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Ask Dr. Gott 2/14
Calcification needs monitoring, not action
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: I had an echocardiogram done several months ago. My family doctor said I had some minor calcification around the valve in my heart. He said that at my age (71) and being a diabetic (I only take pills), that it would probably outlive me. Can you give me information about this subject?
    DEAR READER: One of the most common consequences of the aging process is the formation of calcium deposits in the body's tissues, particularly in the arteries and heart valves. These deposits, if slight or even moderate, do not need attention unless they are causing arterial blockages or a stiff valve that no longer opens and closes as it should.
    It makes sense for your calcified valve to be monitored with annual cardiac ultrasound testing. If your cholesterol is too high, you will need to diet and, perhaps, consider a cholesterol-lowering medication.
    However, I believe that your doctor is testing you appropriately. Follow his advice.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Coronary Artery Disease."

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am writing concerning the letter a gentleman wrote regarding his wife's high triglyceride level. He said that when she started with a niacin regimen, her triglyceride level was lowered considerably. He did not mention whether she was on any prescription medication during this time.
     I take Lipitor for high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels and would like to try this approach. However, since niacin can cause side effects, I don't want to try it until I know it will not adversely interact with the Lipitor. Any thoughts on this?
    DEAR READER: Don't make any changes in your medication unless your doctor has approved of them. Niacin doesn't work for everybody, and it has the unpleasant side effect of flushing. Nonflushing niacin does not produce the flushing but may not produce the outstanding results of standard niacin.
    There are no harmful drug interactions between Lipitor and niacin to my knowledge. You could certainly try the combination, but, once again, run this by your primary care physician. He or she may prefer you stop the Lipitor while trying the niacin. This will better gauge whether your cholesterol and triglyceride levels will decrease with niacin. If it doesn't work for you, continue with the Lipitor. If it has minimal effects, it may be best paired with the Lipitor or perhaps you could try flaxseed oil or omega-3 fish oil. You may even be lucky enough to have dramatic results and not need to go back on the Lipitor.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Understanding Cholesterol."
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