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Active Living
Full Listing with story descriptions
A Healthy Balance
Ankle Sprains
Active Kids, Healthy Kids
Active Kids in Winter
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Children, Nutrition & Exercise
Beat the Heat!
Cold Weather Workouts
Concussions
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Exercise and Disabilities
Exercise and Menstrual Irregularities
Exercise in the Cold
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Exercise is Medicine
Exercise Options
Exercising in Pregnancy
Female Athletes
FITT Prescription
Footwear for Running
From Surviving to Thriving
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Get Moving!
Get Motivated
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Head Injuries
Hockey Injuries
Home Gyms
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Jump Start Weight Loss
Knee Cap Pain
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Live Actively
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Osteoarthritis of the Knee
Plantar Fasciitis
Prehistoric Workout
Prevention of Sports Injury
Proprioception
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Staying Fit in the Cold
Sports Nutrition & Supplements
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Teen Sports Injuries
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Water and Exercise
Weight Training
7 Wonders of Walking
Adolescent Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
Acne
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Adolescent Growth & Development
Body Image
Body Piercing
Bullying
Chronic Diseases in Teens
Communications Skills
Concussion in Sport
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Depression
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Female Physical Exam
First Period
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Junior High
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A Woman's Physical
Your First Job
Youth Violence
Childbirth
Full Listing with story descriptions
Advice from the Maternity Clinic
Advice from the Maternity Clinic (Part 2)
Alcohol in Pregnancy
Building a Better Baby
Birthing Etiquette
Birth Plans
Birthing Procedure Trends
Bleeding in Pregnancy
Breastfeeding Benefits
Caesarean Section by Request
Care for the New Mother
Cord Blood Banking
Delaying Motherhood
Blue after Baby or Postpartum Depression
Diabetes in Pregnancy
Eating Well for Pregnancy
Evolving Ideas about Pregnancy and Birth
Exercise in Pregnancy
Flying During Pregnancy
Folic Acid in Pregnancy
High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Getting a latch on breastfeeding
Group B Streptococcus
Induction of Labour
Infections During Pregnancy
Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)
In-Vitro Fertilization
Low Birth Weight Babies
Medication & Pregnancy
Miscarriage
Managing Your Own Labour
Monitoring Your Labour
Nausea & Vomiting in Pregnancy
Pain Relief in Labour
Prenatal Classes
Preterm Labour
Planning a Pregnancy
Pregnancy Weight
Prenatal Care Providers
Postpartum Repetitive Strain Injuries
RH Disease
Rupture of Membranes Before Labour
Sex During Pregnancy
Skin Changes in Pregnancy
Smoking and Pregnancy
Support During Labour
Travelling While Pregnant
Ultrasound for Fun & Photos
Natural Remedies in Pregnancy
Vaccinations During Pregnancy
Vacuum & Forceps for Delivery
Vaginal Birth After Caesarean
When Baby Comes Home
Childhood
Full Listing with story descriptions
Asthma in Children
Attention Deficit Disorder
Babysitter
Bed Wetting
Chickenpox
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Children's Headaches
Childhood Obesity
Choosing A Babysitter
Circumcision
Colds & Flu
Common Childhood Skin Infections
Croup
Developmental Milestones
Diaper Rash
Daytime Wetting
Introducing Solid Foods
Developmental Co-ordination Disorder
Diarrhea
Discipline
Earache
Eczema
Feeding Your Baby
Feeding Your Toddler
Fever
Head Lice
Hearing
How Children Grow
Hearing Loss
Hearing Issues in Newborns
Heart Murmers
Hip Clicks
Influenza
Iron
Is it an Emergency?
Children and Sports Injuries
Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)
Learning Disabilities
Leg Problems
Not Just Baby Fat
Orthodontics
Preparing for Lab Tests
Recognizing Learning Disabilities
Red Rashes
RSV-Childhood Respiratory Virus
Safe Summer Fun
School
Scoliosis
Sick Toddler
Sleep Struggles
Sniffles, Fevers, Rashes & Coughs
Sore Throats
Speech Problems
Strep Throat
Toddler Safety
Thumbsucking
Tooth Injuries
Tummyache
Urinary Tract Infections
Vaccinations
Vaccination and Autism
When to go to the Doctor
Whooping Cough
Worried Sick
Yeast Infections in Children
Chronic Pain
Full Listing with story descriptions
Introduction
Managing Your Pain
Movement Matters
Moving Forward
Nutrition
Opioids
Pacing
Pain Medications
Prevention
Returning to Work
Understanding and Goal Setting
When Pain Doesn't End
Dental Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
Antibiotics and Dental Surgery
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby Teeth
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Children's Dental Injuries
Choosing a Dentist
Cosmetic Dentistry
Mouth Guards
Dental Exam
Dental Care Devices
Dental Caries
Dental Care Offshore
Dental Implants
Dental X-Rays
Dentures and Healthy Jaw
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Fluoride
Fluoride Findings
First Dental Visit
Headaches
A Healthy Mouth
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
Jaw Joint and Muscle Problems
Keeping it Clean
Laser Use in Dentistry
Mouth Protection Equipment
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral Healthcare
Oral health and long term care
Oral Health Care Products
Orthodontics
Orthodontist First Visit
Painless Dentistry
Periodontal Disease
Removable Dentures
Root Canal
Seniors Oral Care
Sensitive Teeth
The Smile You Want
Sore Mouth, Aching Jaw
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Smiling through the Senior Years
Teeth for Life
Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)
Tobacco Risks to Oral Health
Tongue Piercing
Tooth Whitening
Travel Dentistry
Water Fluoridation
Wisdom Teeth
Your Healthy Smile
DIABETES
Full Listing with story descriptions
10,000 Steps
A1C Test
Accurate Blood Glucose Testing
Alchohol and Diabetes
A Diabetes Success Story
ABCs of Diabetes Management
Alternate Site Testing
Artery Health
ASA Therapy
Benefits of Insulin
Benefits of Breakfast
Blood Glucose Medications
Blood Glucose Myths
Blood Glucose Testing
Blood Glucose Testing Tips
Blood Sugar Lows
Blood Glucose Monitors
C-Peptide Testing
Canada Food Guide Revisited
Carbohydrate Counting
Catastrophic Drug Plan
CDA Guidelines for Diabetes
Celiac Disease and Diabetes
Celebrating Health
Childhood Diagnosis of Diabetes
Children and Type 2 Diabetes
Cholesterol-lowering Medications
Colds and Diabetes
Constipation
Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring
Cutting Edge
Dangers of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
Debunking Diabetes Myths
Driving and Diabetes
Diabetes and Menopause
Diabetes and OTC Medications
Diabetes Care Team
Diabetes and Celiac
Diabetes and Depression
Diabetes Diet
Diabetes Distress
Diabetes Eating on a Shoestring Budget
Diabetes Etiquette
Diabetes and Oral Health
Diabetes and Thyroid Disease
Diabetes and Your Mouth
Diabetes and Your Eyes
Diabetes in Cats
Diabetes in Dogs
Diabetes Management ABCs
Diabetes Meter Technicians
Diabetes Myths
Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Diabetic Retinopathy
Diet Tips for South Asians
Dining Out
Drinking and Diabetes
The Discovery of Insulin
Eating Disorders
Easing the Strain of Stress
Eating to Protect Your Kidneys
Eating Well During Shift Work
Eggs in a Diabetic Diet
Emotional Eating
Emotions of Diabetes Diagnosis
Erectile Dysfunction
Exercise Excuses
Why Fad Diets Fail
Fats
Fibre
Fill Your Day with Energy
Financial Support for Diabetes
Food Temptation
Foot Care
Footwear and Foot Health
Fruits and Veggies
Gastroparesis
Gestational Diabetes
Get Active
Get Physical
Gift Ideas
Glucose Meters
Glycemic Index and Glycemic Loads
The Glycemic Index
Going Green in the Kitchen
Grocery Shopping Tips
Guidelines for Diabetes Management
