Q: I am battling high blood pressure. With effort, I have been able to keep my BP at an average of 125 to 135 over 82 to 87. My BP is higher in the morning than in the afternoon.
I have been following a low-sodium diet. But one day, I got a great deal on some pretzels and decided to indulge. I ate a few before bedtime. I was surprised the next morning when my BP was 120/77.
The next night I did the same, and the following morning it was 123/75. It seemed the salt was lowering my morning BP readings.
So I skipped the pretzels a few nights, and my morning BP readings were higher again. I’ve decided to keep my usual daily diet as “low sodium” but have just a few salty pretzels in the evening.
A: Sodium is complicated. Some people are salt-sensitive and may benefit from a low-sodium diet. For others, however, lowering salt intake too much may actually increase the risk for heart attack and stroke (The Lancet, July 30, 2016). Excessively low sodium levels might trigger a stress reaction within the body.
Some European cardiologists disagree with the very stringent sodium restriction recommended by the American Heart Association. It is clear that too much sodium is unhealthy, but it is possible that too little sodium also is undesirable.
Q: Over the past six months, I have been debilitated with joint pain in my hips, knees, wrists and spine. I suddenly felt very old! Then it dawned on me that the pharmacy switched from sending me Celebrex to sending generic celecoxib. Celecoxib is worthless, and my pain has flared to horrific levels.
I can’t afford brand-name Celebrex, but I can buy it cheaper in Canada. That is what I plan to do.
A: Many other visitors to our website also have reported that some generic celecoxib pills are not effective against joint pain. While you could purchase Celebrex from a reputable online Canadian pharmacy for less, there is another option.
Ask your pharmacy about celecoxib from Greenstone. This manufacturer provides an authorized generic form of Celebrex; it should be identical.
Q: Many years ago, I had severely cracked corners of my mouth. I discovered quite by accident that it was caused by an ingredient in the toothpaste I was using. When I changed brands, the problem disappeared.
A: Angular cheilitis (perleche) is the term doctors give to painful cracks in the corners of the mouth. They can be triggered by a reaction to chemicals in sunscreen, cinnamon or toothpaste.
People who are deficient in B vitamins, zinc or iron may be especially susceptible. Fungal infections also may cause redness, itching, burning or crusting.
Some doctors suggest a topical steroid like hydrocortisone, or an antifungal cream such as those found in athlete’s foot remedies.
Q: Who’s right? My surgeon says that coconut oil is very bad for me and will cause heart attacks. So many others recommend it. Is coconut oil good for you or not? I have been cooking with it for about a month now and wonder if I should stop.
A: Coconut oil is rich in saturated fat, so it got a bad rap with respect to heart health. In a study published last year, patients with heart disease were randomly assigned to cook with either coconut oil or sunflower oil for two years (Indian Heart Journal, July-August 2016). At the end of that time, there were no differences in the impact on blood fats or cardiovascular events.
Epidemiological research does not show a connection between coconut-oil consumption and an increased risk of heart disease (Nutrition Reviews, April 2016). In fact, a study published last year found that people who ate a lot of saturated fat were no more likely to develop coronary-artery disease than those who shunned it (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2016).
Q: I live on a vegan diet. I take vitamin B-12 pills, but would rather get this vitamin from my food. I was told that seaweed has natural vitamin B-12, so I eat 0.6 ounces of roasted seaweed daily. It’s tasty, but I was hoping that this would cover my vitamin B-12 requirement. Is there enough vitamin B-12 in seaweed to do this?
A: Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., is the author of “Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More.” She notes, “No matter what you might read, you cannot get vitamin B-12 by eating non-fortified grains, nutritional yeast, algae, or seaweed.” Since you are a vegan, avoiding all animal products, you need a synthetic vitamin B supplement. The best form is methylcobalamin. If you don’t get enough vitamin B-12, you could suffer nerve damage, heart palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, tingling in the hands and feet and a sore tongue.