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Coniditons managed without drugs

“When’s the last time you took a cold pill?” Yes, that’s been the conversation at our house for the last 10 days. My husband and I are both suffering from respiratory “garbage.” A wonderful medical description isn’t it? I think you know what I’m talking about – I’ve heard a lot of raspy voices and a lot of coughing out there. We’re however not used to taking medication routinely, and quite frankly it’s a pain!

I’ve never been much for medication, but sometimes its just plain inevitable. I remember telling my kids, get up, take a shower, you’ll feel good enough to go to school (nice Mom, huh?)

You now know why the following information from Harvard’s Health Newsletter was interesting to me. Older adults should guard against over medication and talk with their doctor about the best ways to manage their health. Companionship is one.

Question: As a healthy 75-year-old, I’ve managed without much medication all of my life. My children are always trying to get me to ask my doctors about the newest medications on the market. I think less is more. Am I being unreasonable?

Answer: It’s important to check with your doctor first about any medications you should be on. Never stop taking a medication or reduce your dosage without first consulting your physician.

The Harvard Health Newsletter points out that with a disciplined lifestyle, seven of the most common senior conditions can be managed without medications. If you’re interested in learning how to continue to keep your meds to a minimum, here’s how. If you’re thinking of incorporating any of these, please discuss first with your doctor:

• Arthritis: There’s a good chance that losing weight will make arthritis less painful. Combine weight loss with exercise and you may have less pain and more mobility.

• Cholesterol: Your LDL level may drop by 5 percent or so if you keep foods high in saturated fat off the menu. Additional soluble fiber may reduce LDL levels as well. So can margarines fortified with sterols.

• Cognitive decline: Memory training and other “brain exercises” seem to help healthy older people stay sharp.

• Depression: Studies have shown that regular physical activity can have a potent antidepressant effect.

• Diabetes: Regular physical activity is a powerful brake on blood sugar levels as well, because exercised muscle becomes more receptive to the insulin that helps it pull sugar in from the bloodstream.

• High blood pressure: Losing weight, getting more exercise, and eating less sodium all lower blood pressure.

• Osteoporosis: Weight-bearing exercise puts stress on bones, and bone tissue reacts by getting stronger and denser, fending off osteoporotic processes. Extra vitamin D and calcium top the list of dietary recommendations.

Also, don’t discount the importance of companionship to staying healthy. Make sure that you get out often and socialize with friends.

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If you’re managing a cold without a decongestant I think you’re crazy, but some of the tips above make a lot of sense. The most interesting thing to me is “don’t discount the importance of companionship to staying healthy.” We need people, no matter what our age. We need to be out in the world. We need the socialization. We need to “get up and take a shower and go to school” to feel better. Don’t discount the importance of companionship to stay healthy!

How much better do you feel after an unexpected call from a friend? Why is that conversation with a spouse while dinner is cooking so important? Why is receiving a text from your child who now lives out of town so uplifting? When friends return back to town after being gone all winter, why is it so important to get together with them just to catch up? Don’t discount the importance of companionship to stay healthy!

Medications are the key for managing some of our illnesses. (I should have bought stock in the Sudafed company!) Preventative lifestyle, as mentioned in the Harvard Health Newsletter, can make a world of difference and make us feel so much more in control of our own health. However, don’t discount the importance of companionship to stay healthy! Call a friend today – especially if that friend is a senior and struggles to connect with the outside world. You can be just the right medicine!

DEB CRANNY is the executive director at Home Instead Senior Care in Brainerd