Why do women tend to live longer than men?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've heard that women tend to live longer than men. Why is that?

DEAR READER: On average, women do live about five years longer than men. In the United States, 57 percent of all who are ages 65 and older are female. By age 85, 67 percent are women. You can see this for yourself in most nursing homes or assisted living facilities in the United States: Women usually outnumber men, and the magnitude of the difference is often striking.

Can you give me specific advice to help control my allergies?

DEAR DOCTOR K: The weather's warming up. For me, that means one thing: allergies. Can you give me some specific advice to help keep my allergies under control?

DEAR READER: Inhaled pollen, from trees, grass and weeds, is responsible for hay fever. These allergens get into the air -- and into our noses, eyes and lungs --causing the symptoms that allergy sufferers dread.

What is a POLST form?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My husband has terminal cancer. He has already signed a do-not-resuscitate order. His doctor recently suggested that he also complete a new form called a "POLST." Can you explain what this is?

DEAR READER: As you know (but other readers might not), a Durable Do Not Resuscitate Order (DDNR) lets your husband's medical team know that he does not want CPR if his heart stops beating or he stops breathing. It's usually for people who are near the end of their lives or have an illness that won't improve. It takes the burden of decision-making off family members.

Is there anything I can do about excessive sweating?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a woman in her 70s. My problem is that I sweat heavily, day and night. Of course, it's worse in the summer. I'm way past menopause. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Doctors call excessive sweating "hyperhidrosis." It is not a rare problem; I've treated many patients for it. In every case, they waited a long time before talking about the problem. That's because they thought it was such a trivial issue that they didn't want to waste the doctor's time.

Is jogging or brisk walking better for my health?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a 42-year-old couch potato. Gentle pressure from my wife and doctor have "convinced" me to start exercising regularly. What's better for my health: jogging or brisk walking?

DEAR READER: If you're a couch potato, you're in the majority. A recent study found that nearly 60 percent of adults in the United States do not get enough exercise.

What are the treatment options for uterine fibroids?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have fibroids that cause heavy menstrual bleeding and painful cramping. What are my treatment options?

DEAR READER: As I'll explain shortly, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to have children in the future. That's because some of the most effective treatments for fibroids make becoming pregnant more difficult, or impossible.

Could stress be contributing to my high blood pressure?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Could stress be causing my high blood pressure?

DEAR READER: You bet it could. It surely contributed to my high blood pressure. Most of us experience a lot of stress. I'm not sure today's world is more stressful than the world of our parents or grandparents. We may have different stressors than they did, but life has always been full of stress.

How will losing weight help me sleep better?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm overweight. My doctor told me, among other things, that losing weight would help me sleep better. What's the connection?

DEAR READER: It's true. Losing weight, especially in your belly, improves the quality of sleep if you are overweight or obese.

Why won’t my doctor prescribe antibiotics for my illness?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been under the weather for a few days. This morning I blew my nose and saw greenish mucus, so I called my doctor and requested antibiotics. He refused. Why?

DEAR READER: Your doctor is correct not to prescribe antibiotics based on the color of your mucus alone. Despite what many people think, you cannot rely on the color or consistency of nasal discharge to distinguish viral from bacterial sinus infections. That's an important distinction because only bacterial infections respond to antibiotics.

How does weight-loss surgery work?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm very overweight. Diet and exercise help a little, but then I gain it back. My doctor is recommending weight-loss surgery. Does it really work, and how does it work?

DEAR READER: There are several types of weight-loss surgery (also called "bariatric surgery"). They work in various ways. They shrink the size of the stomach: The stomach gets full more easily. They reduce the absorption of calories and nutrients in the intestine. Some types of bariatric surgery also lead to hormone changes that reduce appetite and burn energy more efficiently.