The list of beneficial effects of being active grows every year and now includes prevention of heart disease, cancer, dementia, diabetes, and much more. Physical activity and exercise will, in fact, help you stay independent, live longer, and enjoy a better quality of life. 

The fortieth anniversary of the Nurses’ Health Study presents a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on our current understanding of breast cancer and how to prevent it. This study, which began with over 120,000 nurses, many of whom continue to participate, has provided valuable insights.

Physicians generally assume their patients take their medicines, but in reality, this is often not the case. This is particularly true for medicines used to treat high blood pressure. It turns out that over 25% of the 18.5 million Medicare beneficiaries prescribed a blood pressure medicine do not adhere to the instructions on how to take it.

Research shows about 50% of older adults have at least one pet. Certainly having a pet can make you feel good, but did you know that having a four-legged—or in some cases, a two-winged—friend might in fact be good for you?

Just about every day we hear about the virtues of being physically active, but is it really all that important? After all, physical activity and exercise can be hard to do, especially if you have been inactive or ill. Here’s the deal: The very best thing you can do for your mind, body, and—yes—sometimes even your soul is to be physically active. 

Salt, also called sodium chloride, is a fundamental element of life itself and remarkably complex when it comes to its impact upon our health. I am frequently asked about salt intake and whether salt is bad. Like many responses that physicians provide, the answer depends on your personal situation. 

Here’s some of what we know about salt and high blood pressure (hypertension):

Oral health and good dental care play an important but often overlooked role in your health and well-being. Through self-care and dentist’s visits, you can prevent gum disease (gingivitis, periodontitis) and tooth decay, which are leading causes of tooth loss. Despite this, only two out of three adults have seen a dentist in the past year.

The word “vitamin” was originally coined by the Polish biochemist Casimir Funk in 1912. He discovered why people who ate brown rice, which is rich in B vitamins, were less susceptible to beriberi—a disease caused by vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency. 

The strongest of pain medications, opioids/narcotics, have recently made headlines because abuse, misuse, and resulting side effects are rising at an alarming rate. In Massachusetts alone, opioid-related hospital visits nearly doubled from 2007 to 2014. Nationwide in 2009, over 400,000 visits to emergency rooms involved nonmedical uses of these painkillers.

For our third and final column about the rewards and challenges of caregiving, we will shift our focus to long-distance caregivers: the caregivers who live over one hour from their loved one.

Studies show that 15% to 20% of our nation’s estimated 34 million caregivers are helping from a long distance—that’s as many as 5–7 million people. 

Last month, we discussed the rewards and challenges associated with caregiving. Given the importance of this topic and the millions of caregivers who do such important work, we thought we would continue the discussion this month with a focus on caregiving for individuals with memory impairment or dementia.