DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I’ve just hung up the phone after talking to my doctor. He has me scared out of my wits. This morning while reading the newspaper, I couldn’t hold it up. My right arm became weak. In about five minutes, everything returned to normal. I thought I had better call the doctor to see if this was serious.
The doctor thinks I had a ministroke and wants me to have someone take me to the hospital ASAP. I told him I was fine. He said that doesn’t matter. I thought I would drop you a line for your opinion. I trust your judgment. What should I do? — T.R.
ANSWER: I hope you listened to your doctor. You should do exactly what he told you. You have an emergency on your hands. You most likely had a TIA — a transient ischemic attack — a ministroke. Investigation should be taking place as soon as possible — immediately. A part of your brain lost its blood supply for a short time. Even a brief occurrence like the one you describe can cause permanent brain damage. Worse, it is often the foreboding of a complete stroke.
You have to be checked for a blockage in one of your carotid arteries, the large neck arteries that deliver blood to the brain. You have to be examined for a clot in other body locations like the heart. Pieces of those clots can break loose and be carried to a brain artery, where they stop the flow of blood permanently. Atrial fibrillation, a common heartbeat disturbance, is often responsible for such clots.
Numbness, weakness or both of a hand, arm, leg, side of the face or tongue can be a sign of a TIA. Trouble expressing oneself is another sign. So are disturbances of vision. None lasts long, but they are quite significant and serious warnings.
I don’t have important background information on you. I am counting on your good sense to get you to the hospital quickly.
The booklet on stroke, one of our most feared illnesses, covers the topic in detail. 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: My grandparents never took vitamins and never talked about them. They both lived into their late 90s. Everyone I know takes vitamins, including me. Why? — C.N.
ANSWER: Vitamins are nutrients essential to body health and body chemistry. They’re needed only in minute amounts. No vitamin is made by the body except for vitamin D. We must get them from foods. Although the body does make vitamin D, many older people and quite a few younger ones are deficient in this vitamin. Your grandparents got their vitamins from eating a well-balanced diet. We could do the same.
Vitamin-taking is a new wrinkle in human history. It does assure people that they’re getting the recommended daily intake of vitamins. Is it absolutely necessary? Probably not, but most do not get their daily dose of all vitamins through foods.
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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