Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dear Dr. Gott: My father’s doctor doesn’t seem concerned about his latest blood work showing below-normal platelets, hemoglobin, hematocrit and a low white blood-cell count. I have enclosed a copy of the results.
Since these results are a continuing pattern, shouldn’t they be addressed for anybody of any age? My father is 88, in decent health and is not taking iron supplements.
Dear Reader: The blood contains three major types of cells: The red cells are necessary because they deliver oxygen to all of the body; the white cells are the infection fighters; and the platelets are a vital part of the clotting mechanism.
As we age, many changes take place, one of which is that we don’t manufacture cells as readily as we did when we were younger. So I’m tempted to reassure you that your dad is meeting some of the challenges of aging. Judging from the lab report you kindly sent me, he has a slightly low blood count.
I also see that he is taking Coumadin, an anticoagulant. This confuses the issue because it can cause hidden intestinal bleeding that may lead to a blood count that is identical to the one your father has. His doctors appear to be doing a good job monitoring him, but if bleeding occurs, your dad could be in trouble. I recommend that he have a stool sample checked for blood. This test is cheap, easy and informative. Ask his primary care physician to provide the test and then interpret it. If there is no blood, the monitoring can be continued safely. If, however, traces of blood are discovered, he will have to go off the Coumadin.
Sometimes readers speak to their doctors about recommendations that I make. This infuriates some practitioners, so don’t be put off if the doctor seems unhappy. I’m simply trying to provide helpful information to improve health.
To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Blood รณ Donations and Disorders”. Other readers who would like a copy should send a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope and $2 to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.
Dear Dr. Gott: Maybe you can help me, as I can’t seem to get an answer anywhere else. Frequently, I wake up from napping or sleeping with a racing heartbeat that just feels wrong. I can’t help but think it’s due to some sort of cardiac electrical disturbance. There is no pain, dizziness or any symptom, just a very odd-feeling racing heart. There may be some skipped beats. I also frequently feel breathless, like my chest is coming up into my throat, when I walk up stairs. When I told my primary care physician, he ordered another cardiolite scan and stress test (had one previous year also). Both came back normal. My cardiologist says my heart is fine. I had a nightly event monitor that also came back normal. I have had numerous cardiac ultrasounds that were normal apart from a 20 percent mitral-valve prolapse that I am told is nothing to worry about. I am prone to panic attacks, and because of that I have had numerous EKGs, which were all fine. I had my thyroid checked a few years ago, and that was within limits. Because of my panic attacks, I always feel like my doctors are not taking my cardiac symptoms seriously even though my cardiologist assures me I am fine and there are no other tests to do. However, I have always thought my panic attacks were actually a cardiac issue and not panic attacks as everyone insists. Recently, I read somewhere that panic attacks are now being tied in with some sort of cardiac electrical disturbance. My fear is that during one of these episodes my heart will just stop. I felt the event monitor should have picked up an incident but I’m told it showed only an extremely slow heart rate during sleep and that I shouldn’t worry. I was also told that it is probably related to my sinus bradycardia, since I tend to have a heart rate of 60 or lower and a low blood pressure.
Do you have any ideas? I get extremely worried when I awaken with this.
To give you some information, I am female, 40, 5 feet 7 inches, 145 pounds, don’t smoke and drink socially (two to three cocktails per week, but not every week). My father died of a heart attack at age 49, which worries me; however, he was a severe alcoholic, heavy smoker and was somewhat overweight.
Dear Reader: Your story is classical for panic attacks and anxiety. In addition, you have been tested thoroughly. Now it is time to address the panic attacks and anxiety. Ask your primary care physician to refer you to a psychiatrist. I’d be surprised if he or she fails to order medication for you. This may also help with your concerns about heart disease.
Doctor Gott is a retired physician and the author of the book “Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Diet,” available at most chain and independent bookstores, and the recently published “Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Cookbook.”
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