Q. What is the survival rate for ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, usually strikes between the ages of 40 and 70.
Respiratory problems usually kill those with ALS in three to five years after diagnosis. About 10 percent of those with ALS live more than 10 years.
Some with ALS survive for many years. For example, the famed British physicist Stephen Hawking had ALS from the 1960s until his death last year. In a small number of people, ALS mysteriously stops.
Q. My sister went through a nightmare of doctor visits before she finally found out she has fibromyalgia. Why did it take so long for a correct diagnosis?
What your sister endured is common. It’s not easy to diagnose fibromyalgia with a laboratory test. Healthcare practitioners have to rely on symptoms to make a diagnosis.
Fibromyalgia symptoms vary. To complicate the diagnosis, fibromyalgia imitates rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus and other conditions.
Q. Pop-Pop, don’t feel bad that you gave me a cold in my eye. It wasn’t your fault ... was it?
This question came from my granddaughter, Maggie. She got conjunctivitis, known colloquially as “pink eye,” one week after I did.
Subsequently, Maggie’s mother and grandmother also got nasty cases that required multiple visits to an ophthalmologist.
Conjunctivitis is an infection of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that lines the eyelid and part of the eyeball. The infection creates swelling of the eyelids and a reddening of the whites of the eyes.
Q. What are allergy shots?
Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, are a series of scheduled injections meant to desensitize you to specific allergens, which are substances that trigger an allergic response.
The usual schedule is one shot once or twice a week for about three to six months. After that, you’ll need one shot about once a month for three to five years.
Allergy shots are commonly used to treat allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma. Allergy shots may also control allergic reactions to stinging insects, such as bees, yellow jackets, hornets and wasps.
Q. I eat a little chocolate every day. How bad is that for me?
You didn’t say how much chocolate you eat daily. If you eat a chocolate Easter bunny a day, there is an obvious risk of becoming overweight. However, a little chocolate has health benefits.
A recent Harvard study suggested that a bit of high-quality dark chocolate one to three times a month may protect women from heart failure.
Q. What are your best recommendations for achieving a long life?
The American Geriatrics Society’s Foundation for Health in Aging offers a Top 10 list for longevity that can’t be beat. Here’s an edited version of the list. The cliches are mine.
1. Go Over The Rainbow: You need fewer calories when you get older. Choose nutrient-rich foods like brightly-colored fruits and vegetables. Eat a range of colors. The more varied the colors, the wider the range of nutrients you’re likely to get.
Q. How does acupuncture work?
Studies show that stimulating “acupoints” causes multiple biologic responses. The stimulation can prompt the release of the body’s natural pain-killing endorphins.
By the 3rd century B.C., the Chinese documented a medical system based on qi (pronounced “chee”), a concept of vital energy believed to flow throughout the body.
Q. What kind of exercise should I do to get rid of this big gut I’m carrying around?
Exercise alone will not do the job. Strengthening abdominal muscles can help you look tighter and thinner. Spot exercises won’t banish belly fat.
The real secret to losing belly fat is a balanced, calorie-controlled diet and one hour a day of moderate activity such as brisk walking.
If you are going to do abdominal exercises, which ones work best? Most people figure that doing sit-ups is the logical solution. There are better ways to attack the middle.
Q. I’m 74 and I don’t seem to be able to endure hot weather the way I used to when I was younger. Is this a common experience as we age?
Yes. I don’t play golf when it’s more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit because it makes me a bit woozy even if I drink a lot of water and seek out the shade. My reaction to heat is caused by blood pressure drugs that I take, my advanced age, and some extra pounds I’m struggling to lose.
Too much heat can make you sick. Heat-related conditions come under the heading, “hyperthermia,” which means “high heat.”
Q. What can you do to prevent heart failure?
There are a number of things that you can do to reduce risk of coronary artery disease and heart failure.
For starters, you should keep the following levels down: body weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, sugar, alcohol and salt. Exercise regularly. If you smoke, quit.
The most common symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling, which usually occurs in the ankles, feet and legs. Swelling is caused by fluid buildup in the body and can lead to weight gain, frequent urination and a cough.