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My father has age-related macular degeneration (AMD). And I am told it can be hereditary. I am a 71-year-old man and am worried that I could develop this eye disease. I have heard that prevention includes the consumption of green vegetables. Is this true, and if so, what foods would help prevent the onset of the disease? My ophthalmologist has suggested taking Occuvite vitamin pills.
- D.R., Rehovot
Prof. Anat Loewenstein, chief of ophthalmology at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and an expert on AMD, replies:
It has been proven that family history is one of the risk factors for the disease. Also, it has been proven that once you have the initial - dry - stage of the disease, the consumption of vitamins and minerals in large amounts (vitamin E 400 mg., C 500 mg., zinc 40 mg. and beta carotene 15 mg.) lowers by 25 percent the risk of conversion to the wet, advanced stage of the disease. The consumption of such vitamins in large quantities does have side effects in people who do not have the initial stages of the disease. The question of whether to take these vitamins in large quantities as a preventive measure without having been diagnosed at the initial stage of the disease has been investigated and proven not to have a significant effect, and therefore it is not recommended, even in a family member.
There is some evidence, even though not as strong, that the consumption of green and yellow vegetables and fish is beneficial (and again, this cannot be exactly quantified) in general for people at risk for the disease.
My 84-year-old father, who lives in the US, has diabetes. He saw on an Israeli TV station (Channel 9 in Russian) a piece about an Israeli physician who claims to have invented a "total cure" for diabetes using electricity. That's all the information my father could give me. It's almost too good to be true. I did some searching on the Internet, but couldn't find anything relevant. Does electricity "treatment" indeed offer a cure for diabetes?
- I.F., via e-mail
Prof. Menachem Shapiro, a veteran diabetologist at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, comments:
I am not aware of any information as to the use of electricity to cure diabetes. Unfortunately, over the years I have been exposed to many claims of "cures," but none of them met the test of time. If any person has a cure for diabetes, he should publish his method in a scientific journal where others can attempt to replicate his results. To hide a real "cure" is selfish and cruel. Too many people are suffering from diabetes and dying. If his "discovery" really works, he will go down in medical history, but I really doubt it does.
I am a 25-year-old woman who has always enjoyed good health. Recently I have felt palpitations in my heart. They come from time to time, without connection to any excitement, and last for a few seconds. They scare me. Should I go to the doctor about it?
- A.N., Kiryat Motzkin
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich comments:
The Harvard Heart Letter recently commented about palpitations, a feeling that the heartbeat has suddenly started to race or pound. The author says they are usually caused by a harmless hiccup in the heart's rhythm. Sometimes, though, they reflect a problem in the heart or elsewhere in the body. Palpitations are extremely common. Different people experience them in different ways. You might feel as though your heart is fluttering, throbbing, flip-flopping, pounding or that it has missed a beat. Palpitations can appear out of the blue and disappear just as suddenly. Or they might be linked with certain activities, events or feelings. Some of the most important pieces of information that can help your doctor in pinning them down is how palpitations feel, how often they strike and when they occur.
Some palpitations result from premature contractions of the heart's chambers or malfunctions of a heart valve. Go to your doctor for a checkup. A physical exam and electrocardiogram often don't turn up any problems, which can be frustrating to the patient. If your palpitations aren't accompanied by dizziness or other symptoms and if you don't have a valve disorder or other structural problem with your heart, that usually means palpitations are benign.
The author suggests that if you have unexplained palpitations, start with simple steps to help alleviate them. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol and stop smoking; avoid over-the-counter decongestants, eat and drink regularly, get enough sleep and find a way to relax if you are stressed. In some cases, your doctor may recommend medications or a procedure to correct errant electrical signals in the heart.
Rx For Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx For Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your initials, age and residence.