Questions for Readers

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What is Holiday Heart Syndrome?

Prevalent during holidays, this symptom complex is mainly characterized by cardiac arrythmias (heart rhythm irregularity), mostly due to alcoholic binges. The excitement brought on by the festivities and ingestion of a lot of caffeine (coffee, chocolate, cola drinks) during the holidays could also play a role in this syndrome. The symptoms are transient, unless the person has other complicating health problems.

I am 72, remarried, and enjoy sex once a week, but my erection could be better. Can Viagra help?

Your feat, albeit not as perfect as you want it to be, is amazing. Majority of men, even 20 years younger, would not be able to do it as often. Weakly perhaps, but not weekly. Viagra (Sildenafil Citrate) is a marvelous pill, truly a giant step for man, but you must consult with your physician to make sure you are not on any form of nitrates (heart medications), which is dangerous when taken in combination with Viagra, and that you do not have any health risk that will contraindicate the use of this very effective pill for erectile dysfunction.

Is MSG ("Betsin") bad for us?

Eating food with "Betsin" (MSG: Monosodium Glutamate, flavor enhancer) could cause a condition known as "Chinese Food Syndrome," which could sometimes mimic a heart attack. It causes chest pains, facial pressure, and burning sensations throughout the body, sometimes with dizziness or fainting, which are mostly temporary. This phenomenon is a pharmacologic reaction to Monosodium Glutamate, a popular white powder food seasoning used in cooking. The symptoms are not really due to an allergic reaction and is dose-related. Most people are not bothered by MSG, but some react to it more severely. Although death is very rare with this syndrome, a surgeon classmate of mine, who was attending a meeting in Nice, France, a few years ago, had so violent a reaction after ingesting food with monosodium glutamate that he expired within an hour thereafter. Those who develop any of the symptoms enumerated above after eating food cooked with MSG should clearly request chefs or cooks in restaurants, at home, or anywhere else, not to use MSG in preparing their food. Because of this syndrome, many Chinese (and other) restaurants today no longer use MSG. If in doubt, ask the manager or waiters, and instruct them accordingly.

I have bleeding after sex, what is wrong?

Trauma is the most common cause, especially among virgin females. Infection can cause cervical inflammation, abrasions or excoriations that bleed on contact. Hormonal problem or cancer can also lead to vaginal bleeding. If you have bleeding, even staining, every time you have sex, then it is most prudent for you to seek consultation with a gynecologist. Recurrent vaginal bleeding, with or without sex, is abnormal and should be investigated to make certain no serious medical condition exists.

Can fright kill?

Yes, sudden or extreme fright can, among other sequelae, lead to an instant and steep rise in adrenalin (and other neuro-chemical) level in the blood circulation, leading to dangerous or fatal arrythmia (heart irregularity) called ventricular fibrillation followed by cardiac arrest. This is especially true among those with heart disease to begin with. Death by fright is not very common but it does happen.

How is the impeachment trial affecting the health of those concerned?

Medically speaking, any stress causes some elevation in heart rate and in blood pressure, even among those with normal blood pressure, but more so among the hypertensives. Diabetes Mellitus becomes worse, since blood sugar goes up with stress. And so with gastric hyperacidity and other existing medical conditions. Stress also results in some hormonal imbalances and chemical rush in the body, which impairs the immune system in some individuals, and lowers the body resistance. President Estrada, the accused, and his legal defense team, can have fear, guilt (for those with conscience), insomnia, impaired appetite, insecurity, anger, despair, and a host of other emotions, in varying degrees. The callous ones may be numbed to these feelings. The Prosecutors can also have any of this symptom complex but greatly mitigated by their patriotism and conviction that the truth, which they seek, will expose and expel the guilty from office and make the Philippines a better country for all of us. On top of this, they may also be inspired by a sense of nobleness and inner peace as advocates against corruption in government and as champions of justice for the Filipino people.

Do pets help sick people in their recovery?

Yes, pets, like dogs for instance, greatly help patients recover from their illness. Medical literature is replete with reports where even terminally ill people gained greater strength and more will to live when their pet is near them. The security, unconditional loyalty and love of "man's best friend" have infinite medicinal value to the suffering patient, much like the love and compassion of human loved ones. And more often than not pets, especially dogs, are more loving, forgiving, and loyal than even our friends and relatives.

Why do my feet swell in the evening?

Edema (swelling) of the legs and feet, when present all the time, could be due to heart failure, kidney disease, Beri-Beri (vitamin B-1 deficiency), some tropical parasitic infestations, and other even rarer diseases. Since yours happens only in the evening, and since you stated in your email that you were otherwise in perfect health, then I suspect the edema to be due to some leg vein insufficiency, where the valves in your leg veins are somewhat incompetent allowing back flow of blood and pooling of blood in your lower extremities by gravity. Elevation of your feet at least 4 inches higher than your knees whenever you can, especially when you get home at night, will help the venous circulation of your legs and minimize, if not eliminate, edema. Low salt diet, and wearing support stockings (when you are on your feet) will also help. The best is for you to have a medical check-up by your physician if the swelling persists.

I am happy it is Christmas and yet I am also sad. Why?

The feeling is called Christmas Blues or Holiday or Birthday Blues. This is not uncommon. The sadness could be due to sorrowful memories of past events recalled during this season, or feeling sorry for yourself, some family members, friends, or even strangers for certain negatives occurrences or misfortunes in your or their lives, personal problems, financial worries, some guilt for things you did or failed to do, or some things you want to do but couldn't. Any of these can explain the sadness one feels during a festive occasion like the Christmas season. This is usually seasonal and temporary, unless the problem causing it lingers on.

©2003Raoul R. Diez, M.A.O.D.