DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a healthy Chinese lady. I have a 40-year-old son who is 157 pounds and 5 feet 10 inches tall. He does not smoke or drink. He had serious blockages in three heart arteries and suffered a heart attack. He had to have emergency triple bypass surgery.

My father died at 59 from a massive heart attack. Does my son have a genetic disease? After his surgery, he was put on Coumadin, Zocor and metoprolol. How long does he have to take these medicines? What kinds of exercise can he do? He wants to train for a marathon next year. Is that OK? He is married. Can he have children? – W.M.

Family history is a huge factor in heart attacks and heart artery clogging, so you can say both are partially genetic diseases. There’s nothing your son can do about his genes. There are many things he can to do prevent a second heart attack. He has to keep his blood pressure close to normal, maintain a normal weight, strive for a low blood cholesterol and, of course, not smoke.

Your son will most likely stay on the blood thinner Coumadin for three months after his heart attack. Zocor is a cholesterol-lowering medicine, and he will probably take that indefinitely. Metoprolol is a beta blocker. Almost everyone who has had a heart attack is put on a beta blocker to prevent abnormal heartbeats and to ease the heart’s burden in pumping blood.

Exercise is important for your son. His doctor is the one to judge how much and how strenuous it can be. If his heart pumps normally, running a marathon is a possibility, but he has to clear that with the doctor.

Your son can have as many children as he and his wife want.

The booklet on heart attack explains this all-too-common malady in detail. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 102, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please discuss sleepwalking in children. – Anon.

It’s surprising to learn that 15 percent of children sleepwalk at some time. It happens mostly between the ages of 5 and 12, with the peak years being those between 4 and 8. During a sleepwalk, the child’s eyes are open, and he or she is unresponsive, with a blank look on his or her face. On average, a typical sleepwalker experiences an occurrence two or three times a month. Frequently, a relative on either the mother’s or father’s side will have been a sleepwalker.

Sleepwalking occurs one to three hours after falling asleep, during the phase of deep sleep, when brain-wave activity is at its lowest.

Almost never is sleepwalking a sign of physical or psychological abnormalities. Medicines are not routinely used to correct it. Provisions for the child’s safety are needed. A ground-floor bedroom is best for a sleepwalker, if that is possible. Latches should be put on the outside of windows and the bedroom door. Don’t wake the child during an episode. Gently guide him or her back to bed. Most children outgrow this by adolescence.

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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