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Dr. Zorba Paster: Solitude not a problem when it’s a choice

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 20, 2017

By Dr. Zorba Paster For The Spokesman-Review

Dear Dr. Zorba: I enjoy reading your column in The Spokesman-Review. Do you equate solitude with social isolation?

By most people’s standards, I have a very minimal social life. I don’t have many friends, but the few I do have are solid. I have Jesse, a 13-year old Chihuahua, and though he is short on conversation, he is huge on emotional support. One of my passions is reading, another is watching animal shows on TV, and best of all, I love cooking – for myself, of course.

Before I retired, if I had a weekend off I didn’t leave the house. I loved it. If I had a week off I might do the same thing. And now that I’m retired, I love lounging around the house by myself.

I do have some medical issues, lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome, mostly under control. And I am bipolar, but lithium has controlled those symptoms for 33 years.

I’ve read your columns on social isolation and its risk factors. Does that apply to me? I’m as happy as a clam. – R.M.

Dear R.M.: Study after study shows social isolation is a risk factor for premature heart attacks. But these studies don’t tell the whole truth. For many, social isolation is not a choice but a result. Many do not choose social isolation – it chooses them.

When researchers look deeper, they find that many in this group are people with other problems – problems you don’t have. This includes people who drink too much or get stoned too much, people who are angry and violent, whose families have left them because they just don’t get along, the elderly who have no friends or social net. I could go on and on.

Your life is one you’ve chosen, and one that is right for you. I don’t think the studies I read apply to one who has chosen a solitary life and is pleased with it. I think it’s just fine.

I apologize if I offended you by some of my articles where I’ve stressed that social relationships are important. I think they are, and you have one with your Chihuahua.

Dear Doc: I read your column about a generic equivalent to Viagra, called Revatio. Both are the medication sildenafil. I use the 100-milligram dose of Viagra, and Revatio only comes in 20-milligram tablets so I would need to take five tablets to get the same dose. You said that would cost me about $7 for the generic drug vs. $42 for Viagra.

So I contacted my doctor and asked for a prescription to be called in to a large national chain for Revatio. The pharmacist said, “We don’t carry this drug but I can order it – very expensive.” I asked how much that would be, and he said it would cost $850 for 50 tablets.

What’s the dope? – B.T. from Buffalo

Dear B.T.: This is classic bait-and-switch.

I checked with my favorite local pharmacy, and they said it would cost you $38.50. I also checked www.goodrx.com (a reliable source for drug-pricing information) and it showed that Walgreens sells the generic for about $48 – still a savings of about $800.

Stay well.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, professor at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and host of the public radio program “ZorbaPaster on Your Health,” which airs at noon Wednesdays on 91.1 FM, and noon Sundays on 91.9 FM. His column appears twice a month in The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at askzorba@ doctorzorba.com.

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