What new opioid laws mean for pain relief

 Image: © Darwin Brandis/Getty Images Overdoses of powerful painkillers called opioids kill more than 115 people per day in the United States. More than 42,000 people died from opioids in 2016, five times more than in 1999. The reason? Since several of these powerful painkillers became available in pill form several decades ago, doctors have been prescribing more than patients need. "It is estimated that a large part of leftover opioids are diverted to the street, either deliberately or through theft," says Dr. Edgar Ross, senior clinician at the Pain Management Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. The misuse of opioids is a risk many states are no longer willing to take. The rules limit the amounts that medical professionals can prescribe for temporary (acute) pain from surgery, injury, or illness. (Locked) More »

Does a virus cause Alzheimer’s?

Research suggests that some cases of Alzheimer’s disease and some other types of dementia might be triggered by the infection of brain cells with viruses, primarily the herpesviruses. (Locked) More »

Take that, muscle cramps!

 Image: © ChesiireCat/Getty Images A muscle cramp always feels like a surprise. The involuntary contraction strikes without warning, whether it's a charley horse in the middle of night or a back spasm as you reach for an everyday object. But don't let that cramp throw you for a loop. "When it suddenly strikes, don't exercise or tighten the muscle. Just gently stretch it to your tolerance. That helps to relax the muscle and relieve the uncontrolled contraction," says Madhuri Kale, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. Exercising without properly warming up the muscles can lead to cramps. Cramps also occur when a muscle is not able to relax properly (such as from a deficiency of magnesium or potassium in your diet) or when it becomes irritated by a buildup of lactic acid (which can happen if you don't rest your muscle after it has exercised a lot). Dehydration can worsen both of these problems. Kale says older adults often don't drink enough water at night because they want to avoid having to go the bathroom, and they end up dehydrated. More »

Should you try the keto diet?

In the world of weight-loss diets, low-carbohydrate, high-protein eating plans often grab attention. The Paleo, South Beach, and Atkins diets all fit into that category. They are sometimes referred to as ketogenic or "keto" diets. But a true ketogenic diet is different. Unlike other low-carb diets, which focus on protein, a keto plan centers on fat, which supplies as much as 90% of daily calories. And it's not the type of diet to try as an experiment. More »

Tips for success when your kids are on your health care team

Having adult children help with their parents’ health care can be tricky. There’s a tendency for roles to reverse, with the child acting as a parent. Or the parent doesn’t want to burden the child, and lets health issues go until they’re too far gone. To make the arrangement a successful one, it helps to talk openly about necessary time commitments; decide in advance how much health information the adult child can access; and determine how much input the adult child will have in the treatment plan. (Locked) More »

Why wound healing gets harder as we age

Wounds in older adults can take a long time to heal. Treatment involves a combination of approaches such as debridement, special dressings, keeping pressure off the wound, exercising, taking a multivitamin, and eating a healthy diet with the recommended amounts of protein. Because wounds are tricky, it’s important to try to prevent them by switching positions often; keeping an eye out for nicks, cuts, and early signs of pressure wounds; and controlling conditions that can lead to wounds, such as diabetes and venous insufficiency. (Locked) More »