Q I’ve heard a lot conflicting advice regarding the health benefits of fish oil supplements. I’m not sure if I should take them. Are they helpful?
A The research findings on fish oil supplements have been inconsistent so it’s no wonder you are confused. Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids. It’s important is to distinguish between taking supplements and eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Most studies focus on the supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for a lot of functions including muscle activity, blood clotting, and digestion. A 2015 National Institutes of Health (NIH) research report found that omega-3 supplements did not slow cognitive decline in older persons. NIH findings on fish oil supplements and heart health are also unclear though there is some indication that they can reduce rheumatoid and osteoarthritis joint pain. But when it comes to food, there is evidence that seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial especially for heart health. Fatty fish including salmon, tuna, and trout and shellfish such as crab, mussels and oysters all have high amounts of omega-3. So, it’s ideal to get your omega-3s through food. If you do take omega-3 supplements, talk with your doctor as they can interfere with some medications.
Q I’m 60 and my husband just turned 75. Unfortunately, he’s become quite sedentary and is resisting doctor-recommended exercise. How can I convince him it will make a difference?
A Exercise has many positive benefits but perhaps the one that might be most convincing to your husband is that exercise will help him maintain his physical independence. To be able to reach a cupboard, walk to the mailbox, or drive a car requires coordination, balance, strength and flexibility. For that, we need regular exercise. It can, however, be difficult to get moving after being sedentary. But it’s a good thing he has you because research has shown that married couples that joined a gym together were more likely to workout when their spouses went with them. And it’s never too late to begin. A recent study of adults ages 70 to 89, who were at risk for losing their ability to walk revealed that those who had a modest increase in exercise significantly improved their mobility. As little as 30 minutes a day, five days per week can make a difference. I know gyms and gym equipment can be intimidating, so consider hiring a personal trainer specializing in senior fitness who can help design a program for both of you. There are also community centers that offer Silver Sneakers group exercise classes that are designed especially for seniors. For those older than age 65, Medicare subsidizes the cost.
Q I’ve recently begun to leak a little when I laugh and cough. It’s embarrassing, but I’m also concerned that it could get worse. What should I do?
A Urinary incontinence can happen to anyone but it’s more likely to occur with aging. It is also more common among women than men. There are different types of incontinence, but what you describe is generally due to what’s called “stress incontinence.” Stress, meaning pressure on the bladder, can make urine leak when bladder muscles are too weak. A cough, a sneeze, or lifting a heavy object can be enough pressure to cause a weakened bladder to leak. There are a few self-treatment options that can help correct the problem. They include exercises known as Kegels, which strengthen the pelvic floor (the muscles used to stop the flow or urine], and timed voiding, which involves going to the bathroom at timed intervals to urinate. Losing weight and drinking less caffeine also helps some people. Other causes of urinary incontinence can result from nerve damage, certain medications and diseases. If the issue persists or gets worse, I recommend talking to your doctor to rule out more serious problems.