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``The Merck Manual of Health and Aging,'' Thomas V. Jones, M.D., editor; Merck Publishing ($29.95)
Merck has published manuals for doctors since 1899, and started translating its guides to plain English for wider audiences in 1997. For reliable information dipped from the medical mainstream, this may be the only book you need.
A fundamentals section explains the aging process and its impact on human populations, and the many ways it changes the body, from drying eyes to fading immune systems.
A section on care describes the best preventive and nutritional practices, drug risks and safeguards, medical tests, hospitalization and its dangers, surgery and rehabilitation, long-term care and end-of-life concerns.
Almost two-thirds of the book's 960 pages are hypochondriac heaven: detailed discussions of aging-related medical conditions and risks. A very incomplete list includes obesity, dementia, sleep disorders, sexual disorders, diabetes, skin problems and arthritis. Heart and circulatory troubles cut a big swath, as do cancers. A no-excuses chapter describes exercises that may be suitable for people with various disorders.
Because social and legal issues of aging don't separate easily from the medical, a final section looks at topics such as elderly driver safety, mistreatment of the aging and health care costs.
Scattered throughout are illustrated charts (one shows how osteoporosis causes stooping, another the causes of strokes), glossaries (explaining cancer terms and medical specialties) and all sorts of lists. Warming it all are short essays by 25 upbeat elders.
(c) 2004, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.