Holiday Party Survival Guide
Health Information on the 'Net
Healthy Happy Holidays
Healthy Beverage Choices
Health Benefits of Soy
Healthy Restaurant Meals
High Blood Pressure and Diabetes
High Blood Pressure
HbA1c Test
Healthy Eating for Active People
High Blood Lipids
Home from the Hospital
Home Alone and Sick
Hypoglycemic Unawareness
Impaired Glucose Tolerance
Immunization & Diabetes
Incretins-a Hormone Treatment
Injecting Insulin
Insulin Discovery-The Story
Insulin
Insulin Handling
Insulin - the Key to Energy Management
Insulin Pumps
Insulin Pen Needles
Insulin Pump Infusion Sets
Insulin Pump Therapy
Immunization and Diabetes
Internet Health Sites
Islet Cell Transplantation
Insurance
Ketones
Kidney Disease - Reducing the Risk
Living with Diagnosis of Diabetes
Living Powerfully with Diabetes
Low Blood Glucose
Managing Diabetes
Managing Blood Glucose
Metformin
Nutrition Food Labels
Meal Planning
Your Medication Expert
Medication Research Studies
Metabolic Syndrome
Microalbuminuria
New Diabetes Technologies
Natural Medicines and Diabetes
No Need for Insulin?
Not Snoozing
Over-the-Counter Medications
Oral Health and Diabetes
Osteoporosis and Diabetes
Diabetes and OTC Medications
Pedicure Precautions
Peripheral Arterial Disease
Pet Diabetes
Planning for Pregnancy
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Preparing for Activity
Putting off Insulin
Reducing Stress of Surgery
Safe and Successful Travel
Schizophrenia and Diabetes
Sensible Snacking
Setting Health Goals
Setting Goals for Physical Activity
Sharps Disposal
Shorter Insulin Needles
Sleep - a Missing Link
Smart Snacking
Smart Summer Nutrition
Snack Bars
Snacking with Diabetes
Sodium
Social Media & Diabetes
Solving the Insurance Puzzle
Stress and Diabetes
Success in School
Supplements
Supporting Spouse with Diabetes
Sweeteners
Sugar, Carbs and Blood Glucose Control
Think Positive with Diabetes
Tiny Bites Equal Big Calories
Travelling with Diabetes
Tips for a Better You
Tobacco Use and Diabetes
Top 10 Reasons to Exercise
Treating Low Blood Glucose
Treating Hypoglycemia - Role of Glucagon
Tune up Your Diet
Type 1.5 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Understanding Diabetes
Understanding Diabetes Medications
Understanding Ketones
Used Sharps
Urinary Incontinence
Vacationing with Diabetes
Vegetarian Eating for Diabetes
Vitamin D
Walking
Wise Choices About Natural Medicines
Wonderful Water
Natural Medicines & Diabetes
World Diabetes Day
Your Medicine Cupboard
Zimbabwe Hand Jive
Family Medicine
Full Listing with story descriptions
ADHD in Children
Allergic Rhinitis
Allergies
Antibiotic Use
Arthritis
Aspirin Every Day?
Asthma
Back Pain
Back Pain Myths
Back Pain - Lower
Birth Control
Bladder Problems
Blood Transfusions
Breaast and Prostate Cancer Screening
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Check-Up
Colon Cancer Screening
Contact Lenses
Contraception
COPD
Cost of Doctor's Visit
Diabetes Management
Diarrhea
Diagnostic Tests
Do I Need a Bone Density Test?
Doctor Visit
Driving Vision
Dizziness
Dealing with Dry Eyes
Does My Sore Knee Require an MRI?
Do I Need an Annual Physical?
Eczema
Electronic Medical Records
Epilepsy
Eye Exam
Family Doctor
Fibromyalgia
Floaters and Flashes
Food Poisoning
5 Ways to Stay Healthy
Gallbladder
Get Active!
Glare
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Healthcare Teams
Heart Health
Hemorrhoids
Hepatitis C
Human Papilloma Virus
High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure Risks
How to Talk to Your Doctor
Hypothyroidism
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Joint Replacement Surgery
Kidney Disease
Lazy Eye Blindness (Amblyopia)
Medical Digital Technology
Migraine
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Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Myeloma
Obesity
Opioid Myths
Primary Healthcare Reform
Prostate Problems
Quitting Smoking
Red Eyes
Respiratory Tract Infections
Restore Your Core
Rosacea
Screening Tests
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Special Diagnostic Tests
Stopping Stroke
Stroke
Superbugs
Thyroid
Ulcers
