Q: What is Holiday Heart Syndrome?
Prevalent during holidays, this symptom complex is mainly characterized by cardiac arrhythmias (heart rhythm irregularity), mostly due to alcoholic binges. The excitement brought on by the festivities and ingestion of a lot of caffeine (coffee, chocolate, cola drinks) during the holidays could also play a role in this syndrome. The symptoms are transient, unless the person has other complicating health problems.
Q: Last Christmas I was happy and also sad. Why?
The feeling is called Christmas Blues, or Holiday or Birthday Blues. This is not uncommon. The sadness could be due to sorrowful memories of past events recalled during this season, or feeling sorry for yourself, some family members, friends, or even strangers for certain negatives occurrences or misfortunes in your or their lives, personal problems, financial worries, some guilt for things you did or failed to do, or some things you want to do but couldn’t. Any of these can explain the sadness one feels during a festive occasion like the Christmas season. This is usually seasonal and temporary, unless the problem causing it lingers on
Q: Is MSG safe?
Eating food with “Betsin” (MSG: Monosodium Glutamate, flavor enhancer) could cause a condition known as “Chinese Food Syndrome,” which could sometimes mimic a heart attack. It causes chest pains, facial pressure, and burning sensations throughout the body, sometimes with dizziness or fainting, which are mostly temporary. This phenomenon is a pharmacologic reaction to Monosodium Glutamate, a popular white powder food seasoning used in cooking. The symptoms are due to individual sensitivity or reaction, and are dose-related. Most people are not bothered by MSG, but some react to it more severely. Although death is very rare, some people could actually be allergic to it and die from it. Those who develop any of the symptoms enumerated above after eating food cooked with MSG should clearly request chefs or cooks in restaurants, at home, or anywhere else not to use MSG in preparing their food. Because of this syndrome, many Chinese (and other) restaurants today no longer use MSG. If in doubt, ask the manager or waiters, and instruct them accordingly.
Q: At 72, can Viagra still improve my performance?
Your feat, albeit not as perfect as you want it to be, is amazing. Majority of men, even 20 years younger, are unable to do it as often as you do. Weakly perhaps, but not weekly. Viagra (Sildenafil Citrate) is a marvelous pill, truly a giant step for man, that would help, but you must consult with your physician to make sure you are not on any form of nitrates (heart medications), which is dangerous when taken in combination with Viagra, and that you do not have any health risk that will contraindicate the use of this very effective pill for erectile dysfunction.
Q: I have bleeding after sex, what is wrong?
Trauma is the most common cause, especially among virgin females. Infection can cause cervical inflammation, abrasions or excoriations that bleed on contact. Hormonal problem or cancer can also lead to vaginal bleeding. If you have bleeding, even staining, every time you have sex, then it is most prudent for you to seek consultation with a gynecologist. Recurrent vaginal bleeding, with or without sex, is abnormal and should be investigated to make certain no serious medical condition exists.
Q: Can fright kill?
Yes, sudden or extreme fright can, among other possible effects, lead to an instant and steep rise in adrenalin (and other neuro-chemical) level in the blood circulation, leading to dangerous or fatal arrhythmia (heart irregularity) called ventricular fibrillation followed by cardiac arrest. This is especially true among those with heart disease to begin with. Death by fright is not very common but it does happen.
Q: Do pets help sick people in their recovery?
Yes, pets, like dogs for instance, greatly help patients recover from their illness. Medical literature is replete with reports where even terminally ill people gained greater strength and more will to live when their pet is near them. The security, unconditional loyalty and love of “man’s best friend” have infinite medicinal value to the suffering patient, much like the love and compassion of human loved ones. And more often than not pets, especially dogs, are more loving, forgiving, and loyal than even some of our friends and relatives.
Q: Why do my feet swell in the evening?
Edema (swelling) of the legs and feet, when present all the time, could be due to excess salt intake, heart failure, kidney disease, Beri-Beri (vitamin B-1 deficiency), some tropical parasitic infestations, and other even rarer diseases. Since yours happens only in the evening, and since you stated in your email that you were otherwise in perfect health, then I suspect the edema to be due to some leg vein insufficiency, where the valves in your leg veins are somewhat incompetent allowing back flow of blood and pooling of blood in your lower extremities by gravity. Elevation of your feet at least 4 inches higher than your knees whenever you can, especially when you get home at night, will help the venous circulation of your legs and minimize, if not eliminate, edema. Low salt diet, and wearing support stockings (when you are on your feet) will also help. The best is for you to have a medical check-up by your physician if the swelling persists.
Q: Are eyeshades beneficial?
Yes, dark glasses to protect our eyes from the glaring brightness of any source, like the sun and its UV rays. These rays (UVA and UVB), and laser lights cause eye damage (cataracts, etc.) premature skin aging, and skin cancers. Using eyeshades daily and staying under a shade or umbrella to reduce sun exposure are healthy behaviors. Polarized dark glasses with UV ray protection are best, with our without prescription. Consult with your optician or ophthalmologist to find out what is best for you.
* * *
The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities, and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.
Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email: email@example.com