Doc: Heart attack symptoms vary, not all classic angina
Dear Dr. Roach: My very healthy husband collapsed and died on the way to the hospital. They worked on him for a long time but could not revive him. They didn’t do an autopsy, and they declared his death as “atherosclerotic vascular disease.” He was 79 years old and had no health problems. He came into the house and said that something was in his throat and he couldn’t swallow. He tried to cough it up, but nothing came up. He then collapsed. He had no pain. I am still puzzled by that symptom of a heart attack. Have you ever heard of that? I am really curious and still in shock. I hope you can explain.
Dear T.S.: I am very sorry to hear about your husband. I think he likely did have a heart attack, which is the leading cause of death in the industrialized world.
Although many people have symptoms of heart disease that they ignore, some people have no symptoms until sudden death. Atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries due to cholesterol plaque and calcium in the blood vessels of the heart, almost always is present in people with a heart attack.
The initial symptom of a heart attack varies widely. Throat discomfort is not rare. Cough is a common symptom, as the heart becomes damaged and the pressure in the lungs increases. The classic symptom of chest pain certainly does happen, but there are many variations. Both men and women can have atypical presentations.
Dear Dr. Roach: My teen likes vegetables and eats right. He also drinks a lot of water, works out and doesn’t like soda. He and my sister have chronic constipation. They both now take a magnesium supplement and feel great. Is that OK?
Dear T.M.S.: Magnesium is a common and safe treatment for constipation. A healthy diet, exercise and drinking plenty of water are good ideas for anyone with constipation, but some people do need additional help. A recent column mentioned prunes (or prune juice) as an option, but magnesium, if taken at a dose to ensure regular, but not excessive, bowel movements, is a fine treatment.
Dear Dr. Roach: Is there medical help or gene therapy to prevent excessive height?
My niece is 6 feet, 1 inch tall and soon will marry a man who is 6 feet, 11 inches tall. Life was not always easy for her, as she was mocked at school. And he has had a daily life of “How’s the weather up there?” Could they prevent their children from growing to such a height?
Dear D.B.: No, there is no medical treatment to prevent excess height, and there is no medical reason to do so. Instead, I’d advise your niece and her fiance to encourage their children to be comfortable how they are, no matter what their height, and to recognize that many of the comments they will hear are based on envy.
I’d especially recommend that if they happen to have a tall girl (if they do have a girl, one formula for predicting height would estimate her height at 6 feet, 4 inches), they encourage her to have excellent posture. I see too many tall women hunched over, as if trying to hide their height. There are good medical reasons to have an erect posture, especially for taller people.
Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.