Some bodily changes can be seen as badges of honor: knees that turned arthritic from scoring winning touchdowns in high school. Once model-like figures lost — but worth it — from birthing amazing offspring. Gray hairs proudly "earned" from a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice.
But unflattering smells, sounds, leaks and other unwelcome episodes common after age 50 share one identical symptom: such embarrassment that two of three patients would rather suffer in silence than discuss the condition with their doctor, say researchers. Even before the Internet allowed for anonymous access to answers, surveys indicated that embarrassing ailments were the top reason why Americans didn't get a medical exam when they knew they should.
The problem is, remaining mum about problems can affect your overall health.
"Most embarrassing symptoms can be treated — often easily," says Donnica Moore, M.D., of the Sapphire Women's Health Group in New Jersey and author of Women's Health for Life. "But sometimes they indicate a bigger problem."
1. Bad Breath
Likely causes: Dry mouth, which can be caused by many medications, including those used to treat depression, high blood pressure, urinary incontinence, allergies and Parkinson's disease; eating sulfur-containing foods such as onions and garlic; gum disease and cavities; smoking or drinking coffee. But the top cause is poor dental hygiene — and interestingly, daily flossing to remove odor-causing trapped food ranks highest as the health habit "patients are most likely to skip or overestimate doing," notes Moore.
Do it Yourself (DIY) treatments: Combat dry mouth by drinking more water, eating saliva-inducing apples and celery, and chewing gum. Avoid toothpastes that contain the compound sodium lauryl sulfate. Along with brushing and flossing, eating probiotic-containing yogurt or supplements may control oral bacteria.
What a doctor may do: Search for a cause, because bad breath can indicate respiratory infection, sinusitis, bronchitis, diabetes, and gastrointestinal or kidney problems.
Noteworthy: Some studies have found brushing your tongue (not just your teeth) reduced "bad breath measurements" up to 70 percent, reports the American Dental Association.
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