Current Affairs

How Do I Know If the Symptoms I’m Experiencing Are Normal?

October 06, 2011


  • "How many times is normal to get up at night and go to the bathroom?” 
  • “If I’m having trouble hearing the television, am I going to go deaf?” 
  • “Is it normal to forget where you parked your car - I’m only 40!”
  • “Is it ok if my mom is taking naps during the day, or should I be concerned? She did just retire.”


These are common questions that I get from patients as they get older. And it can be challenging to know the answers when you’re not a medical professional. Yet, it is important to be able to tell the difference between what is a normal part of aging versus a disease. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you should be having ten different medical problems. Yes, you will have some problems such as trouble reading fine print by the time you’re 40, but you’re not going to start having a life of aches and pains just because you’re older. 


I find there are two sorts of patients – those that come in whenever they have any change in a body function, have scoured the internet and now think they have a brain tumor; and then there are those folks who rarely ever come into the office with complaints because they attribute it to “I’m just getting old.” The reality is that it is often diseases that make getting old frustrating, not the normal changes associated with aging. As we get older, too often we are embarrassed to bring up concerns to our doctors, or even get advice for our aging parents. So people needlessly live with pain, depression, bladder problems, vision problems – all the time thinking that these are normal changes, when sometimes they are not!


So I’m here to help you get some more information as to when you should be concerned about that mole on your back, and when you should say that’s just a normal part of aging.  Take the quiz, and let’s see how you do.


More on Aging:

5 Stereotypes About Aging That Aren't True

How Do My Sleeping Habits Change as I Age?

How Does Aging Affect Driving Ability?

Is This Normal? The Essential Guide to Middle Age and Beyond

July 20, 2011

Book Is it normal to forget where you parked your car? Do we really shrink as we grow older? Does everyone experience lower libido as they age?

More than 78 million American adults are nearing the age when unexpected aches and pains, weight gains, sudden illnesses and confusing mental changes begin to occur. As children, our questions about how our bodies will change are met with knowledge and patience—anything to make the transition as seamless as possible. But at 50 or 60, there’s no one to help us figure out whether the changes we’re experiencing are a cause for concern or just a normal part of aging.

Is This Normal? is a guidebook that focuses on putting this generation at ease by answering their most common questions. From superficial concerns to everyday aches and pains to more serious medical problems, Dr. John Whyte, chief medical expert at Discovery Channel, cuts through the confusion and provides practical answers for the most common age-related health issues. In Is This Normal?, he answers a broad range of questions, such as:

  • How much weight gain is normal as we age—and why is it so hard to lose?
  • Is it normal to need a pair of reading glasses just to decipher a restaurant menu?
  • What are the signs of Alzheimer’s versus normal memory loss?

With compassion, reassurance, and friendly guidance, Dr. Whyte provides cutting-edge medical advice for the effects of aging we face every day—from gray hair and wrinkles to cardiovascular health. Is This Normal? arms readers with the essential knowledge and preventive strategies they need stay healthy and vital for decades to come. 

Buy the Book Today!

More Aging Myths, Tips and Tricks:

7 Anti-Aging Tips

Aging IQ Quiz

5 Myths About Aging and Your Health

5 Stereotypes About Aging

How to Make Working Work for You

August 30, 2010

Andrew taylor
Patients often ask me how they can best prepare for a new addition to the family while juggling the stress of their jobs and everyday life. Let’s be honest – it’s tough! Did you know that nearly 60 percent of married mothers with children under 3 years old are active in the workforce?

This is almost double the number of working moms in 1975, and the latest studies show that fathers feel just as stressed as mothers do! It’s no easier for single parents: In single-parent families with children under 3 years, 57 percent of mothers and 77percent of fathers are employed. As it becomes more common for both mothers and fathers to work, parents find themselves struggling to handle the demands of a baby while providing for the family. With some simple adjustments, though, parents can ensure a less stressful experience for themselves and more time for the family.

