Senior Health Products

Many seniors take over the counter (OTC) pain-relievers to help alleviate joint discomfort and to feel more healthy overall.  However, Ibuprofen (brand names Advil, Motrin) and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be unsafe for many older adults, especially when taken daily. Geriatricians much prefer that older senior adults take health and pain-relieving products like acetaminophen (Tylenol), because it causes few side effects and only rarely interacts with other medications a person may be taking.  These are just of few of the many senior health products available.

Although ibuprofen is popular with arthritis sufferers because it’s effective at relieving pain, older senior adults should talk to a healthcare provider before taking any NSAIDs. This includes newer OTC painkillers such as naproxen (Aleve) and stronger prescription-strength NSAIDs such as celecoxib (Celebrex) and indomethacin (Indocin).  NSAIDs are well known for having the following side effects in older adults:

  • Decreased kidney function as a result of decreased blood flow to the kidneys. This can affect the way the body processes other medicines and can increase blood pressure.
  • Irritation of the lining of the stomach and bowels, which can cause internal bleeding.

Every year literally tens of thousands of people, mostly elderly, are hospitalized because of NSAIDs.

Older adults who strongly prefer ibuprofen to acetaminophen should talk to the doctor and ask for a kidney function test. Mild to moderate decreases in kidney function usually do not cause symptoms but can be detected with a blood test.

Also, most older senior adults should avoid the “PM” version of ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or any other over-the-counter medicine. Why? These medicines contain sedating antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (also known as Benadryl) and doxylamine. Sedating antihistamines are part of a class of medicines known as anticholinergics. They do make you sleepy, but in older folks they can also cause constipation, dry mouth, difficulty urinating, and confusion. Seniors who take anticholinergics also are known to physically fall down more often.  These medicines can be especially dangerous for people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, since anticholinergics counter the effect of medicines such as donepezil (Aricept).

Besides pain, many senior citizens are also prone to low thyroid levels.  The thyroid gland produces the thyroid hormone, which is important for regulating many bodily functions. If your thyroid is not working well and you don’t secrete enough of this hormone, you can feel depressed, become fatigued, gain weight, and suffer from constipation.

Supplements like Iodine-Plus will help fulfill some nutritional needs, but they cannot replace the actual thyroid hormone. If your thyroid levels are low, only thyroid medication will work for that.   It is recommended that a senior visit with an endocrinologist, who is an expert on these types of hormones, to see if they recommend starting thyroid medication.

 

However, thyroid medication is not always effective. In those cases, the lower thyroid hormone level is probably not the cause of the fatigue and other causes (and cures) need be pursued. Generally, a blood test will indicate any thyroid hormone deficiency. Most medical doctors would use that as the determining factor of the need to prescribe thyroid meds. If your doctor doesn’t think it’s necessary, perhaps your thyroid hormone level is borderline. In that case, the meds might, in fact, be unnecessary. Also, a blood test would determine whether it’s a thyroid problem or actually an iodine deficiency, not a hormone deficiency, that is the causing problems.  Unfortunately, there are doctors out there who don’t account for normal variances in blood components and prescribe strictly by the “pill” book.

 

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