Urine Tests
Vaccination Controversies (ask the doctor)
Win by Losing
Urinary Tract Infections
Vision Flickers
First Aid
Full Listing with story descriptions
Bites and Stings
Burns
Choking
Cuts and Scrapes
Eye Injuries
Fainting and Convulsions
First Aid Travel Kit
Hypothermia and Frostbite
Nosebleeds
Poisoning - Household
Emergency Care Guidelines
Sunburn
Growing Older
Full Listing with story descriptions
Advance Care Plans
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Alzheimer Disease
Avoiding Memory Loss
Building Strength
Dementia and Agitation
Cataracts
Can I see Well Enough to Drive?
Cholesterol
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Coping with Dementia
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Controlling Medications
C.O.P.D.
Delirium
Dizziness (Vertigo)
Eating Well
Elder Abuse
Exercise Benefits
Erectile Dysfunction
Eye Care
Eyesight and Driving
Feet
Frailty
Fungal Nail Infections
Get Active!
Glaucoma
Grief
Have Health, Will Travel
Health Tips for Seniors
Hearing
Incontinence
Joint Replacement
Lab Tests
Living Longer With Diabetes
Macular Degeneration
Male Menopause (Andropause)
Maintaining Quality of Life as You Age
Memory Loss
New Corneal Treatments
Nutrition for Seniors
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Prostate Health
Retirement
Seniors and Medications
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Seniors and Driving
Sleeplessness
Skin Structure
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Skin Over 50
Solving Sleep Issues
Staying Healthy
Stroke Prevention
Travel Tips for Snowbirds
Wills and Personal Directives
Modern Living
Full Listing with story descriptions
Abuse
Acupuncture
Adult ADHD
Aging and Memory
Alcohol and Your Health
Anger Management
Antidepressants
Barbecue Basics
Bathtub Safety
Binge Drinking
Bisphenol A
Canada's New Blood System
Caring for a Loved One Dying at Home
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Computer Stress
Coping With Change
Cosmetic Surgery
Cosmetic Pesticides
Depression
Diabetes Epidemic
Discipline
Diseases from Pets
Downsizing
Dying at Home
Erectile Dysfunction New Treatments
Exotic Travel
Fertility Issues
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Foodborne Illness
Flu Pandemic
Grief
Harassment
Healing Through Music
Healthy Computing
Humidex
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Ice Safety
Indoor Air Quality
Lymphedema
Mature Student
Melamine in Food
Middle Age Health
Mind-Body Connection
Mom Time
Money Matters
Outdoor Workers and Sun Safety
Patient Safety in the Hospital
Pets and Health Benefits
Pet Therapy
Physiotherapy Visit
Planning for End of LIfe
Reproductive Freedom
Safe Drinking Water
Schizophrenia
Smokeless Tobacco
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Soy
Stigma of Mental Illness
Street Drugs
Stressed or Depressed?
Stress in the Workplace
Stress Leave
Swim to Survive
Sunburn
Time Management
Travel Health Protection
Travel Comfort Tips
Travel Immunization
Understanding Change
Unplugging
Whiplash
Wind Chill Index
Workplace Drug Testing
Workplace Health
Nutrition
Full Listing with story descriptions
5 Tips to Manage Weight
10 Ways to Cut Down on Fat
Battle the Bulge
Boost Your Bone Strength
Body Image
Breakfast is Important
Bowel Health
Building Your Bones
Celiac Disease
Challenging the Milk Myth
Diet Reality Check
Drink Up!
Eating Smarter & Cheaper
Energy Drinks
Food Allergies
Food for Active Kids
Fast Food
Food Labels
Giving Up Gluten
Healthy Diet, Healthy Smile
Healthy Eating for Boomers and Zoomers
Healthy Eating for Seniors
Healthy Eating on Business Travel
Healthy Ethnic Meals
Fad Diets
Fruits & Veggies - 5-10 a Day
Fats
Fat Phobias
Fats & Cholesterol
Feeding Your Kids
Fibre
Food Chemistry 101
Food and Mood
Getting Kids to MOVE
Healthy Eating for Teens
Healthy Habits
Herbal Medicine and Nutrition
New Ingredients for Your Shopping Cart
Iron
Kid's Food
Liquid Candy
Meal Planning with Planned Overs
Mercury Levels in Fish
Night Snacking
Night Shift Eating
Nutrition on the Net
Nutrition Myths Busted
Nutrition Questions Top 5
Nutrition for Menopause
