DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a healthy female in my 40s. Recent blood tests show that my cholesterol is good but my triglycerides are 300. My doctor wants to put me on medication. I am hesitant to start a life of drug treatment. What is the danger of high triglycerides? – C.N.

ANSWER:
The significance of triglycerides is a stumbling block to many. The yellowish-white material you see around and in a cut of meat is triglycerides – fat. The soft, squishy stuff that many of us have on our bodies is triglycerides – fat. Triglycerides have a place in the scheme of things: They act as insulation material, and they are reservoirs of energy. They have a downside, too: They can cling to arteries and clog them just like cholesterol does. They’re considered, therefore, a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

A desirable triglyceride level is one less than 150 mg/dL (2.3 mmol/L). A reading above 200 (3) is high. Very high levels can bring on pancreatic inflammation, pancreatitis.

Good for you for not jumping onto the medicine wagon right away. If you put your mind to it, you should be able to lower your reading without medicine. Your diet has to be one mostly of fruits, vegetables and grains. Lower your consumption of meat and of dairy products. You can use low-fat dairy products. Eat two fish meals a week. If you don’t like fish, try fish oils with omega-3 fatty acids. They come in capsules, and one brand name is Lovaza. (People who take Coumadin: Check with your doctor before taking fish oil.) Decrease dietary carbohydrates, especially sugar carbohydrates. Cut back on alcohol. Get 30 minutes of exercise a day.

If your reading isn’t lower after a couple of months, then you can consider taking triglyceride-lowering medicines.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: After reading one of your articles, I feel a need to spread a hidden secret about the easiest way to deal with cat allergy. My husband has lived with four dogs, but he cannot be in a room with cats. His eyes begin to itch, he turns red and starts sneezing.

My daughter brought home two kittens. I didn’t think we could keep them. The vet provided an answer for us. Spray the cat’s entire body with distilled water once a month. We spray every two to three weeks. My husband is no longer affected by their dander. Please spread the word. The two cats and four dogs sleep in our bedroom, and we have no allergy problems. – A.F.

ANSWER:
I am happy for your daughter, for your husband, for you and for the cats. I’m not sure this is a universally effective remedy for cat allergy, but I’ll let readers decide if it works.

Skin scales, covered with cat saliva and broken up into minute pieces that become airborne, are the material that’s responsible for cat allergy. Brushing the cat outdoors reduces allergen load in the house. I hope the distilled-water spray is effective too. Thanks for the tip. Readers with any other tips are welcome to contribute them.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What are the blood sugar numbers that indicate diabetes? And what are cannabinoids? How do they work? – J.W.

ANSWER:
A fasting blood sugar (plasma glucose) of less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) is normal. Values from 100 to 125 (6.9) are called impaired fasting glucose, or pre-diabetes. A reading of 126 (7.0) or higher is diabetes. Fasting is eight hours without food. Water is permitted.

Pre-diabetes is a waystation on the road to diabetes. People can turn things around by losing weight and exercising daily.

Cannabinoids are chemicals in marijuana that produce a “high” desired by its users. They affect parts of the brain involved with mood, perception and motivation. They impair mental function, reaction time and memory for a few hours after the high has been reached. Chronic use is believed to cause long-lasting memory impairment and sap a person’s motivation. Some dispute this.

There are 61 cannabinoids in marijuana.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 73-year-old widower and had a heart attack six months ago. I take heart medicine, watch my diet and walk two miles every morning. Can I get involved in sexual relations with a concerned female friend without risking another heart attack? – C.B.

ANSWER:
Most heart attack patients can engage in sexual relations without fear of having another episode. The physical demands of sex are not as great as people believe. Those demands are on a par with walking two to three miles in one hour or of climbing two flights of stairs. Doctors usually encourage their heart attack patients to resume sexual relations.

Your personal doctor is the one who has to give you an OK. That doctor knows the ins and outs of your heart better than anyone else.

You’re actually engaged in the same amount of physical exertion with your daily morning walk.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Will you explain “cervical thoracic”? – B.S.

ANSWER:
B.S., how about writing back? Something important is missing from your question.

“Cervical” indicates the neck. “Thoracic” points to the chest. Something has to follow those two words. I’ll be happy to have a go at it if you supply a little more information.

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 www.rbmamall.com.


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