Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dangerous Food and Drug Combinations - Be Careful!

When we are prescribed medications, it is rare for doctors to tell us which foods to avoid while we are taking those drugs, and most of us do not take the time to look up that information on our own. While these facts may be found in the information sheet that the pharmacy provides with your medication, how many people read through all those pages of fine print?  Unfortunately, what we don't know can hurt us.  In fact, some combinations can be extremely dangerous.  Even if the combination doesn't kill you, it could render your medication less effective, make it too strong, or cause you to have unnecessary discomfort and side effects while taking it.  

As a result, I was particularly interested in an article I found on WebMD called "Don't Mix Your Meds with These Foods."  If you want even more specific information about the foods to avoid with certain medications, you may want to get this book and keep it on your shelf as a resource:  "Don't Eat This If Your're Taking That."  (Ad) If you take prescription medications and are worried about potential food and drug interactions, this book contains some important information which could save your life.

Below are some basic combinations everyone should know before taking medications.  In addition, if you are starting a new drug for the first time, ask both your doctor and your pharmacist if there is anything you need to know while taking it.  You should not only ask about food interactions, but also if there could be interactions with other medications you are taking.  Also ask if the drug could make you dizzy or drowsy, and whether you should avoid driving a car or using equipment while taking it.  If it does make you drowsy, ask if you could take the medication before going to bed, instead of in the morning.

Common Foods to Avoid While Taking Certain Medications

Grapefruit - Eating grapefruit or drinking its juice can affect over 50 drugs, according to WebMD!  It can make your statin (such as Lipitor) too strong, and it can cause your allergy medication (such as Allegra) to be less effective. 

Milk - The calcium, magnesium and casein in milk can cause antibiotics to be less effective.  Whenever you are taking an antibiotic, you should use an alternative beverage, such as one made from oats, soy, or almonds, on your breakfast cereal, until you have finished the course of antibiotics.

Licorice - Many people do not realize that this popular black candy, which is also sometimes used as a herbal remedy for indigestion, contains a chemical called glycyrrhizin which can weaken the effect of some drugs.  One of those drugs is cyclosporine, which is an antirejection drug for people who have had transplants. Eating licorice could cause you to reject your transplant, thus endangering your life!

Chocolate - This delicious treat is often recommended to people as a "healthy dessert."  However, it is not right for everyone.  The stimulant in it can counteract sleeping medications such as Ambien. It can also boost the power of stimulant drugs, such as Ritalin, which are given to people with ADHD, resulting in a dose which is much too strong.  In addition, if you take an MAO inhibitor to treat depression, chocolate can cause your blood pressure to become dangerously high.  

Iron Supplements - If you take an iron supplement, or a multi-vitamin which contains iron, and you also take Synthroid, a thyroid hormone, at the same time, you need to discuss this interaction with your doctor.  Iron supplements can cause your Synthroid to be less effective.  If you must take both, take them at different times.  Since it is usually recommended that you take your Synthroid immediately upon rising in the morning, it is best to take the iron supplement, or the multi-vitamin, later in the day.

Alcohol - Be extremely careful if you drink while on certain meds.  Alcoholic beverages, including a glass of wine or a beer, can cause some blood pressure, heart and other medications to be less effective. On the other hand, alcohol can cause other medications to be too powerful. Drinking and taking prescription medications can be a lethal combination.

Coffee - While the vast majority of the U.S. population drinks coffee daily, and it may have some health benefits, there are also dangers when combined with certain drugs.  For example, it can weaken antipsychotic drugs such as lithium and clozapine.  On the other hand, it can boost other drugs and cause more side effects.  These drugs include aspirin, epinephrine (for serious allergic reactions) and albuterol (found in inhalers for people with breathing problems).  Coffee can also make it harder for your body to take in and use iron.   

Antihistamines - If you have allergies or catch a cold and take an antihistamine temporarily, talk to your doctor before using the antihistamine in combination with a blood pressure medication.  Antihistamines can reduce the effectiveness of your blood pressure meds, and raise your heart rate.

Anti-Epileptic Drugs - If you have occasional epileptic seizures, you may be taking an AED. However, they can make your birth control pills less effective, resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. They may also make some other drugs stronger, resulting in serious side effects.  

