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Health Q&A

Posted October 17, 2012 in Advice Column, Winterset

Q: What changes can seniors make to lead a healthy life?

A: A balanced diet and participation in regular exercise are paramount in maintaining a healthy life for people of all ages. Routine exercise and healthy diet in seniors can have an even more noticeable impact in their general well-being.

Many diseases in seniors may be prevented or at least slowed down as a result of a healthy lifestyle. Osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressures, diabetes, high cholesterol, dementia, depressionand certain cancers are some of the common conditions that can be positively modified in seniors through diet, exercise and other simple lifestyle changes.

In addition to diet and exercise, other important life style modifications to lead a healthier life in seniors include limiting alcohol intake to one drink daily, smoking cessation, using skin moisturizers and sun protection, brushing and flossing teeth once or twice a day, staying proactive in own healthcare and participating in decision making, going to the primary care doctor routinely, reviewing list of medications with their doctor(s) often, following recommended instructions for health screening, preventive tests and vaccinations, visiting a dentist annually or biannually, following up with eye doctor and foot doctor, especially for people with diabetes, being aware of potential medication side effects and drug interactions including over-the-counter drugs, herbals, and alternative medicine, adhering to routine sleep schedule and using good sleep hygiene, engaging in routine and scheduled social activities and taking vacations.

Information from, provided by Winterset Care Center North, 411 E. Lane St., 462-1571 and Winterset Care Center South, 715 S. Second Ave. 462-4040.

Q. Why is it important to remove your wisdom teeth?

A: Wisdom teeth, or third molars, are the last of the adult teeth to erupt. They can start to erupt as early as your late teens. That is, if they erupt at all. A wisdom tooth that is blocked from erupting into the mouth is called an “impacted” tooth. Unlike other teeth, wisdom teeth generally do not have adequate space to erupt. This usually leads to partially-impacted or fully-impacted wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth can lead to a variety of problems. These include pain, infection, crowding, damage to adjacent teeth, gum disease and bone loss. Research has shown bacteria from gumline infections, common around wisdom teeth, can enter the bloodstream and may adversely affect your general health. This may also be a contributing factor to preterm or low birthweight infants.

It is not wise to wait until your wisdom teeth start to bother you. Damage often occurs before you are even aware of it. In some cases, impacted wisdom teeth develop cysts or tumors. Removal of such lesions may require extensive procedures to repair and restore jaw function and appearance. Even if wisdom teeth do fully erupt, they rarely provide any meaningful function and are difficult to keep clean.

Unlike you, wisdom teeth do not improve with age. It is strongly recommended that in order to prevent future problems wisdom teeth be removed during early adulthood. For more information on this subject, please visit

Information provided by Dr. Christopher W. Blanchard, Blanchard Family Dental, 820 West Summit St., 462-4474

Q: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What should I know about breast cancer in order to support and education loved ones who may be affected?

A: Breast Cancer Awareness Month is designed to bring attention to resources and promote support for those affected by breast cancer. Here is some important information about breast cancer, and a few steps you can take educate yourself and loved ones about this type of cancer:

What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into surrounding tissues or spread to other areas of the body. The disease occurs almost entirely in women, but can be diagnosed in men as well.

Who gets breast cancer?
In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed among women. Ninety-five percent of these cases were diagnosed in women older than 40. Women living in the United States have a one in eight lifetime risk of breast cancer diagnosis. That means, in Madison County where, according to the 2010 Census, there are 7,882 women, 985 of those women are at risk for breast cancer. Men older than 40 are at much lower risk, but they should report any concerns to a physician.

How should women monitor their breast health to promote early detection?
The American Cancer Society suggests the following guidelines for monitoring breast health:
• Age 20-39: Clinical breast examination at least every three years, breast self-examination.
• Age 40 and older: Annual mammogram, annual clinical breast examination (preferably prior to mammogram), breast self-examination,

Madison County Health Care System offers digital mammograms in our recently renovated mammography suite. Schedule an appointment this month by calling (515) 462-5214. We have programs for the under-insured and for those who do not have insurance.

The Bras for The Cause event is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20, and will take place in the Jackson Building on the Madison County Fairgrounds. When you call (515) 462-5214 to make your appointment, the staff will gladly provide information on this great event.

Breast cancer research is constantly expanding, so here are some resources to keep up with new findings and treatments as well as general information: American Cancer Society, Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, Susan G. Koman Foundation – and the book “Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History,” by Florence Williams (2012).

Information provided by Chris Nolte, director, Public Relations and Development, Madison County Health Care Systems, 300 West Hutchings, Winterset, 515-462-9749.

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