Dear Dr. Solomon: Would you please discuss sickle cell
anemia? I know that it's inherited, but I'm trying to find out what the chances are in a particular situation. -- Mark, Owings Mills, Md.
Dear Mark: First, let me distinguish between sickle cell anemia and sickle cell trait. A child who inherits a sickle cell gene from each parent will have sickle cell anemia. A child who inherits a sickle cell gene from only one parent will have sickle cell trait. A person may have sickle cell trait and not even be aware of it because there are no related symptoms.
However, a child with sickle cell anemia may have severe medical problems. If one parent has sickle cell trait, there's a 50 percent chance that each of the children will have sickle cell trait. If both parents have sickle cell trait, there's a 25 percent chance that a child will have sickle cell anemia, and a 50 percent chance that the child -- like the parent -- will have sickle cell trait.
Dear Dr. Solomon: I admit that I could probably pose for a poster that shows the type of things that could cause heart disease. What I mean is that my blood pressure is a little high, my cholesterol level is high and I smoke. The good news is that I've never had any chest pain in my entire life. Does that mean that these other signs are not so important? -- Claude, Scranton, Pa.
Dear Claude: The fact that you have not experienced chest pain does not mean that the risk factors you cite are unimportant. You should still be trying to get your blood pressure down and to lower your cholesterol level, and you certainly should be making every effort to stop smoking. You don't mention how physically active you are or if you are overweight, but these are other risk factors that deserve your attention.
Dear Dr. Solomon: May I please have your recommendations as to the type of diet a person should follow in order to prevent cancer? -- Agnes, Baltimore, Md.
Dear Agnes: There is a difference between reducing the risk of cancer through dietary practices and preventing cancer through dietary practices. No diet can be said to prevent the development of cancer.
However, there are certain foods that have been found to decrease the risk of developing cancer. Such a diet includes a reduction in the intake of saturated fat, and consumption of a variety of vegetables, particularly those that are members of the cabbage family.
For Julie, Hagerstown, Md.: Dirty air may seriously affect patients with conditions such as asthma and emphysema. But dirty air may also have an adverse cumulative effect on apparently healthy individuals.
Dr. Neil Solomon will answer questions from Baltimore area readers in his Tuesday column in Accent on Health.
To leave a question for Dr. Solomon, call SUNDIAL, the Baltimore Sun's directory of telephone information services at 783-1800, or 268-7736 in Anne Arundel County. You must use a touch-tone phone to be connected. It is a local call and there is no charge to ask your question.
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