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June Article for Senior Center Sentinal

I  am a senior and still drive.  My family wants me to stop.  I do not want to.  What can I do?

Dear Senior, this is a very sensitive question.  I will do my best to address it. Knowing when to turn over the car keys is an extremely difficult decision to make.  Just  thinking  about making the change, I am sure, can be overwhelming.  You probably use your car to run errands, go shopping, visit friends, attend church or just enjoy a sunny ride.  However when your safety is at stake , you need to be honest with yourself.  Are your ready to turn over yours  keys?  Only you really know how you feel when you are behind the wheel.

Most senior  citizens are safe drivers. Senior citizens are seen by some as among the safest drivers on the road as they generally do not speed or take risks and they are more likely to wear seatbelts.  The most  common violations a senior may have include failure to obey traffic signals, unsafe turns and  passing, and a failure to yield the right of way.  Due to physical frailties as we age they are more likely to be injured in an accident .

The law in most towns and cities allow senior citizens to keep on driving provided they meet the same requirements as younger adults.  Some senior citizens may continue to drive but with limitations such as the amount of driving they can do, the hours in whlch they can drive or the distance from home they can travel.  These restrictions may be placed either by the law or their insurance provider.

It is widely accepted that age changes your senses.  How many of us have needed glasses once we get into our forties and our hearing does seem to decline the more we age.  Safe driving depends on alertness which is critically connected to your senses. Other physical changes could be affecting your ability to drive.  Have you noticed changes in your ability to concentrate?  Do not rule out the effects of medication.  There are many pills that can make you sleepy or foggy.

You might need to consider giving up your drivers  license if your family and friends keep telling you that your driving is not as good as it used to be.  People who love you are going to be worried about your safety. In addition to family and friends who love you, there are organized driving pools in many communities today.  The number of drivers giving up their cars or licenses is growing and that means creative solutions will be developed to help solve the transportation issue.

And so dear reader, in the end, your decision to give up the car keys will come down to driver safety.  We all share the road and if any one driver is not alert and driving defensively, then  the  potential  for an accident increases for us all.  Now go have that cup of tea, you have some decisions to make.

May Article for Senior Center Sentinal

I keep hearing about gluten and gluten free diets.  What is this all about and should I not be eating anything with gluten in it?  Why is everyone so obsessed with this?

Gluten is one of the most heavily consumed proteins on earth, it is created when two molecules, glutenin and gliadin come into contact and form a bond.  When bakers knead dough, that bond creates an elastic membrane, which is what gives bread its chewy texture and permits pizza chefs to toss and twirl the dough into the air. Gluten when it ferments adds volume to the loaf.  Humans have been eating wheat and the gluten in it for thousand years.

More people are going “gluten free” to fix digestion issues.  For people with Celiac disease, about one per cent of the population, the briefest exposure to gluten can trigger an immune reaction powerful enough to damage the surface of the small intestine. Folks with Celiac disease  have to be alert about food at all times. Until about a decade ago, the other ninety nine per cent of Americans rarely seemed to give gluten much thought. How could gluten, present in a staple food that has sustained humanity for thousands of years, have suddenly become so threatening?

So what has changed?  In fact, almost everything.  The way we grow it, the way we process it and the way we eat.  The version of wheat we consume today is a product of genetic research.  Since industrialization, everything has changed and it has happened in two distinct “technology revolutions”.  The first was in milling, the second in cultivation and farming.  Both have had a profound effect, yet most people have no idea.

The invention of the modern steel roller mill revolutionized grain milling.  It was fast and efficient.  And beyond being cheap , this new flour shipped and stored better allowing for long distribution and it kept almost indefinitely. The reason it kept so well is that it had been stripped of vital nutrients.  The steel roller mill became so popular that within ten years nearly all stone mills in the western world were replaced.  And thus was born the first processed food and the beginning our industrial food system, where vast quantities of shelf stable “food” are produced in large factories, many months and many miles from the point of consumption.  No one thought much about what was happening to the actual food value of wheat.

The second technology revolution in the 20th century is not nearly as widely understood.  The so called advancements in  farming food production may have ruined  wheat itself by using chemical and genetic technologies , synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The wheat we eat today has been milled into white flour, which has plenty of gluten but few vitamins or nutrients and can cause the sharp increases in blood sugar that often lead to diabetes and other chronic diseases.

If this alarms you, the simple and obvious prescription is “don’t eat wheat.  Hence the gluten free craze. There is an alternative solution, don’t eat industrial flour made with modern wheat.

Dear Reader as you have pointed out people do seem to be obsessed with this topic.  Folks are going gluten free to be healthier and the food industry is responding.  A dizzying selection of gluten free products has popped up, seemingly overnight to cater to this new healthy lifestyle choice. The irony is that most gluten free  versions of traditional wheat based foods are actually junk food. Check the ingredients, it will show that they are the same kind of highly refined industrial starches that spike blood sugar as much or even more than white flour.  So don’t fall for gluten free junk disguised as health food. Food companies have altered thousands of products so that they ca be labelled as low in fat, but replacing those fats with sugars, salt, and refined carbohydrates makes the food even less healthy.  For the vast majority  of gluten free eaters that are not Celiac,  just return to honest to goodness old fashioned flour: organic  wheat, freshly stone ground.

Now if this doesn’t’  want to make you have a cup of tea and a nice scone, gluten free, I just don’t know what will.