People's Pharmacy

May 11, 2007|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,

My blood pressure is slightly elevated. I take a water pill to control it, and my doctor suggested that I restrict salt.

I went on an extremely salt-restricted diet for a month and had no change in my blood pressure. My doctor now says I can eat normally.

I learned recently that only half the adult population is sensitive to salt so that it makes their blood pressure rise. Please tell people that they should run this experiment themselves before spending the rest of their lives hunting for low-salt foods.

The link between salt (sodium chloride) and high blood pressure has been controversial for decades. Studies suggest that cutting back on salt can lower blood pressure modestly. A carefully run, long-term trial found that substantial sodium reduction only lowers blood pressure two or three points (Journal of Human Hypertension, January 2005).

Some people are especially salt-sensitive and benefit from a sodium-restricted diet. Others, like you, don't see any improvement.

A comprehensive new study reported in the British Medical Journal last month found that sodium restriction led to a 25 percent decline in heart attacks and strokes. Even though cutting back on salt may not make a big difference for everyone, it clearly can help some people delay death from cardiovascular disease.

I heard that people on acid-reflux drugs such as Prilosec may need extra vitamin B-12. How much do you need when taking Prilosec on a daily basis? Some days I take two pills of Prilosec if my acid reflux is acting up.

Acid-suppressing drugs (Aciphex, Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix) can make it much harder to absorb vitamin B-12 from food. This can eventually lead to a deficiency of this crucial nutrient. Symptoms may be subtle and include loss of appetite, constipation, depressed mood, confusion and weakness in arms and legs.

People who take these strong acid-blocking drugs for four years or more should have their vitamin B-12 levels monitored. If your doctor finds that your B-12 level is low and your homocysteine and methylmalonic acid levels are high, an oral supplement of 1,000 micrograms (1 mg) of vitamin B-12 daily may correct the problem.

I recently began taking fish oil for heart health. I have fibrocystic breasts, and after about a week on fish oil I noticed a reduction in the number and size of the cysts.

Is there any evidence that fish oil can eliminate these bumps?

We have not found any studies showing that fish oil can make breast cysts go away. Since you are taking the fish oil for your heart anyway, keep on taking it. Cysts in the breast are not dangerous, but they can make it more difficult to detect a problem during breast self-exams.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site:

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.