Ask Dr. Narrett

Created date

August 25th, 2009

Dr. Matthew Narrett is the chief medical officer for Erickson Retirement Communities, heading up America s leading group of experts in geriatric health care. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Narrett has spoken frequently on issues affecting seniors in a number of settings, including conferences, media events, health leadership summits, and congressional forums.Send him your questions by e-mail to

Please note: The following questions were submitted by readers. The answers are intended for general information purposes and should not replace your doctor s medical advice.

Q: 'As I get older, my balance is not as good as it used to be. Is this going to get worse, or can I do something about it?'

A: Some people have a decreased sense of balance as they age. Many medical conditions, general weakness due to inactivity, changes in your muscles, or other factors can contribute to a lack of balance. There are many balance activities that might help you prevent a further decline, and these activities may also help you prevent falls and fractures. Research supports the benefits of tai chi, for example, in improving balance. Talk to your doctor about which activities are best for you.  

Q: 'I take a vitamin D supplement every day, but my wife told me that too much can be toxic. Is this true?'

A: The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is 400IUs, which is usually what you ll find in a single dose. Emerging research has shown, however, that many older adults are deficient in vitamin D and need more than the RDA. Research also indicates that most adults would have to take 10,000IUs of vitamin D daily to reach toxic levels. Because vitamin D is shown to be beneficial for everything from bone health to cancer prevention, talk to your doctor to see if you are getting enough. A simple blood test can determine if you are vitamin D deficient.

Q: 'I am 79 years old, and my daughter keeps telling me I need to exercise. Isn t it dangerous for me to start exercising at this age?' 

A: It s never too late to start! There are many studies that show benefits of moderate activity, no matter what age you are. The type of exercise that s best for you might depend on your health conditions, so it s important to talk to your doctor before beginning any activity program. For more information about these questions and much more, read Narrett s new book, Old is the New Young. In this book, Narrett and other leading specialists take the latest clinical research findings on aging and turn them into simple steps for healthy living. Old is the New Young is on sale now at