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Wed, 3rd February 2016
 

Do you know anybody who is not on a cholesterol lowering programme? If so, put a cross on the wall - there cannot be many around. We've known the link between cholesterol and heart and blood vessel disease for more than fifty years, but the story has become bigger than Ben Hur or Harry Potter. Cholesterol is a body fat produced in the liver and is necessary in small amounts for normal body function. Too much can kill, or worse, initiate a stroke where you linger on in misery for years.

SELF MADE

That's the "endogenous" (self-made) source. Many have an inherited predisposition for over production. The nasties are the "exogenous" ones, that come in the food we eat. Trouble makers, as everybody knows, are saturated animal fats in the goodies such as milk, dairy products and meat. Safe upper level in the blood was once considered 6.6. Then this dropped to 6.0, 5.5, 5.0, 4.5 and now many experts are suggesting 3.5. If it's high, you must get it down. Medication is hugely expensive. The government picks up most of the tab. Drug companies love it, as it makes them billions, and new brands continue to appear.

OTHER BENEFITS

They continue to find other "benefits" for medication, always trying to link benefits to something else but many react adversely. Commonest is probably muscle aches and pains, sometimes extremely severe. Its technical name is rhabdomyolosis. Most don't complain as they do not realise the connection. Some doctors will change brands (which are all roughly the same), and this can help. Many patients stop medication for this reason.

NATURAL REMEDIES

There are heaps of other natural remedies. Vitamin B3, in its various forms (niacin, nicotinic acid, niacinamide, fast or slow acting forms). Very effective, but it may cause severe facial and body flushing. Soluble fibre is also effective. That means more high fibre cereals, fruit, veggies. Green tea, soy, omega 3 in fish are said to help. Psyllium husks also help many. It may be dramatic. Available health food stores and taken once or twice a day. Previously it was essentially a natural laxative. There are other medications, most of which have drifted into oblivion. Oh yes, the more exercise you get the better. Take your pick (and shovel) and get to work.

 
ASPIRIN

Q: 

Many people take a tiny dose of aspirin each day to keep the blood thin and avert a heart attack. Are the coated brands better?

A: 

Aspirin is a pretty strong stomach irritant, even in small doses of 75-100 mg, a common daily dose. Which means bleeding and occasionally heavy haemorrhaging is possible. So the idea of coating to avoid it from dissolving until it reaches the small bowel. However, many studies indicate it doesn't make much if any difference. Side effects are still possible. Just the same I'd opt for the coated brand.

 
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CONTRACEPTION

Q: 

After giving birth and breast feeding, how long is this effective as a contraceptive measure. I do not want to prematurely start the pill again.

A: 

A hormone called prolactin helps breast milk production and also inhibits ovulation. In the non industrialised world, this is their "natural contraceptive". Here breast feeding is often continued for lengthy periods of time. That's why their kids are often spaced at two yearly intervals. Without breast feeding, ovulation may recommence after a few months - it differs with each woman. Therefore, do not rely on it. Talk to your obstetrician or GP, a fairly accurate informed decision can be readily calculated.

 
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TONGUE SQUIRT

Q: 

I occasionally note chest pain from mild angina which is pretty well controlled by medication. I was prescribed a puffer to spray under my tongue in case this occurred anytime.

A: 

Nitrolingual spray is absorbed very rapidly from the vast network of blood vessels under the tongue, giving a quick response. Vessels to the heart are dilated and pain often vanishes quickly. However, it can also expand vessels in the head, causing light-headedness and headaches. Use only when sitting or lying, never when standing as you may topple over, or driving.

 
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FREE MEDICINE

Q: 

I believe all medicine surgery should be free seeing we all pay our taxes.

A: 

When originally introduced in the late 1940s, all medication was free on a doctors prescription. It quickly became apparent this was unsustainable. So the PBS book was put together listing those which were free. Originally again, they were free from the pharmacist. As this too became unsustainable (so we were told), a small charge was levied, but still free to pensioners. Then that all changed. Now nothing is free to anyone up to a certain point. A small charge is made to certain cardholders. Lots pay a much larger sum. After a certain amount has been paid, the "safety net" kicks in. In general, Australians are very well provided for with their medicines. The true full price is usually printed on the label these days. See how much you'd be paying say if you lived in America where the patient pays the lot. Be thankful for big mercies.

 
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SCREAMING BUBS

Q: 

My little one is four months old, and often screams and yells for no apparent reason.

A: 

There is usually a reason. Being hungry, wet or soiled naps, pain or feeling uncomfortable are the main causes. The most common reason is being "wanted". He/she loves being cuddled and coo-ed. It sure beats lying awake in the middle of the night all alone. What better way to grab attention than yelling. They soon latch on. Don't get sucked in - be loving, then firm and close the door. Mum must win from the start. Otherwise you're in for twenty years of brow beaten misery.

 
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This health advice is general in nature. You are advised to seek medical attention from your doctor or health care provider for your own specific symptoms and circumstances.

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