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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 11:06 pm | Fair 53º

 
 
 
Your Health
Wellnews

Scott LaFee: Elderly Drivers, and the Car Giving and Taking Away

At some point, almost everybody becomes too old to drive — safely. But deciding when is often left to caregivers, as most drivers don’t see the end of the road until, well, something bad happens.

It’s a fraught time. No one wants to lose the independence that driving provides. According to surveys, adult children say the “car key conversation” is harder than discussing funeral plans or selling the family home. Physicians wrestle with whether they should step in and what their legal liability might be.

Statistics show that, per mile driven, drivers over the age of 75 are almost as dangerous as teens. Driver errors tend to increase with age and diminishing physical abilities, perhaps compounded by greater use of medications that impair senses or attention.

Here are eight ways to stop an elderly person from driving. Caveat: None is guaranteed, and none is necessarily easy to do.

» Anonymously report them to the DMV.

» Use Alzheimer’s disease or dementia forgetfulness as an opportunity to remove the car and any reminders of driving. Distract them until they forget about driving altogether.

» Have a relative or close friend “borrow” the car.

» Hide or “lose” the keys.

» Take the car in for repairs.

» Disable the car.

» Sell the car.

» Hide your own car and car keys.

Readers’ Digest

It varies by individual, and men tend to do it faster than women. But generally speaking, it takes six to eight hours for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine before entering the large intestine (colon) for some additional digestion, water absorption and preparation as waste.

Not surprisingly, different foods digest at different rates. Carbohydrates break down most quickly, especially refined or processed carbs such as those in white bread or table sugar. Carbs with higher levels of fiber, such as those found in whole fruits and grains, digest slower. Proteins are more complex molecules, and dismantling them takes more time. Fats are slower to digest as well.

Here’s a rough timetable for some edibles: Water moves into the intestine almost immediately upon being consumed. Fruit juice: 15 to 20 minutes. Raw vegetables: 30 to 40 minutes. Fish: 45 to 60 minutes. Salad with oil: 1 hour. Starchy vegetables or chicken: 1½ to 2 hours. Whole grains and dairy: 2 hours. Nuts or beef: 3 hours. Lamb: 4 hours. Pork: 5 hours.

Get Me That, Stat!

According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, only 1 in 3 children in the United States are physically active every day. So it follows that, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, that almost 20 percent of American youth, ages 12 to 19, are obese.

Counts

15-18: Number of people, in millions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates have come down with the flu so far this season

184-221: Number of people, in thousands, who have been hospitalized for their illnesses

— CDC

Mania of the Week

Logomania: A compulsive tendency to be wordy, talkative or loquacious. Not to be confused with Legomania, an obsession with small plastic building bricks manufactured in Denmark.

Never Say ‘Diet’

The Major League speed-eating record for vinegar pickles is 2.7 pounds in 6 minutes, held by Brian Seiken of Brooklyn, who happily suffered no dill effects.

Observation

“The bottom line is I’m blessed with good health. On top of that, I don’t go around thinking, ‘Oh, I’m 90, I better do this or I better do that.’ I’m just Betty. I’m the same Betty that I’ve always been. Take it or leave it.” — Actress Betty White, now age 97

Ig Nobel Apprised

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh, then think — looks at real science that are hard to take seriously and even harder to ignore.

In 2004, the Ig Nobel Prize in psychology went to Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University for demonstrating that when people pay close attention to something, it’s all too easy to overlook everything else — even a woman in a gorilla suit.

Publish or Perish the Thought

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like “nonlinear dynamics.” Sometimes they don’t, and they’re still hard to figure out. Here’s an actual title of actual published research:

“On human odour, malaria mosquitoes and Limburger cheese” by Bart G.J. Knols. The Lancet. Nov. 9, 1996.

Self-Exam

Q: Where is your “anatomical snuffbox”?

A: Hold out your hand, fingers extended. You should see a triangular deepening on the top of the hand below the base of the thumb (inside part of wrist). “Anatomical snuffbox” originates from the use of this surface for placing and then sniffing powdered tobacco or snuff, a habit popular in the 16th through 18th centuries among certain European social classes.

Fit to Be Tried

There are thousands of exercises, and you’ve only got one body, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try them all:

The hip raise: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Brace your core, squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) and raise your hips so your body forms a straight diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause for 5 seconds, squeezing your glutes tightly the entire time, and then lower back to the start. Repeat.

The hip raise targets the muscles of your rear end, which can help flatten your belly. When the glutes are weak, the top of the pelvis tilts forward, causing the stomach to stick out and stressing the lower back.

Curtain Calls

According to Valerius Maximus, a first-century Roman historian, the ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle that mistook his bald head for a rock upon which to shatter the shell of the reptile. Pliny, another Roman historian, observed that Aeschylus had been staying outdoors to avert a prophecy that said he would be killed by a falling object.

Scott LaFee is a staff writer at UC San Diego Health and the former chief science writer at The San Diego Union-Tribune, where he covered science, medicine and technology. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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