Vitamin K - Vitamin K is found in a many dark green, healthy foods, including broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, parsley and spinach.  However, if you are also taking the drug warfarin to prevent blood clots, having too much Vitamin K can make a blood thinner like warfarin less effective, resulting in a deadly blood clot. If you eat these foods, you need to eat approximately the same amount each day, so the warfarin levels in your blood do not fluctuate. 

Ginseng - This popular tea can be dangerous when combined with warfarin, heparin, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and similar medications.  In the wrong combinations, it can lower the effect of warfarin, or it can cause internal bleeding when combined with the other medications on the list, even common over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, Advil, or Aleve.  If you take MOA inhibitors, ginseng can also cause you to get headaches or have sleep problems, hyperactivity and feel nervous.  

St. John's Wort - This is an herbal medication which some people believe may help with depression, although it has not been proven. What it can do, however, is cause your liver to release enzymes which can weaken medications like lovastatin, Viagra, and digoxin, which is used to treat some heart conditions.  

Ginkgo Biloba - This is another unproven herbal treatment for high blood pressure, dementia, tinnitus, and other problems. While it may not help those conditions, it has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of drugs which control seizures, such as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, Depakene, Depakote and Stavzor.  

Follow the Instructions of Your Doctor and Pharmacist

Whatever medications you are on, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about how to take them, when to take them, and what other medications, vitamins, herbal treatments, and foods to avoid.  Some combinations can be dangerous.  Be sure to take your medications as prescribed, and try not to skip doses.  Medications work best when patients follow instructions carefully. 

If you have any questions, be sure to read "Don't Eat This If You Are Taking That."  It covers many more potentially dangerous combinations than could be listed in this article.  If you take many medications, this book is an important resource to keep at home. It could save your life. (Ad)

Finally, it is also important that you are honest with your doctor and pharmacist about anything else you may be taking, including the use of medical marijuana or herbal remedies.  While many are harmless, they may become more dangerous when combined with certain medications.

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Monday, April 18, 2022

Self-Care for Caregivers of Elderly Family Members

 Millions of Americans, as well as people around the world, find themselves caring for an elderly relative.  What makes this even more difficult is that caregivers are frequently not young adults, themselves. Often, the caregivers are people in their 50s, 60s or 70s who still have a living parent, sibling or other relative who needs care and regular attention. In addition, they could be part of the "sandwich generation," which means they might also still be supporting a young adult child. Unfortunately, this means the caregivers may also have their own health issues and problems which they need to deal with.

So what can you do to survive years of caregiving for another person?  Practicing self-care is essential if you want to preserve your own health. It is important to remember that you cannot do a good job of taking care of someone else, if you are not taking care of yourself.  

As a result, this month's guest post is from Jenn Walker, who has put together some terrific ideas on how to take care of yourself, while caring for someone else at the same time.   Her guest post is below:

Caring for Elderly Family Members at Home

by Jenn Walker

Caregiving is a demanding role on its own, but it can become even more challenging when you are responsible for the care of an elderly family member. In some cases, elderly family members may require long-term care which eats up a lot of your personal time. This can place a significant strain on both your personal life and your relationship with the family member who is in need of care. Still, there are ways to make caregiving easier for everyone involved. 

In this article, we will discuss some of the best ways to reduce caregiver stress, as well as how to make your elderly family member as comfortable as possible. From helpful mental health practices to respite care, there are more than enough ways to be an effective caregiver for your loved one without destroying your own health and peace of mind.

Educate Yourself on Caregiving

Family caregivers are often thrown into the role without any substantial caregiving experience, leading to immense stress as they figure out how to care for their elderly family member. Whether you have been a caregiver for a few days or a few months, online caregiving resources can be a great way to educate yourself about caregiving best practices. Some in-home care agencies also offer educational services which will help you become a more effective and confident caregiver.  You may find it helpful to take a short two or three week class from one of these agencies before taking on the responsibility for caring for your loved one, or you may want to hire an outside agency for a few weeks until you feel prepared to handle things on your own. 

Make the House Comfortable

As you learn the basics of caregiving, it is important to make the house as comfortable as possible for your elderly family member. Depending on their situation, a senior family member may have limited mobility or persistent discomfort which makes daily life more complicated than it was before. Whether they need additional handrails throughout the house, or furniture which is easier to get in and out of, accommodating those needs will make them more comfortable and make long-term care much more bearable.

