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Richard W. Besdine, M.D.
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Richard W. Besdine, M.D., is the Medical Officer for the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) and Professor of Medicine, Greer Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Director of the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research, and Director of the Division of Geriatrics in the Department of Medicine at Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He is also former Chief Medical Officer of the federal Health Care Financing Administration (now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid). From 1972-86, Dr. Besdine served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and co-founded Harvard's Division on Aging with John W. Rowe, M.D.

Entries by Richard W. Besdine, M.D.

Is It Alzheimer's?

(0) Comments | Posted January 9, 2014 | 4:22 PM

"Doc, I'm worried I'm getting Alzheimer's." I hear this very frequently when I see patients or speak in public about the disease. Sometimes the fear is for someone else, as in, "My husband doesn't seem like himself recently..." It's always a fraught conversation, but especially when the person asking is...

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We Need to Talk About Urinary Incontinence

(9) Comments | Posted August 5, 2013 | 5:29 PM

Forty years ago, Woody Allen directed the zeitgeist comedy "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask." Today, fewer people are reluctant to talk about sex, but that misplaced sense of delicacy has moved to a different bodily function: urinary incontinence, or the...

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Why Everyone Deserves Palliative Care

(17) Comments | Posted April 19, 2013 | 6:22 PM

Life is full of surprises, but statisticians tell us that most Americans who make it to age 65 can expect to live to almost 85, and about 1 in 4 will live past 90. Credit goes to improvements in public health, and to medical breakthroughs that...

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My Insights Into Stroke Prevention

(8) Comments | Posted January 5, 2013 | 2:00 PM

Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

Even after caring for hundreds of stroke patients as a geriatrician, I found Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's TEDTalk, "My Stroke of Insight" compelling, and will urge colleagues to see it. Her detailed first-person account of what it's...

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Alzheimer's Disease: You Can Reduce Your Risk

(22) Comments | Posted November 19, 2012 | 9:50 AM

If I told you how to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease (AD), would you do it?

My work as a geriatrician, seeing Alzheimer's patients and counseling hard-pressed families, makes me hope so.

My many conversations with people over 50, at dinner parties and elsewhere, who dread...

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Stroke: The Overlooked Killer

(12) Comments | Posted June 14, 2012 | 7:21 AM

Contrary to popular wisdom, what you don't know can sometimes hurt you, and badly. For older adults in particular, this is true when it comes to stroke.

The nickname for stroke is "brain attack." By interrupting the flow of blood to the brain, either by a blockage (usually a...

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Fear of Falling

(2) Comments | Posted March 16, 2012 | 4:40 PM

A month ago, I almost became the subject of one of my own medical school lectures, after an episode that illustrated one of the most serious health problems facing older adults and their doctors: falling.

To prepare medical students for their older patients' real-life challenges, I always teach the...

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The Medications Seniors Can't Live With -- Or Without

(60) Comments | Posted January 13, 2012 | 3:59 PM

For many older Americans, their relationship with the most important drugs in their medicine cabinets can be described as "Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em."

Can't live without 'em, because modern medications are the most effective -- and cost-effective -- treatment we have for most of the...

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Delirium: How to Prevent this Dangerous Form of Disorientation

(0) Comments | Posted October 25, 2011 | 3:57 PM

A 67-year-old man saw plants growing through his ceiling. Another man was frightened by the mountain lion in his room. A third had to defuse a mine in Italy during World War II, to keep it from killing the infant Virgin Mary. An older woman feared assassins were peering into...

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The Stigma Around Aging And Chronic Pain

(108) Comments | Posted July 22, 2011 | 8:03 AM

"Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death itself."

- Physician and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)

When you're in pain, nothing else seems to matter. And if you're an older adult, you are not only more likely to have pain, but also to get less help...

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Late-Life Depression: Coming Out of the Shadows

(9) Comments | Posted June 1, 2011 | 7:54 AM

Can you solve this medical riddle? What strikes one in five Americans, raises their risk of death and disability, and doubles their health care costs?

If you said depression, congratulations, you were correct. If you said heart disease (America's leading cause of death), you were also correct.

These...

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Healthy Aging: A Cheat Sheet

(18) Comments | Posted April 23, 2011 | 10:50 AM

When it comes to your health, it's a jungle out there. If you are over 65, the predators include chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Even with modern medicine behind you, they can disable and kill you before your time -- unless you take evasive...

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The Biggest Risk Factor For Top-Killing Diseases

(41) Comments | Posted March 20, 2011 | 11:13 AM

Today, aging and disease are linked like birthdays and cake. In fact, the greatest risk factor for all the big killers is the number of candles on that cake. But imagine living to 85 or 90, never worrying about getting cancer, diabetes, or Alzheimer's disease. It's not possible now but...

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What Would Really Improve Health Care

(79) Comments | Posted February 6, 2011 | 10:46 AM

As the new Congress threatens to repeal health care reform and Republicans and deficit reduction panels eye major entitlement cuts, Medicare has become their central battleground, just as the first of 78 million Boomers turn 65 and begin joining the program.

The deficit hawks have a point....

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