Excerpt: 'Treat Me, Not My Age'

"Treat Me, Not My Age," by Dr. Mark Lachs

In 'Treat Me, Not My Age: A Doctor's Guide to Getting the Best Care as You or a Loved One Gets Older,' author Dr. Mark Lachs explains how people who are 40 and over can navigate their way through the health care system and ensure they -- or loved ones -- get the best care.

Lachs is a geriatrician. His subspeciality is treating the issues affecting the elderly.

Read an excerpt from the book below and head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.

"You're a What?" Understanding How Geriatricians Think About Aging There's an old saying: "Life begins at forty." That's silly -- life begins every morning when you wake up. -- George Burns

My mother-in-law remains crestfallen.

Although I graduated from medical school nearly twenty-five years ago, she still believes that her daughter endured my 110-hour workweek and meager intern compensation only to end up married to a social worker (a badge I wear proudly, by the way). To her way of thinking, the family should have gotten a surgeon or at least a cardiologist. She hasn't actually said it, but deep down I've always had this sinking suspicion that she believes I could have been a contender.

The questions usually surface at the end of Thanksgiving dinner:

"You have an office, right?"

"Do you use a stethoscope?"

"Can you prescribe medicine, or is that only the doctors who operate?"

"You're a real doctor, right? Not like a PhD. I'm only asking because one of the ladies I play canasta with wanted to know."

Since I'm well versed in reassuring her, permit me to do it again here; it lays the groundwork nicely for the crash course I'm about to give you, in the next chapter, about what we know about human longevity, the biology of aging, and how you can use that knowledge to your advantage.

I am a geriatrician -- a physician who provides care to older people and support to their families in the same way that a pediatrician serves children and their families. But I'm also an internist -- a physician who completed three years of internal-medicine training after medical school -- studying the complex inner workings of the body and the nonsurgical treatment of diseases many adults acquire over the course of a lifetime (for example, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis). After completing training in internal medicine (our specialty), most practitioners of geriatrics (our subspecialty) spend an additional year or two learning our craft, as other internal-medicine graduates might select additional training in one of the other subspecialties of internal medicine that you're probably more familiar with, such as cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, or oncology. The training content of geriatric medicine is vastly different from that of any of those subspecialties (and altogether different from training in any other area of medicine, really).

A gerontologist is generally someone who does research in the area of aging. But because aging can be defined broadly, there are researchers from a wide range of fi elds -- economics, biology, housing, transportation, psychology -- who call themselves gerontologists. Some gerontologists aren't physicians but provide direct clinical service exclusively to older people (such as a psychologist who might choose to work with older people exclusively).

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