You can find a large selection of home safety equipment online (Ad) which will meet the specific needs of your loved one, whether they need bars or a seat in the shower, a safety rail for the toilet, a portable wheelchair ramp, a lift chair, adaptive eating utensils or other safety equipment.  You can find all these items, and more, online and make your home a safer, more comfortable place for your loved one. (Ad)  These items might also make your life easier, as a caregiver.  The more the patient can do for themselves, the less work for you. 

Find a Balance Between Caregiving and Your Personal Life

Caregiving can put a lot of mental and physical stress on caregivers, as it often requires them to shirk many of their personal responsibilities for the sake of their patient’s care. Many family caregivers cannot abandon all of their family and personal responsibilities, however, so it is important to find some kind of balance between your personal life and your caregiving tasks for your loved one.

 If your elderly family member’s situation allows it, it can be beneficial to designate specific times for caregiving which will allow you to work or handle other responsibilities in the meantime. That way, you can still hold a job or handle other responsibilities, while also ensuring that your family member gets the care they need.

Seek Help From the Whole Family

When you are caring for an elderly family member, it is vitally important to remember that you are probably not the only person in the family who can provide caregiving assistance. If you are in a long-term care situation, calling on other family members can take significant strain off you while ensuring that the family member who is in need of care still gets the help they need.

Depending on how many family members you can coordinate with, you could work in shifts with other relatives so all of the necessary care responsibilities are evenly distributed. Whether everyone chooses a specific day or you alternate each month, it will lessen the personal stress of caregiving and bring your family closer together in the long run.

Find Respite Care Services

If your caregiving responsibilities have placed an unbearable amount of stress on your life, respite care services are an excellent choice for assistance. With in-home respite care, a professional caregiver provides all of the caregiving your elderly family member requires while you take time to relax and manage your personal life. Temporary respite care within a nursing home is also an option, which allows your senior family member to stay in a facility centered on their care while you spend a few days away from them.  This can be very helpful if you need to travel and cannot leave your family member home alone.  

Your elderly family member deserves the care they need, but you also deserve to have some balance and serenity in your life. Long-term caregiving isn’t always easy, but with the proper resources, it doesn’t have to become an undue burden.

About the Author

Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.

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Thursday, April 7, 2022

Baby Boomer Life Expectancy - How Long Are You Likely to Live?

No one can tell you exactly how long a specific person is going to live, but we can make a reasonable guess.  By considering your current age and health conditions, it is possible to give you an estimate  of your life expectancy, based on the median age of death for the typical person of your age, gender, health condition, and the state where you live.  

Many people are surprised to learn that, once you have passed the age of 65, the median life expectancy of a Baby Boomer is actually several years longer than the life expectancy for the general American public.  This is because the average life expectancy of all Americans includes the deaths of everyone from infants to young adults.  When we estimate the number of years left for the typical Baby Boomer, we are only looking at the remaining years of life left for people who are already in their 60s, 70s or older.  

With these thoughts in mind, below are some statistics which may interest you:

Life Expectancy of all U.S. residents in 2021:  76.6 years

Life Expectancy for 65 year old Baby Boomers in 2021: 82 to 85 years

The life expectancy for all U.S. residents has dropped by over two years since 2019, when it was 78.8 years.  The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating effect on lifespans around the world.  However, you will be pleased to know that the typical living Baby Boomer is still likely to live into their 80s, especially if they are vaccinated for Covid and avoid getting either that or any other serious disease.

Your life expectancy can vary depending on many factors.  Below are a few.

The state where you live:

If you live in Hawaii, California, New York, Minnesota, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington State or Colorado, your life expectancy at birth will be between 80 and 81 years.

If you live in West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma or Arkansas, your life expectancy at birth will be between 74.4 and 75.6 years.  

These are based on 2019 statistics, the most current available from the CDC.  If you live in a state which was particularly hard hit by Covid, the average remaining life expectancy could be lower, because life expectancy dropped sharply in 2020 and 2021.

You can see that there is almost a six year difference in the life span of American citizens, based simply on the state where they live.  The reason for this often is because of the typical lifestyle in those places, the normal diet, the amount of exercise senior citizens tend to get, and the quality of the healthcare available.  As a result, if you live in a state with a low life expectancy, but you behave as though you live in a state with a higher life expectancy, you may be able to add years to your life.  

Your Gender:

Women have a longer life expectancy than men.  In New Mexico, the average woman will live 6.2 years longer than the average man.  In Utah, the average woman will live 3.2 years longer.

