Healthy Aging

Should my elderly mother switch to a geriatrician?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My mother has been going to the same doctor for decades. Now that she is 80, should she switch to a geriatrician?

DEAR READER: There's a lot to be said for a doctor-patient relationship that has built trust over the years. Switching to a geriatrician may not be a good idea -- but consulting a geriatrician could be a very good idea. Geriatricians specialize in the health of older adults.

What can my dermatologist do for my wrinkles that’s budget friendly?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm in my 60s and already have a lot of wrinkles. What can a dermatologist do for me that will make a difference but not be hugely expensive?

DEAR READER: Age isn't kind to skin. Years of sun exposure leave their mark in the form of fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration. I spoke to my colleague Dr. Kenneth Arndt, clinical professor of dermatology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Why do I have trouble remembering certain types of information but not others?

DEAR DOCTOR K: As I get older, I've noticed that I have more trouble remembering certain types of information. But other types of memory are as strong as ever. Is this true, or just wishful thinking on my part?

DEAR READER: You've made an interesting observation -- and an accurate one. As we age, some information does become harder to recall, and new memories may be harder to lay down in the brain. But other memories remain as accessible as ever.

Is there anyway to reduce the side effects of my osteoporosis drug?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor wants me to take Fosamax for osteoporosis, but the drug gives me heartburn and makes me nauseated. Is there anything I can do to reduce these side effects?

DEAR READER: Fosamax (alendronate) is part of a group of drugs called biphosphonates. Actonel (risedronate) and Boniva (ibandronate) are also in this group. Doctors prescribe biphosphonates to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

Where should I keep my advance medical directive?

DEAR DOCTOR K: This isn't really a medical question, but I hope you'll answer it anyway. Where should I keep my advance medical directive?

DEAR READER: You raise an important issue, and I'm happy to address it. In fact, your question is timely, because I have just discussed with my lawyer where to store my advance medical directive. Let me tell you what I've learned.

What causes under eye bags, puffiness, and dark circles?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Why do I have bags, puffiness and dark circles around my eyes? What can I do about it?

DEAR READER: My Harvard Medical School colleague Dr. Robert Shmerling wrote about this a couple of years ago in the Harvard Health Letter newsletter. Here's some of what he said: Gently pinch the skin under your eyes and give it a little tug. You'll feel that it's a little looser and thinner than skin elsewhere. It's also looser and thinner than it used to be.

Can you recommend some nonsurgical treatments that will take a few years off my face?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm 65 and my face is starting to look old. Can you recommend nonsurgical treatments to take a few years off my face?

DEAR READER: Our faces age along with the rest of us. The difference is that our face is the part of ourselves that we look at most often -- and that others look at most often. Some people accept these changes; others fight them every step of the way. But there's also a middle road for people who prefer to make relatively small tweaks that can make a noticeable difference.

Does stress cause our cells to age faster?

DEAR DOCTOR K: For years I've heard that chronic stress is bad for your health, but recently I heard something that made me take this seriously: Stress causes our cells to age faster. Is this really true?

DEAR READER: I'll bet you're talking about research showing that stress affects the telomeres. These structures are a part of every cell in our body. And if that's what you're asking about, it really is true. In fact, it's part of a discovery so important that it was honored with the Nobel Prize.