DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have high blood pressure, or so I am told. I don’t have a single symptom. I feel quite well, and I am quite active. My doctor has started me on medicine, and the thought of having to take pills makes me sicker than the thought of having high blood pressure does. What would be the harm in putting off treatment until I can tell that something is wrong? – A.H.
ANSWER: That would be foolish in the extreme. High blood pressure never has any symptoms when it first starts. That’s what makes it such a dangerous condition. When symptoms arise, irreparable damage has occurred.
Hypertension – high blood pressure – is the most common chronic illness in Canada and the United States. At least one-third of adults have it. Many of them don’t know because, just like you, they feel fine. But they aren’t fine. Their pressure must be lowered if they are to stay healthy and lead a long life.
Untreated high blood pressure sets people up for heart attacks and strokes. It accelerates artery hardening. It leads to kidney and heart failure. It is one cause of dementia. All of these consequences are preventable by control of pressure.
The definition of high blood pressure has recently changed. Normal pressure now is one that is less than 120 over 80. Pressures of 120 to 139 over 80 to 89, once thought of as being normal, are now called prehypertension. People whose pressure is in these ranges need to take action by reducing salt intake, losing weight, exercising and limiting the use of alcohol. Smoking has to stop. Smoking one cigarette raises blood pressure for 15 to 30 minutes. Smoking many cigarettes can keep it elevated throughout the day.
Pressures above 140 over 90 often must be treated with the above life changes and often with medicines. Taking a pill or two a day is not much of a price to pay for not having a heart attack or stroke.
The booklet on high blood pressure explains this common malady. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 104W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Can you explain what’s happening to me? I wake up with a line of pain and swelling that circles my stomach at about the beltline. Am I allergic to something – my pajamas or something in the bed? – H.L.
ANSWER: I put money on pressure urticaria. Urticaria is hives – in your case, the skin swelling. Some people are sensitive to pressure on their skin and experience the kind of reaction that you do. The reaction takes place from three to 12 hours after the pressure is removed.
Antihistamines alone aren’t usually effective in preventing this from happening. A combination of an antihistamine with the asthma medicine Singulair can often put a stop to it.
Wait a minute. Don’t jump to medicines. Loosen your belt or wear suspenders.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853-6475.
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