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Ask Dr. Gott 5/22
Kidneys slow down with age
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DEAR DR. GOTT: I am 84 years old and have high blood pressure.
    Four months ago, my kidneys were operating at 80 percent of normal. I am taking 40 milligrams of furosemide daily. Do you consider this a proper dose?
    DEAR READER: Kidney function tends to slow down as we age, leading to an increase in the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) that shows up in a blood test.
    Unfortunately, kidney stimulants, including furosemide, may also cause the BUN to rise. (This rise will be above normal but below that of diseased kidneys.) You may choose to change medication to one that doesn't give such misleading results. Forty milligrams is the standard dosage for furosemide.
    You don't say whether you are taking potassium supplements (standard with most diuretic therapy). If you are not, you need to be, because many kidney stimulants will deplete the body's potassium, leading to further problems.
    To give you related information, I am sending you copies of my Health Reports "Kidney Disorders" and "Hypertension."

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 36-year-old female with a total cholesterol of 333.
    I am currently nursing my 4-month-old son. My doctor has advised me to wean my son because the medicines available are secreted in breast milk. I've attempted to wean my son, but he refuses the bottle.
    Although breast milk is the healthiest for my child, I'm highly concerned about the risks of not taking medications.
    DEAR READER: I agree with you. There are two options you might consider. First, stop your cholesterol-lowering drug until your son has been weaned in a few months. This will not endanger you. Second, switch to niacin, a vitamin that may lower your cholesterol level without any danger to your baby. I am not a pediatrician, so if you choose this route, check with him or her before starting therapy.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Understanding Cholesterol." Other readers who would like a copy should send a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope and $2 to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am plagued with intense itching in isolated patches here and there over my whole body (thankfully, not on my face). I am 96, and this began to be a problem six years ago. And it is getting worse as time goes by. After a week or thereabouts, the intensity diminishes and begins in another spot. Prescribed creams applied topically afford no noticeable relief.
    Is there possibly some systemic control of this problem?
    DEAR READER: Yes, but first you need a diagnosis. Although itchy skin is one of the consequences of aging, it can also have a serious cause, such as kidney failure, leukemia and other disorders. Before assuring you that the itching is only a nuisance, I urge you to address this issue with your primary-care physician and be tested. If nothing serious is discovered, a consultation with a dermatologist would be appropriate.
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