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Senior Correspondent

 Q. What are the most common symptoms that you’re having a stroke?

The most common stroke symptoms include: sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg — usually on one side of the body; trouble talking or understanding; sudden blurred, double or decreased vision; dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; a sudden headache with a stiff neck, facial pain, pain between the eyes, vomiting or altered consciousness; confusion or problems with memory, spatial orientation or perception.

During a stroke, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and nutrients and begin to die. The earlier a stroke is treated, the better the results. 

In the U.S., stroke is the third-leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. It is the leading cause of adult disability. 

Your doctor has many diagnostic tools for stroke. Among these are physical exam, blood tests, carotid ultrasonography to check the carotid arteries in your neck, arteriography to view arteries in your brain, a computerized tomography (CT) scan of the neck and brain, and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, among others.

Q. How bad does it have to be before you can say you’re constipated?

The clinical definition of constipation is any two of the following symptoms for at least 12 weeks (not necessarily consecutive) in the previous year: straining during bowel movements, lumpy or hard stool, sensation of obstruction or incomplete evacuation, fewer than three bowel movements per week.

Those reporting constipation most often are women and adults age 65 and over. Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in the U.S. Common causes of constipation include insufficient intake of fiber and liquids, lack of exercise, medications, older age and abuse of laxatives.

Many seniors eat a low-fiber diet that causes constipation. Some lose interest in eating and choose convenience foods that are low in fiber. Others have difficulties chewing or swallowing, which leads them to eat soft, processed, low-fiber foods. Aging may affect bowel regularity because a slower metabolism results in less intestinal activity and muscle tone.

Some medications can cause constipation. They include pain medications (especially narcotics),  antacids that contain aluminum and calcium, blood pressure medications (calcium channel blockers), antiparkinson drugs, antispasmodics, antidepressants, iron supplements, diuretics and anticonvulsants.

Q. Are there telltale signs that an older person is being abused?

If you're concerned an older adult might need help, these are symptoms to look for:

  • Physical injury such as a bruise, cut, burn, rope mark, sprain or broken bone
  • Refusal of the caregiver to allow you to visit the older person alone
  • Indications of dehydration, malnourishment, weight loss and poor hygiene
  • Negative behavior such as agitation, withdrawal and expressions of fear or apathy
  • Unexplained changes in finances

What is elder abuse? It can take a variety of forms  physical, sexual, emotional and financial. Neglect of an older person is also within the umbrella of elder abuse.

Recently the U.S. Administration on Aging found that more than a half-million people over the age of 60 are abused or neglected each year. About 90 percent of the abusers are related to the victims.

All 50 states have elder abuse prevention laws and have set up reporting systems. Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies investigate reports of suspected elder abuse. To report elder abuse, contact your APS office. You can find the telephone numbers at the website operated by the http://www.napsa-now.org/get-help/help-in-your-area/.

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