Atrial fibrillation: Living with a common heart condition

Atrial fibrillation (afib) is an irregular quivering of the heart’s upper chambers. This abnormal heart rhythm increases the risk of stroke because it can cause clots to form in the heart and travel to the brain. To prevent strokes, most people with atrial fibrillation must take a blood thinner (anticoagulant) for life. The standard medication is warfarin (Coumadin), but four drugs in a new class of medication are now available. These prevent strokes as effectively as warfarin and reduce the chance of dangerous bleeding in the brain associated with anticoagulants. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Pacemakers and MRI scans

Some diagnostic imaging centers offer MRI scans to people with pacemakers. An expert must evaluate the situation and make the decision whether it is safe. Special MRI-safe pacemakers are now available. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Safe driving and aging

Safe driving requires a variety of mental and physical skills. A doctor can assess some of the skills needed to drive safely, and some medical centers offer safe driving evaluations. (Locked) More »

Healthy diet: Is glycemic index the key?

A lower-glycemic-index diet focuses on foods that will minimize large or sudden increases in blood sugar. Although some evidence suggests it may help fight obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, a recent study found that using the glycemic index did not help lower the risk of heart disease in overweight people already eating a relatively healthy diet. To get the benefits of a low-glycemic-index diet without having to look up the glycemic index of foods, cut back on highly processed grains like white flour and white rice, starchy foods like white potatoes, and added sugars. More »

Opioid painkillers: Take the strong stuff only when you need it

Opioid painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone offer relief from pain, but the body gets used to them, requiring ever-higher doses. Taken long-term, they can also have side effects such as severe constipation and sedation leading to falls. These drugs should be used for the shortest time possible, generally no longer than four to six weeks. If pain persists, it is best to transition to less risky forms of pain control. These could include non-opioid pain relievers, counseling on how to adapt better to pain, and complementary and alternative treatments, like acupuncture and meditation. A pain specialist can offer assistance in planning a long-term strategy for chronic pain control. (Locked) More »

Retirement stress: Taking it too easy can be bad for you, too

Retirement brings many changes, including a less structured day and an altered home life. It takes time and effort to make the transition successfully. Being engaged mentally and socially is also key to well-being in retirement. Doing too much or doing too little can lead to anxiety, depression, and other health issues. Men need activities that structure their time and are meaningful to them. Taking hobbies and interests to a more challenging level, providing service to others as a community volunteer, and learning new skills can all fuel a man’s mental and social engagement. (Locked) More »

How to be a savvy hospital shopper

To choose the best hospital, men should start by asking for a recommendation from their physicians. Also ask friends, family, and co-workers. Sample multiple types of information, including national hospital rankings and hospital websites. Medicare and other organizations allow you to obtain information on hospital quality of care, although the measurements can be difficult for nonexperts to understand. Teaching hospitals often provide above-average quality of care. (Locked) More »

Review finds no sign of memory loss from statins

A study found no convincing scientific evidence that taking a statin can cause memory loss or other changes in mental functioning. The new research review covered randomized clinical trials that included nearly 47,000 people. (Locked) More »

One in 10 men may be taking aspirin unnecessarily

A study found that one in 10 people who take protective aspirin may not really qualify, because the risk of heart attacks and strokes wasn't great enough to justify the risk of unwanted bleeding associated with aspirin. (Locked) More »