Your Lifestyle:

People who eat right, maintain a healthy weight, and get regular aerobic exercise are likely to live longer than people who who throw all caution to the wind.  If you are not sure where to start in improving your lifestyle, you may enjoy reading "How Not to Die." (Ad)  It could add years to your life.

Once you reach age 65, your remaining life expectancy increases, especially if you are in good health:

On average, if you reach age 65 and live in Hawaii, California, Connecticut, New York, Colorado or Minnesota, your average life expectancy is another 20 to 21.1 years.  In other words, on average you have a good chance of living to be at least 85 years old.

The numbers are not quite as good if you live in Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee or Louisiana, because you are likely to only live an additional 17.5 to 17.9 years, or until the age of 82 or 83.  Still, that is much better than the estimated national life expectancy of a newborn baby, which is only about 77.  

You can learn where your state falls on the list at the Centers for Disease website at:

Illnesses and Chronic Health Conditions Can Affect Lifespan


As you can see from the above charts, they universally show that the older you are when you are diagnosed with cancer, the shorter your remaining life expectancy will be, although the type of cancer can make a difference.  When all types of cancer are lumped together, the life expectancy of a 70 to 75 year old who is diagnosed with cancer can be as much as 15 more years, while the remaining life expectancy of a 90 year old with the same disease is only about 5 more years.  As you can see, getting common cancers late in life may not significantly affect your remaining lifespan, thanks to huge strides which have been made in cancer treatments over the past few years.  Of course, if you develop an especially aggressive cancer, or one which is hard to diagnose, such as pancreatic cancer, your lifespan is likely to be much shorter.

(Journal of Advanced Research, Volume 20, November 2019)


Late stage, severe dementia, on the other hand, can significantly reduce your life span.  According to research by the National Institute of Health, "the mean survival time after dementia diagnosis was 4.1 years, and more than 2 of those years were spent in moderate (14-month) and severe (12-month) stages. Women with dementia lived longer than men, as they survived longer in the severe stage (2.1 vs. 0.5 years among 75-84 year-old women compared to men).

Personally, having had a mother who suffered with severe dementia during the last four years of her life, I am not sure there is an advantage to women living longer under these circumstances.  The quality of life for a severe dementia patient is very poor, and this puts a lot of stress on their families. 

If you want to reduce your dementia risk as you age, you may want to read the article on this blog titled "Cut Your Dementia Risk by 40% in 12 Steps!"  It has useful, scientific tips for avoiding or postponing a dementia diagnosis.  Following these steps could give you a number of additional years of quality life.

Other Illnesses

Most other illnesses, such as heart disease, have already been factored into the estimated lifespan for Baby Boomers, mentioned above.  However, anytime you are given a specific diagnosis of an illness, you may want to go to the website for the Association devoted to that illness.  Most of them have estimators which will help you determine what your expected life expectancy will be, at your exact age, with your specific diagnosis.  Like the charts for cancer, shown earlier in the article, the older you are when you are given a serious diagnosis, the fewer years you are likely to live.  Remember, though, that you are not a statistic, and most senior citizens do not suffer from just one illness.  As a result, you may live a longer or shorter time than the estimator.  However, the health association websites can give you valuable information so you know what to expect and what you can do to extend your life as much as possible.

The Good News

Many people have heard all their lives that the average life expectancy in the United States is around 77 or 78, with men living a couple of years less than that, and women living a couple of years longer.  However, if you have successfully reached the age of 65, and you are in reasonably good health, the truth is that you can hope to live until your early to mid-80s, and possibly much longer. 

You can improve your odds of having a long, healthy life if you try to follow the Blue Zone diet and lifestyle.  The Blue Zones are areas of the world where people routinely live to their 90s and even over 100, while leading healthy, active lives.  If you want to learn how to incorporate the Blue Zone lifestyle into your life, you could start by reading "The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest." (Ad).  

According to the website, "living until age 90 isn't some wild outlier. The SOA's data suggests that a 65-year-old male today, in average health, has a 35% chance of living to 90; for a woman the odds are 46%."

Baby Boomers should not give up on life.  If you keep eating healthy, getting exercise, and following your doctor's instructions, you may have many more good years ahead!

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Aren't we all just living one day at a time?  You can find gifts for retirees and others, including this beautiful and inspirational coffee mug, at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts. Check it out here:

To learn more about common medical problems as we age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from my Etsy store or from an Amazon or Google ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

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Photo credit: the author, Journal of Advanced Research and Amazon book covers