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GET EXPLANATION FOR LOW BLOOD SODIUM LEVEL

SHARE GET EXPLANATION FOR LOW BLOOD SODIUM LEVEL

Question: I have high blood pressure and am overweight. Recently, my doctor said I have low sodium, and it keeps dropping. Should I be concerned? Is there anything I can do for myself? I use no salt.

- R.H.

Answer: You mean your doctor just left it at that? You need to have a tete-a-tete with him and find out why you have low sodium and what, if anything, needs to be done about it.

Are you taking a diuretic? Sometimes that leaches too much sodium from the body. If so, you need dosage adjustment or a switch to another blood pressure-lowering medicine.

I doubt that your avoidance of salt is a factor, since sodium is present in most foods. We're surrounded by the stuff, largely in prepared foods.

One reason I tell you to go back to your doctor is the need to check out some rare causes of sodium-level drops. If the adrenal glands fail - Addison's disease - sodium can plummet, because the adrenals make a hormone that keeps sodium levels up. Sometimes kidney disease causes a drop in sodium.

Another possibility is overproduction of the anti-diuretic hormone. Its effect is to hold on to body fluid. With resulting excess fluid, there is an attendant dilution of body sodium and a lower reading.

I can't say if you have any of these problems or that you necessarily must do something about the low sodium reading. But it is a matter you don't want to accept without explanations.

Sodium, while a villain in some blood pressure elevation, is, after all, vital in keeping body cells functioning normally.

Your other blood pressure questions are answered in the hypertension report I'm sending you. Others can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue - No. 4, P.O. Box 5539, Riverton, NJ 08077-5539. Enclose a long, self-addressed, stamped (52 cents) envelope and $3.

Question: My child's playmate's parents do not believe in vaccinating their children. Their 3-year-old daughter has never had any immunizations. Should I be concerned when my girl plays with her? What is your opinion on vaccinations?

- R.R.H.

Answer: Because your child has been immunized, she faces no danger in playing with an unimmunized child.

As to the last part of your note, my natural reaction is to suggest that the parents are being unwise in withholding the valuable protection immunity provides. All things being equal, all children ought to have that protection.

Parents who deny such protection for various reasons, including unreasonable fear, continue to confound the public health establishment.

Question: I have been a cigarette smoker for 60 years. For years, my hands have gotten cold after I have smoked a few. In winter, my feet get so cold that they want to lock up. Tell me, does my smoking do this?

- W.M.

Answer: That's a big fat softball pitch, W.M.

Nicotine constricts blood vessels. It's like putting little tourniquets around them. And that happens all over the body, including the heart. You can blame cigarettes for your cold-sensitivity problem.

I'm often asked if it is ever too late for quitting to have an effect. I have an immediate example in a friend who recently showed off his pink-colored fingers. He had quit only months before, and he explained how those same fingers would turn white and cold from the slightest cold exposure in his old smoking days.