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Wed, 5th April 2017
 

Have you ever jumped out of bed, and Whoosh! A barrage of flashing stars and light streaks zing out. You may feel light-headed and even topple back onto the bed? It's common in Australia, often due to low blood pressure technically called "hypotension".

It is unlike "hypertension", or high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease and stroke, hypotension is benign. It doesn't kill, is just a nuisance, and does not need treatment. In Europe is called a "disease", and actively treated for reasons a bit unclear, but not in our country, Britain or the US. Often there is a slow pulse rate. This means there may be a temporary oxygen deficit in the brain, so the dizzy bout.

People with both high and low blood pressure often have their own sphygmomanometer, a device that measure pressure. A fabric cuff is placed around the upper arm, button pressed on the device and BP and pulse rate appear on a small VDU screen alongside. These are pretty accurate.

Symptoms often kick in if BP is say 90/40 or thereabouts. Today, elevated pressure must be aggressively treated. Many doctors say 130/85 or less is best. Some on BP treatment swing to low BP, and also get lightheaded. In any case, sit down if symptoms occur, whether it be at home, or walking (even in the gutter is OK), or pull over if driving, stop and lower head so blood flow to the brain is re-established. Accidents are possible but uncommon.

 
ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

Q: 

What's the best treatment for anxiety and depression?

A: 

A recent report in the "British Medical Journal" suggests more exercise is a good bet for simple anxiety and depression. However, removal of the cause also makes sense. Many are stressed with certain issues, and everyday problems. It maybe temporary rather than a true clinical "depression". Music, socializing, talking to others, and "getting out of oneself" are also good therapy. Persisting depression needs medical intervention, specially if there are persisting dark or suicidal thoughts.

 
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FOOD ALLERGY

Q: 

Is it possible to be allergic to certain foods.

A: 

Food allergy is common, and every body knows about "peanut allergy", which may be life threatening. Egg white is also common, which then covers an enormous range of prepared dishes. Talk to your GP, or referral to an immunologist is advised. Skin tests can usually track down the culprit which must then be avoided. Mild cases are managed with antihistamines, or self-injected Epi-Pen if serious (carried by the patient and self administered).

 
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DIRT

Q: 

I am always worried about the children getting dirty hands, or playing outside and similarly exposed to dirty things which may contain germs.

A: 

Most mothers over-worry about exposure to dirt and grime, specially with TV ads suggesting everything be sprayed to kill them (often including the toilet bowl). What rubbish. It is essential we all be exposed to environmental dirt and germs. This enables the inbuilt immune system to manufacture anti-bodies to many specific germs. This is also the basis of immunization against life threatening illnesses. Nevertheless, general cleanliness is desirable, specially to remove obvious dirt, sweat, body odour and grime.

 
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MEDICAL CHECK

Q: 

How do I go about getting my blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol checked. Do I have to ask the doctor?

A: 

Most patients visit their GP with specific symptoms. It depends on your request. Minor coughs and colds (commonest reason) usually do not generate an automatic investigation of BP, or other interventions. If you wish these, simply ask, and they can be quickly carried out. If you are seeking a "general health check", yes, they will all be included. As this all takes more time it is best to pre-arrange such a check. Just the same, I invariably checked BP, whether asked to or not - it is so quick and rewarding, especially if always elevated.

 
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DIABETES ONE

Q: 

I heard a TV report which said diabetes one in children is less likely if the kid is exposed to everyday germs and dirt.

A: 

You heard right, according to a recent Melbourne medical report. Exposure to germs increases the body's "resistance" or immune system strength. In turn, this improves the chances of the pancreas to produce insulin, which is normally lacking in diabetes 1 children. Although present from birth, diabetes 1 is often not diagnosed until the age of 10 or early teens. It should be picked up and treated from infancy for maximum outcomes.

 
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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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