of bacteria. Plaque can build up quickly on the teeth of older people.
In addition, seniors have a greater tendency to get decay around older fillings. And we have more fillings than younger people because we didn’t all grow up with fluoride added to drinking water.
Q. I’ve been on a diet high in proteins and low in carbohydrates for several weeks now and I’ve lost weight. What do you think of this type of diet?
These diets can bring a quick drop in weight because eliminating carbohydrates causes a loss of body fluids.
And, high-protein diets cause substances called “ketones” to be released into the bloodstream. The ketones make dieting easier by lowering appetite.
Q. Do women get color blindness?
Color blindness affects about 10 percent of men, but only one percent of women.
Color blindness is the common term used to describe color vision deficiency. The term is misleading, because total color blindness that turns the world into shades of gray is rare.
The most common type of color blindness makes it difficult for people to discriminate between red and green. The next most common form of the deficiency affects the perception of blues and yellows. Those with blue-yellow blindness almost always have red-green blindness, too.
Q. How should I change my diet to get more iron? I think I’m a little anemic.
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia. About 20 percent of women, 50 percent of pregnant women, and 3 percent of men do not have enough iron in their bodies.
If you have anemia, your blood does not carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body. The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency.
You need iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries the oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
Q. I gave my 81-year-old brother a birthday present recently. As he opened it, a brief smile crossed his face. It was funny to me because I recalled that, when he was a kid, he would tear open presents and jump out of his skin. Does enthusiasm wane as we age?
I wouldn’t describe your brother as someone who has lost his enthusiasm. I would say he is just less excitable, mellower. There is scientific evidence that we do chill out as we get older.
Q. I’m 66 and I’m thinking of taking up a musical instrument. I hear that this will be good for my health. Is this true?
Playing a musical instrument seems to improve your health in a variety of ways.
I play the saxophone almost every day and can confirm that playing music definitely relieves stress. And stress can be bad for your mental and physical health.
There’s a lot of evidence that playing music is good for you.
According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, playing an instrument as a child keeps the mind sharper as we age.
Q. My Aunt Lillian is a total health freak. The other day she said cinnamon is good for you. Come on! Cinnamon?
Recent research indicates that cinnamon may be helpful for people with Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that affects the way your body processes sugar. Type 2 diabetes can be life-threatening if you don’t treat it.
One study found that cinnamon taken twice a day for 90 days improved the condition of people with poorly-controlled Type 2 diabetes.
Q. How does an MRI work?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures of cross-sections. In many cases, MRI gives more information than other types of diagnostic imaging. Sometimes, contrast agents are used to enhance the images.
Second of two parts
Hypnosis is one of several relaxation methods helpful for treating chronic pain, alleviating anxiety, reducing the frequency and severity of headaches, controlling bleeding and pain during dental procedures, quitting smoking and ending alcohol dependence.
Hypnosis achieves focused attention. It is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. When our minds are concentrated, we are able to use them more powerfully.