DEAR DR. DONOHUE: About six years ago, I had a heart attack. The doctor said there was hardly any damage. Is it likely that I will have another heart attack? I am overweight and have a hard time losing weight and keeping it off. — C.P.
ANSWER: The chance of a recurrent heart attack for men is 21 percent; for women, 33 percent. Looked at in the opposite way, the chances for not having a second heart attack are very good. Figures like these are deceptive when applied to an individual. A person’s efforts to decrease the risks of having another attack are the keys to not having one.
Those risks include dealing with obesity. Even though weight loss is difficult for you, you must make an effort to reduce your weight. A dietitian can help you with the diet part. You have to increase your physical activity. Inactivity is an invitation to artery clogging and heart attacks. Ask your doctor what kind of exercise is safe for you. Walking is permitted for most, and walking is a way to strengthen your heart, clear your arteries and lose weight.
You also have to watch your cholesterol in all its forms. HDL cholesterol keeps heart arteries free of plaque buildup, and LDL cholesterol encourages it. You have to keep an eye on your blood pressure, another ingredient for heart attacks.
The fact that your doctor said little damage was done to your heart puts you into a class of heart-attack patients who are at low risk for having another.
The booklet on heart attacks discusses all aspects of this common problem that takes so many lives. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 102W, 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 am 23, just graduated from college and have my first full-time job. In high school, I ran track, both distance and sprints. I am trying to get myself back into condition. I can still run distances pretty well, but I can’t sprint. My legs hurt after a very short time. Why? Can I overcome it? — P.M.
ANSWER: Pain from sprinting comes from the buildup of lactic acid, a byproduct of anaerobic exercise, exercise done without the benefit of oxygen. If you haven’t been sprinting for four years, you can’t expect your body to do what it could back then. It takes time for it to gear up to lactic acid. You can overcome it by continuing to practice sprinting at a reduced pace.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have been taking acetaminophen for pain, as well as an aspirin every day. Is it safe to use both together? — H.B.
ANSWER: It’s safe if you’re not exceeding the recommended doses of each. In fact, tablets are available with the combination of acetaminophen and aspirin. Excedrin is one such tablet.
Have you found out the cause of your pain? Do so. Don’t just mask it with medicines.
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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