The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Food & Health

January 28, 2014

Medicines may be cause of dad's fainting episodes

CLINTON — DEAR DR. ROACH: My dad is 91 and in good health. In September, he had an episode in which his body stiffened and he fell. The paramedics came, and he was taken to the hospital, where they did an EKG, bloodwork, X-rays and a CAT scan. Every test was fine. Last night he was sitting at a table playing cards, and fell from his chair. They picked him up, and he was stiff. He was taken to the same hospital, and all tests were fine. The doctors think this is a “syncopal episode” and his blood pressure is low. He takes Norvasc for blood pressure; an antidepressant, Remeron, at very low dose; and Flomax for his prostate. He is out for only a minute or so, and recovers quickly. I am worried about it being a ministroke or some kind of seizure. — B.J.

ANSWER: The language of medicine still includes many Latin and Greek words that are seldom used in ordinary conversation. “Syncope” is an example of a Latin word from a Greek root, meaning to “cut off.” It’s the word we use for a brief loss of consciousness, such as a simple faint. Fainting has many causes, and in young people it’s most commonly caused by a neurologic reflex called a vasovagal episode (”vaso” for “blood vessels,” and “vagal” for the vagus nerve, which sends messages from the brain to the heart and many other internal organs).

Many triggers can cause this reflex, which causes a slowed heart rate and dilated blood vessels, which combine to temporarily reduce blood flow to the brain. Most people feel nauseated or lightheaded prior to the episode, and learn to sit or lay down rapidly to avoid passing out. The stiffness noted twice in your father can be part of vasovagal syncope.

The blood vessels and nerves of a 91-year-old, even a healthy one, just aren’t the same as a 20-year-old. Although it is possible this is just a simple faint, I am concerned about all of his medications. Amlodipine (Norvasc) dilates blood vessels in order to lower the blood pressure, and makes fainting more likely. Mirtazapine (Remeron) has been known to cause muscle stiffness and syncope. Even tamsulosin (Flomax) occasionally causes lightheadedness, especially upon standing.

From what you have said, I agree with his doctors and think it’s more likely that he has vasovagal syncope, possibly made worse by his medications, than the possibility of stroke or seizures. The CAT scan is a good test for stroke, especially 48 hours after the event. A seizure is a possibility, but it’s less likely. His doctors should carefully think about whether he needs medication changes.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I recently heard on the news that eating nuts reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer. Is this true? — Anon.

ANSWER: The data is now pretty solid that all kinds of nuts not only reduce heart disease risk, but also cancer risk, including pancreatic cancer. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed a reduction in all cancers. I wouldn’t eat nuts just to reduce pancreatic cancer risk, but it’s a good way to improve overall health. Nuts have healthy fats, proteins and micronutrients that may be responsible for the lowered risk of disease. Nuts also make you feel full and less likely to eat snacks that are less healthy.

READERS: The booklet on congestive heart failure explains this common condition and its treatments. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Roach — No. 103, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.


Text Only
Food & Health
  • An oncologist uses scorpion venom to locate cancer cells

    Olson, a pediatric oncologist and research scientist in Seattle, has developed a compound he calls Tumor Paint. When injected into a cancer patient, it seems to light up all the malignant cells so surgeons can easily locate and excise them.

    July 22, 2014

  • Obamacare hit by ruling, but subsidies to continue

    A federal appeals court delivered a potentially serious setback to President Barack Obama's health care law Tuesday, imperiling billions of dollars in subsidies for many low- and middle-income people who bought policies.

    July 22, 2014

  • Bice Nurses earn Daisy awards

    CLINTON — Two Clinton nurses recently earned Daisy awards.Mercy Medical Center nurses Jodie Atkinson and Kristen Bice earned the awards that is rewarded to extraordinary nurses. Atkinson began her career in nursing at Mercy Medical Center in 1995 on

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hopkins to pay $190M after doc taped pelvic exams

    Johns Hopkins Health System will pay $190 million to more than 8,000 women whose bodies may have been videotaped or photographed by a gynecologist using a pen-like camera during pelvic exams.

    July 21, 2014

  • Before doctors check your vitals, check out theirs WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans consider insurance and a good bedside manner in choosing a doctor, but will that doctor provide high-quality care? A new poll shows that people don’t know how to determine that.Being licensed and likable doesn’t necessari

    July 21, 2014

  • McDonald's, KFC in China face scandal BEIJING — McDonald’s and KFC in China faced a new food safety scare today after a Shanghai television station reported a supplier sold them expired beef and chicken.The companies said they immediately stopped using meat from the supplier, Husi Food C

    July 21, 2014

  • Locally-grown foods look to bigger business

    Once a niche business, locally grown foods aren't just for farmers markets anymore.

    July 16, 2014

  • U.S. Alzheimer's rate dropping The rate of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is falling in the United States and some other rich countries — good news about an epidemic that is still growing simply because more people are living to an old age, new studies show.An American ov

    July 16, 2014

  • Blueberries 10 fresh ways to use fresh blueberries There are muffins, of course. And pancakes. And the obligatory fruit salad. But then what? After all the usual suspects, how do you handle a seasonal abundance of blueberries?As long as you’re willing to consider a few fresh approaches, it’s actually

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo


Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.