DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: I have corrected my high blood pressure using medication, exercise and diet. My blood pressure is now between 105/65 and 110/70. I started medication when I had consistent readings in the high 130s and low 140s for systolic and 85 to 90 for diastolic. When considering all the warnings and risk factors for people with high blood pressure, do I fit into that category? Or, can I safely assume I no longer have high blood pressure? — D.R.

ANSWER: Normal blood pressure is now defined as systolic (the top number) of less than 120 AND diastolic of less than 80. High blood pressure is systolic over 140 OR diastolic over 90. Any levels in between are now labeled “prehypertension,” indicating that these often go up over time. High blood pressure puts a person at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.

In your situation, you said it exactly right. You have “corrected” your high blood pressure. If you were to stop your medicine, stop exercising and no longer be careful with your diet, we would expect your blood pressure to go back up, so it’s important to keep doing all those things — and you are to be congratulated on outstanding control.

Medical authorities are still divided about whether treated high blood pressure gives the same low risk for heart disease and stroke as natural low blood pressure, but it is my opinion that after years of careful blood pressure control, the risks of heart disease lower to the same level as if you had never had high blood pressure, especially if, like you, you were treated early.

High blood pressure is one risk factor for stroke. The booklet on stroke explains this condition that is deservedly feared by all. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 902, 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 DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: I recently was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. I had two violent vertigo episodes last year, about three weeks apart. These consisted of dizziness, sweating and uncontrolled vomiting. I have not had any attacks since. I have been following the doctor’s recommendation of a sodium intake of 2,000 milligrams or less per day, no caffeine, no more than three alcoholic drinks per week and keeping my stress level down. If a person does this, may they (hopefully) expect no more attacks? Just thinking of this puts me under stress. Will you explain Meniere’s disease to me? — N.W.

ANSWER: Meniere’s disease is caused by swelling in the inner ear, where the organ that controls balance is located. The swelling causes vertigo and tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and can lead to hearing loss. The ringing can be in one or both ears, and symptoms do not all have to be there at the same time. As in your case, there usually are frequent, repeated attacks.

Because the organ of balance in Meniere’s disease becomes swollen with fluid and sodium, a low-sodium diet is the correct treatment. Many people get relief from diuretics if the low-sodium diet is inadequate. Reducing caffeine, alcohol and stress makes sense because all these things may trigger an attack. The course of Meniere’s disease is unpredictable, but the fact that you haven’t had any attacks in a year with this treatment is a good sign.

DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: I have a serious sweet tooth, and I’m concerned about getting diabetes. Mostly, I crave candy. My last fasting blood sugar reading was 109. I am an 84-year-old woman weighing 134 pounds. Do I have to worry? —

ANSWER: A fasting blood sugar level of 109 is not normal, but is not high enough to say that you have diabetes (the number for that diagnosis is 126 or higher).

It does mean you need to follow up with your doctor.

Drs. Donohue and Roach regret that they are unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may write the doctors or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers also may order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.


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