Working too hard is a serious consequence for parents. You’ve probably heard of burnout from work, but did you know it can also drain you of your enthusiasm at home? How can you avoid burnout? Here are 3 easy tips:

  • You can start by using your breaks more wisely for a little bit of de-stress time. Do some deep breathing or close your eyes and envision something relaxing. Try this during your coffee breaks or when you have a bit of down time at work.
  • Use your commute as time to unwind from work and to separate work from home. Let this time serve as a gap between the pressures of work and the joys of spending time with family, and change your mindset accordingly. Stop using commute time for e-mails and texting!
  • In addition to prioritizing and improving your time management, keep your expectations as real as possible. Sometimes, it’s not going to be possible to go to the movies because Junior has an ear infection.

Now that you’re effectively avoiding burnout, what else can you do to be a successful working parent?

  • Many parents find managing a new addition much easier when they are able to work from home, using baby’s frequent naps as the perfect time to get work done.
  • Some employers also offer compressed work weeks or flextime schedules. Compressed work weeks let you work only four days per week as long as you work a couple of extra hours each day, leaving a full day open to take care of things at home. Flextime allows employees to choose when they want to work, as long as they meet the required number of work hours.
  • Great news for fathers: Some employers are also offering paternity leave.

Check with your employer about your options when you are expecting a baby. Many employers are willing to reasonably accommodate their employees when it comes to a new baby.

Armed with these tips, parents can now focus on what’s most important: enjoying the newest addition to their family and knowing that the family’s needs are met. Don’t let your job boss you around at the expense of your family life; make working work for you.

(Image Credit: Andrew Taylor/

Texting Is More Dangerous Than You May Think

June 14, 2010

Texting-iphone As I was driving to work this morning, I noted a number of people shuffling along the sidewalks, eyes peering down at their mobile devices with their fingers tap-tapping away. While stopped at an intersection, I actually witnessed someone collide with a passerby walking in the opposite direction….kaboom!  The "typer" was so engrossed in what he was writing that he simply did not realize he was on a collision course with someone else.  Luckily, there was no serious damage, except for perhaps some scattered papers and a bruised ego.  But the result could have been more serious.  And this isn’t the worse I have seen – I’ve even seen bicyclists text and ride --- how they do it, I don’t know nor do I want to try it!

Indeed, with the rising popularity of mobile technology, this is not uncommon to see. We have grown increasingly connected to the world around us through laptops, cell phones, personal organizers, and mobile everything -- but what many of us do not realize is that being so connected can be harmful to our health.

The risks of working at a computer for too long have been well emphasized for years. Overuse of electronic devices -- commonly computers but also video games and mobile phones -- can lead to repetitive strain injuries. This is a general term that refers to the strain in the upper extremities from prolonged repetitive activities, like typing. Have your heard of the “Blackberry thumb”?  This is a relatively new term to describe the pain arising in one’s thumbs and wrists from repetitive typing on the tiny keypads.  It’s not just our arms that can become painful.  Poor posture while using these devices puts us at risk for chronic low back pain, neck pain, and even eye strain.

I’m sure you know about the dangers of driving while texting. According to NHTSA, 5870 deaths and 515,000 injuries were caused by distracted drivers in 2009; of these, texting drivers were 23. times more likely than nontexting drivers to be involved in a collision.  Everyone, especially Oprah, is rightfully raising awareness of the dangers of distracted drivers.  But you may not be aware that there are numerous other types of injuries occurring from excessive use of computers.  Did you realize that in the last few years, there have been over 70,000 emergency room visits for computer-related injuries, most commonly tripping and falling over computer equipment?  This is certainly a testament to how dangerous technology can be!

Technology certainly can improve many aspects of our life.  But like most things, it needs to be used in moderation to maximize our health. Though we may think it absolutely essential to send that email or text message immediately, sometimes it’s best to take a break and disconnect for a little while. Our thumbs will thank us.

John J. Whyte, MD, MPH is the Chief Medical Expert & Vice President for Continuing Medical Education where he develops, designs and delivers health programming.








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