Essential Omega-3
Preventing Cancer Through Nutrition
Picky Eaters
Power of Fruits & Veggies
Portion Control
Power Lunch
PMS and Nutrition
Preparing for Surgery
Probiotics
Reducing High Blood Pressure
Replacement Meals
Sensible Snacking
Sodium
Sodium and Blood Pressure
Sports-Minded Nutrition
Sugar Substitutes
Survive and Thrive
Teen Nutrition
Tips for a SuperDiet
Understanding Food Biotechnology
Vacation Eating
Vitamins D
Vitamins and Minerals
Vegetarian Diet
Weight Loss
Weight Wise Tips
Pharmacy Care
Full Listing with story descriptions
After a Heart Attack
Adverse Drug Reactions
Adult Vaccinations
Allergy Attack
Antibiotic Overuse
New Anticoagulant Medications
Inhaled Asthma medications
Arthritis Medications
Biologics
Biological Response Modifiers
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Blood Thinners
Calcium and Iron Supplements
Changing Role of the Pharmacist
Children's Cold Remedies
Child's Fever
Choosing Sunscreens
Cold Relief
Cold Sores
Constipation and Haemorrhoids
Diuretics and Potassium Supplements
Drug Recalls and Withdrawals
Drug Interactions
Emergency Contraception
Erectile Dysfunction
Expanding Role of Pharmacies
Eye Protection - Sunglasses
Feminine Hygiene
Generic or Name Brand?
Heartburn
Heart Health
Insomnia
Kids and Cold Medications
Medication Questions?
Metabolic Syndrome
Natural Medicines
New Blood Thinners
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Obesity Medication
Over-the-Counter Drugs
Over-the-Counter Drugs and Pregnancy
OTC Pain Relief
Packing Medications for Travel
Pharmaceutical Studies
Preventing Summer Hazards
Research Studies
Quit Smoking
Skin and Cosmeceuticals
Sports & Nutrition Supplements
Sunscreen
Taking Medication
Take as Directed
Using Antibiotics Wisely
Viagra
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Yeast Infections
Your Best Shot
Your Medicine Cupboard
Prevention
Full Listing with story descriptions
Accident Prevention
Alcohol
Antibiotic Resistance
Backpack Pain
Bacteria Fight Back
Bedbugs
Disaster Planning
Diseases from Pets
Caffeine
Cell Phones and Driving
Childhood Obesity
Cancer Prevention Tips
Chronic Disease Prevention
Cold and Flu Season
Disaster Planning
Diseases from Pets
Distracted Driving
Farm Safety for City Kids
Foodborne Illness
Flu Pandemic
The Flu and You
Heading Home for a Visit
Health Tips for Snowbirds
Hearing Loss and Music Players
H1N1 Virus - Plan Ahead
Household Mould
Infection Control
Injury Prevention
Live Actively!
Insect Repellant
Keys to Preventing Cancer
Kids' Mental Health
Live Actively!
Low Birth Weight
Meningitis
Norovirus
Are Pesticides Safe?
Preventing Burns and Scalds
Preventing Cancer through Nutrition
Quit Smoking 101
Respiratory Infections
Seniors and STIs
Should You Immunize?
Sun Safety
Surviving Disaster
Sushi Preparation
Teens, Drugs and Driving
Travel Health Considerations
Travel Medicine 101
Travel Tips
Type 2 Diabetes Prevention
Water Smarts
Vision Damage
Water Wisdom
West Nile Disease
Whooping Cough
Workplace Alcohol Abuse
Women's Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
15 Great Reasons to Breastfeed
Anemia
Approaching Menopause
Birth Control
Breast Cancer Screening
Breast Cancer - Genetic Risks
Breast Cancer Self-Exam
Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Changes
Breast Health
Breastfeeding Myths
Cervical Cancer Screening
Contraception
Contraception for Mature Women
Cosmetic Procedures
Cystitis
Endometriosis
Estrogen's Effect on the Brain
Fear of Fracture
Fibroids
Heart Attack
Hirsutism - Unwanted Hair
Hormone Replacement Therapy
The IUD
Menopause - What Men Should Know
Menstrual Bleeding - Abnormal
Menstrual Bleeding - Heavy
Menopause
Menstruation Myths
Menstrual Pain
Third Generation Birth Control Pills
Osteoporosis
Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian Cysts
Oral Contraction (The Pill)
Pap Test
Premenstrual Syndrome
xx
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Urinary Incontinence
Vaginitis
Varicose Veins
Viagra for Women
Yeast Infections
Your Pelvic Floor
Family Health Online / Pharmacy at Safeway
Family Health Magazine - growing older

