DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have been on Niaspan for low HDL – good cholesterol. My readings range between 30 and 35. I exercise and try to lose weight. Is there any other medicine better than Niaspan? – H.G.

Cholesterol is cholesterol. Calling it good or bad serves to confuse. Cholesterol performs several important functions. It’s an integral part of all body cells’ membranes, their skins. It’s an important ingredient in many hormones. It’s the basic material of bile, the stuff that aids in fat digestion.

Cholesterol doesn’t dissolve in liquids. In order for it to circulate in blood, it comes wrapped in a container that is partly protein. It’s the protein wrapper – lipoprotein – of cholesterol that makes it good or bad. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol removes cholesterol clinging to artery walls and takes it to the liver for disposal. The higher a person’s HDL, the lower the chance for a heart attack or stroke.

An HDL of 40 mg/dL (1.03 mmol/L) or greater lessens the risk of a heart attack or stroke. A reading of 60 (1.55) or higher is a definite plus.

How to raise it? Exercise does it, as does weight loss. Your “try” to lose weight isn’t good enough. Two alcoholic drinks a day for a man, one for a woman, might give it a boost. Don’t drink alcohol just to raise HDL. If you are a regular user, continue in moderation. Statin medicines – Mevacor, Zocor, Pravachol, Crestor, Lescol and Lipitor – increase it by 12 percent. Fibrates, another class of cholesterol medicines, increase it too. Lopid and Tricor are two examples. Niacin, your Niaspan, is one of the best HDL boosters, raising the level by as much as 35 percent for some. If it’s not working for you, combining it with a statin drug might work. Don’t abandon the weight-loss route, however.

The booklet on cholesterol covers this topic in detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 201, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I understand there’s a new medicine for smokers like me that can get me off cigarettes. I have tried nicotine gum, have been to smoking-cessation classes and have tried many other things to help me quit. Nothing has worked. What’s your opinion about this new medicine? – D.R.

The medicine, a prescription item, is Chantix (varenicline). Nicotine stimulates a part of the brain that gives smokers gratification. Chantix blocks nicotine from stimulating that brain area. It lessens people’s craving for cigarettes, and, for some, it makes smoking unpleasant.

No medicine is going to make people throw away their cigarettes unless they have a firm resolve to give them up. Chantix gives people a helping hand to give up cigarettes. You take the medicine twice a day for three months.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please give me some tried-and-true home remedies for warts. My daughter has some on her foot. Do you have one using duct tape? – H.S.

Viruses cause warts. Many times, warts disappear on their own. That can take up to two years to happen.

You can’t visit a drugstore without seeing a section that has many wart preparations. They work too.

The duct-tape treatment isn’t mine. It’s been described by many. It often works well. Duct tape is the kind of tape you find in a hardware store, the kind you wrap around ducts. Cover the warts with duct tape and leave the tape on for six days. Then remove the tape and have your daughter soak her foot in warm water. After the soak, rub the warts with an emery board or pumice stone, both available in drugstores. Leave the tape off for a day. Put it back on and continue another six-day cycle followed by the soak and the rub. Keep repeating the cycle until the warts go away. It might take two or more months.

No wart-removal treatment comes with a guarantee. If the duct-tape treatment falls on its face, you still have many other options.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Several years ago you had a column on temporary amnesia. I cut it out, but now cannot locate it.

It described a problem I experienced, and gave it a name. I need this information so I can tell my doctors. I am 74 and am being told that my lack of recall is due to my age, but I don’t agree. That column described my problem so well. – A.S.

It had to have been a column on transient global amnesia. It’s something that happens most often in late middle age. People abruptly become disoriented and ask, over and over, where they are, why they’re there, who they are and what they are doing. In other words, they are in a state of total confusion. They don’t remember any new information they get while they’re in this state, and they can’t remember what went on just before it occurred.

This state of affairs frightens people. They can talk and interact, but they are quite out of it.

It’s a temporary thing that resolves in a day or two, and often much more quickly.

The reason why it happens is unclear. It’s not a stroke, and it’s not a forerunner of a stroke.

About 20 percent will suffer a second attack.

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. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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