5 ailments to beat as baby boomers age

  • Article by: COLLEEN WRIGHT , Orlando Sentinel
  • Updated: July 20, 2013 - 2:38 PM
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As baby boomers march toward retirement at the rate of 10,000 a day, they are encountering unexpected ailments along the way. These are not diseases that will kill them but nuisances that remind them that they are aging.

Although doctors struggle to explain why the immune system takes a dip between ages 40 and 50, they suggest that the best way to avoid these irritants is to practice a healthful lifestyle. “The key to middle age is to stay active, eat healthy and don’t give up,” said Dr. Seth Johnson, a family practitioner in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Here are some ways to slow down and combat five common ailments.

Shingles

This painful skin rash occurs when the virus that caused chickenpox during childhood returns for round two.

Before age 50, the chance of developing shingles is just 1 to 2 percent. But after 50, that chance increases to 2 to 3 percent.

A vaccine can decrease the likelihood of contracting shingles, but Johnson doesn’t recommend it for patients younger than 50. The vaccine cuts the risk in half, but it costs $200 to $300.

“If you have a pain you can’t explain for a day or two and then see a rash, contact your physician,” Johnson said. If untreated, the virus can cause tender water blisters and worse — such as nerve damage.

The most effective treatment is anti-viral medication used within 72 hours of an outbreak, he said.

Vertigo

A sensation of dizziness, benign vertigo is most likely caused by natural aging or a head trauma that lodges tiny crystals into the wrong area of the ear. This sends bad information to the brain and knocks off the sense of balance.

“Every time they lie down or roll over, the whole room starts spinning for 10 to 30 seconds,” said ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist Dr. Jeffrey Baylor.

If you suspect you have vertigo, Baylor recommends being tested by an ENT specialist to rule out more extreme causes such as a tumor or stroke.

If correctly diagnosed by a doctor, benign positional vertigo is treatable through the Epley maneuver, said Dr. Clifford Dubbin, an Orlando ENT specialist. It involves sequential movements of the head, staying in each of the four positions for 30 seconds. “If you know you have it, you can save a week or two of misery and do the maneuver,” he said.

He also said benign vertigo can slowly disappear on its own over time.

Weakened depth perception

Reading glasses often become a necessity for aging eyes, but many Americans don’t realize that depth perception also can become an issue, even creating a driving hazard.

As vision deteriorates over time, Johnson said, eyes can become less symmetrical. For instance, one eye might see things near while the other sees far. This difference affects depth perception.

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