DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Eggs – I love them, but I am scared to death of them because of the cholesterol concern. Furthermore, I am afraid to eat them unless they are hard-boiled. My wife has me paranoid about touching anything but a practically burned egg. What is safe? – R.R.

The egg’s reputation has been tarnished on two fronts – cholesterol and spread of salmonella infection.

Salmonella germs can contaminate an egg, but they do not do so to every single one. Salmonella causes a wicked case of diarrhea. To play it safe, cook an egg to a temperature of 145 F (63 C). You can never be sure of the safety of a raw or undercooked egg. The white and the yolk should be firm when eaten, but neither has to be rock-hard.

The cholesterol scare is the second factor that has given eggs a bad name. For most people, the total daily consumption of cholesterol ought to be less than 300 mg. An egg yolk has 215 mg. A person can blow almost all the daily cholesterol limitation by eating one egg. Read on.

People who do not have heart disease and who have not been placed on a strict cholesterol regimen can eat one egg a day. That marks a considerable liberalization of the previous restriction on egg consumption.

Eggs have much in their favor. They are a cheap source of protein, and they provide the best-quality protein found in any food – and that includes meat, milk and fish.

Furthermore, they provide vitamins A, B-12, folate (a B vitamin), thiamin (another B vitamin) and two minerals – zinc and phosphorus.

Does it sound like I am endorsing eggs? You bet. I love them too.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I had blood taken late in the afternoon that revealed a high blood sugar – 127 mg/dL (7 mmol/L). I am 5 feet 2 inches tall and weight 112 pounds. I am extremely upset about this. My doctor says not to worry. I am still not at ease. Is there cause for concern? – M.A.

There’s cause for a repeat test, but there is not cause for you to make a will quickly.

A fasting blood sugar is a more reliable test for diabetes than is a random test, the kind you had. A normal fasting blood sugar should be less that 110 mg/dL (6.1 mmol/L). A reading of 126 (7 mmol/L) or higher puts a person in the diabetes zone. (Incidentally, the diagnosis of diabetes should not be made unless a person has two abnormal blood sugar tests on separate days.) People whose fasting levels are between 110 (6.1 mmol/L) and 126 (7 mmol/L) are in a category called impaired glucose (sugar) tolerance, or prediabetes. These people must watch what they eat, maintain normal body weight and become physically active, or many cross over into the true diabetes zone within 10 years.

A blood sugar taken two hours after eating ought to be less than 140 (7.8 mmol/L). Your 127 value does not raise you to a high level of terror alert.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Recently I was admitted to a cardiac care unit for observation. My hospital roommate had had a coronary artery stent placed a few days before. He was told to take a daily aspirin, but he told his relatives that he was going to take ibuprofen instead. He said his doctor told him he could take any kind of aspirin he wanted. These patients need to hear explicitly that they are to take aspirin and not other similar drugs. – E.C.

Motrin (ibuprofen), Indocin (indomethacin), Orudis (ketoprofen), Naprosyn (naproxen), Daypro (oxaprozin) and others are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – NSAIDs – used to treat painful, arthritic joints. Aspirin is also used for arthritis. So both aspirin and these other drugs are routinely used to treat arthritis.

Aspirin has another property. It prevents clots from forming in arteries because it stops blood platelets from sticking to each other. Platelets are the clot-forming blood cells. Someone with a stent takes aspirin for its ability to prevent such clots.

Most of the other NSAID drugs do not have this anti-clot effect. They should not be substituted for aspirin unless a doctor has expressly said the substitution is permissible.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: When a person has a chemical imbalance, does he have it at birth or can it come later in life? We have someone in the family with this problem and would like to know. – L.L.

Currently, “chemical imbalance” refers to brain chemicals. Brain cells communicate with one another through these chemicals, which have names like “serotonin” and “dopamine.” An imbalance of those chemicals can cause a multitude of psychological and emotional problems. Depression is one such problem. Antidepressant medication can often restore brain chemical balance and help resolve the depression.

The tendency for an imbalance is there from birth and is most likely programmed by genes. Many patients do not show the signs of imbalance until later in life. However, children at young ages can suffer from symptoms of chemical imbalance, too.

In the past, when little was known about brain chemistry, “chemical imbalance” referred to a discrepancy in the levels of sodium, potassium, chloride and other body chemicals.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband had an abdominal scan for suspected gallstones. He didn’t have any stones, but the report says he has a hemangioma of the liver. What is this, and what is its significance? Is it cancer? – W.S.

Your husband is a victim of medical progress. In the days before scans, hemangiomas were thought to be few and far between. They are anything but. Scans show them. Hemangiomas are aggregations of blood vessels. Unless they grow large or bleed – and they rarely do either – they are left alone.

They are not cancer, nor do they become cancer.

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, FL 32853-6475.

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