DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have never been diagnosed with asthma, but when I drink cold beverages or eat ice cream and when I work out in cold weather, I start wheezing and get extreme chest pain. Is this asthma? What can I do? — R.K.
ANSWER: You can’t give a better description of asthma.
Asthma is a relatively sudden constriction of the lungs’ bronchi, the airways. The constriction is reversible, but the amount of time it takes to reverse varies from person to person and from situation to situation. Airway narrowing makes it tough for air to get into and out of the lungs. In addition, during an attack the airways are inflamed and they secrete thick mucus. Both add to the difficulty for air to move through them.
Wheezing is a classic asthma sign. The wheezing noise indicates air is meeting with resistance in its passage through the breathing tubes. Coughing is another asthma sign, as is bringing up thick, sticky sputum. During an attack, asthmatics often have chest tightness and pain. A person need not have all these signs and symptoms to have asthma. Wheezing and chest pain are enough.
Exercising in cold, dry air is an asthma trigger for many. The loss of heat and moisture from the breathing tubes brings on an attack. I haven’t heard that drinking cold beverages or eating ice cream can precipitate an attack, but I can see how they might.
What can you do? Get to the family doctor. The doctor can confirm the asthma suspicion by testing your lungs’ function. Medicines can prevent attacks as well as put an end to them.
As for the cold drinks and ice cream, don’t you think it would be a good idea to avoid them?
Readers who would like more information on asthma can order the booklet on that topic by writing to Dr. Donohue — No. 602W, 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: Will pomegranate juice or pomegranate juice mixed with blueberry juice lower cholesterol? I am a heart patient. — R.F.
ANSWER: Pomegranates and their juice have risen to the level of nutritional stardom. They contain substances that stop the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, the kind of cholesterol that clings to artery walls and leads to their obstruction. Oxidation is like rusting. Oxidized LDL cholesterol breaks apart and leads to clogged arteries. Pomegranates stop this process.
Blueberries are another nutritional star. They prevent oxidation too.
I don’t know that mixing them doubles their effect, but I suppose it might.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 63 and have a condition that people call “turkey neck.” The skin under my neck hangs down. How can I get rid of it without surgery? It’s not a double chin. I do exercises for it, but they aren’t working. — A.L.
ANSWER: How can I break this to you gently? I don’t know of any way to get rid of that redundant, drooping skin without resorting to surgery.
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.