DEAR DR. DONOHUE: 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. 902W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: 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.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I had an exploratory laparotomy with a right hemicolectomy. The postoperative diagnosis was perforated appendix and hemicolectomy specimen. What is this? – L.J.
ANSWER: Your appendix, the narrow wormlike tube that dangles from the base of the right side of the colon, became inflamed. Its slender central cavity was blocked, and bacteria grew in the blocked cavity. That caused swelling. The appendix finally burst and spilled bacteria into the abdominal cavity. Treatment included surgical removal of the appendix and the right side of the colon. You are proof that appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix) is not always a routine matter.
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.
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