Frailty in Seniors
Teamwork helps older adults to stay independent

Only in the last half century have we begun to achieve successful aging. In the early years of the last century, few people reached old age. Communicable diseases and accidents took a heavy toll among children and young adults.

Our life span is largely decided by the genes we inherit from our parents, the development of various health problems, and accidental death. Our levels of education, income, and available health services also play a part. A healthy lifestyle including exercise, diet and preventive health care helps avoid or delay certain health conditions. Even so, as we age we are more likely to develop health conditions that will require treatment for the rest of our lives.

Accompanying these are the inevitable changes in our organs and body systems and how they work together. For the most part, aging changes are barely noticed because they occur so slowly. Since we have so much reserve capacity, they may not be noticed until function is very limited or a person becomes ill or injured.

What is frailty?

Despite many health conditions and other effects of aging, most people in their late 80s and beyond enjoy lives of good quality and are fairly independent. However, their ability to be independent is at risk. An acute illness, a worsening of chronic illness, injury, surgery or a poor effect of medication or treatment may cause a hospital or nursing home admission.

'Frail' describes people who have difficulty carrying out the independent activities needed for day-to-day living because of aging, disease or disability. Seniors who are frail may manage well in their own home with family and home care support. Still, they may be less able to respond to challenges, and a minor illness may cause serious problems in their ability to function.

Can frailty make illness look different?

Usually, when a patient reports symptoms to the doctor, a history is taken during which questions narrow down the possibilities. During the exam, the doctor may find signs that confirm or prove wrong a possible diagnosis. Further tests may be required to verify a diagnosis. Physical and mental health conditions are usually diagnosed by typical patterns of signs and symptoms. For example, fever, tiredness, sharp chest pain and cough suggest pneumonia. A heavy pain in the central chest that moves down the inside of the left arm, along with great weakness, often signals a heart attack.

Although typical signs and symptoms of illness may develop, seniors, and their family and caregivers, should understand that an illness may not take the same form in an older adult. Many older people, particularly frail seniors, may have symptoms that can be mistaken for other health problems or as an effect of aging.

For example, a frail senior with pneumonia might have little or no fever, but become confused or have trouble with bladder control. A senior with a heart attack may have no pain but might fall down or have trouble managing household tasks. Someone experiencing side effects from medication may become weak, lose appetite and weight, and be needlessly tested for cancer. Delirium, a change in mental abilities, is common when a frail senior is sick or in hospital. It may occur alone or with other problems of aging.

A treatable illness may cause a decline in function. To find the problem, the doctor, often working with a health care team, carries out a Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment. This assessment takes a detailed look at a senior’s physical and mental state and ability to function.

What are the effects of many medications?

'Polypharmacy' refers to taking many medications at the same time. Prescribed medications, over-the-counter drugs and complementary or alternative medicine used to treat illness can cause side effects. These may range from being slightly bothersome to life threatening. Prescribed drugs only become available after careful testing of how well and safely they work. Over-the-counter drugs are tested in the same way but are also judged to be safe enough for self-medication.

For the most part, alternative and complementary medicines have not had the same strict testing. Taken properly, most medications cause few problems. However, almost all substances used to prevent or treat illness may cause side effects in some people. Drugs may also react with each other. Studies show that when six or more drugs are taken at the same time, the risk of side effects rises greatly.

Taking many medications is not in itself a bad thing. Many illnesses common in old age can be treated well with medication. For example, an 85-year-old woman may be correctly prescribed a number of drugs for a variety of chronic health problems: High blood pressure (3 drugs), heart problems (2), lung disease (2 inhalers), Parkinson’s disease (2), osteoporosis (3, including vitamins and minerals), and glaucoma (2 eye drops), for a total of 14 medications. These medications will control illnesses and reduce the risk of future problems. Moreover, they help her maintain her independence and ability to manage her own medication use.

It is important that the drugs are appropriate. Finding the right medications involves a thorough assessment by the doctor and, when necessary, by other members of the health care team. The senior’s health goals, as well as avoiding drugs, doses and combinations of medications likely to cause side effects, must be considered.

Taken properly, most medications cause few problems. However, studies show that when six or more drugs are taken at the same time, the risk of side effects rises greatly.

Although many drugs may cause problems, some are more likely to cause problems for seniors. These include drugs for:

All of these can be valuable if used carefully and for the right reasons. However, side effects that affect memory, thinking, mobility and bladder control may occur when frail seniors use them.

Medications for Sleep, Anxiety and Depression

Aging and diseases affect sleep patterns of older people. They may have more trouble getting to sleep, more frequent waking and more difficulty returning to sleep after waking. Many of the drugs for these conditions can greatly improve the quality of life for older people if used properly. However, certain drugs, particularly long acting benzodiazepines (such as Valium™) may be linked with confusion, trouble with balance and falling. These medications and others like them should generally be avoided. When necessary, most of these types of drugs are prescribed to seniors in lower doses than those used for younger adults. It is not a good idea to take sleeping medications over a long period of time.

Medications for High Blood Pressure and Extra Fluid

High blood pressure (hypertension) is more common among older people. At one time, doctors and older people tended to ignore or under-treat blood pressure. Recent research now confirms the benefits of treating blood pressure well into old age. Newer medications for high blood pressure work better and have fewer side effects. However, these medications combined with fluid pills can cause too much of a drop in blood pressure, particularly when a person stands up. This is called postural hypotension, and can cause a person to fall.

Medications for Arthritis

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs work very well to reduce pain and inflammation in arthritis and related conditions. However, they do interfere with the medications used for blood pressure or heart failure. These drugs, particularly the older ones, may cause severe stomach bleeding and kidney problems along with other side effects and should only be used for short periods of time. If used for a long time, their use and interference with other medication needs to be checked regularly.

Can further problems be avoided?

Seniors benefit greatly from the diagnostic and treatment resources of modern medicine. However, frail seniors with many health problems are at risk for developing further health problems. Poor effects of drugs, diagnostic tests, treatment, surgery, and hospital care can all cause illness. Illness can also come from the anxiety of misunderstanding complex medical information. The risks and benefits to the frail senior must be considered whenever deciding to investigate or treat. Doctors, seniors, and their families and caregivers need to consider carefully these decisions. When problems or illness do occur, treatment goals must be reviewed and reconsidered.

It’s possible for frail seniors to maintain independence and a good quality of life. Working together with their families and caregivers, doctors and other health care providers, seniors may achieve these goals.

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FAMILY HEALTH is written with the assistance of
College of Family Physicans of Canada
Alberta College of Family Physicians
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While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2015, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6    [GO_FHc11]
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