Q. A few years ago I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. I take medication for it, but recently started getting pain in my chest when I go to bed and when I wake up. It’s not pain – it’s uncomfortable. What can it be?
A. Chest pain is always a reason to talk to a doctor immediately. Initially, I would recommend a phone call to a GP or cardiologist.
Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm – problems with the nerves cause the heart to beat irregularly. Symptoms include noticeable palpitations, shortness of breath, and even dizziness. But atrial fibrillation doesn’t usually cause chest pain.
We know that people with atrial fibrillation are more likely to have high blood pressure and coronary artery disease – clogged arteries that increase the risk of heart attack.
Chest pain is always a reason to talk to a doctor immediately. Initially I would recommend a phone call to a GP or cardiologist, writes Dr. Ellie Cannon (file photo)
It is possible that this type of pain is angina, which is chest pain caused by coronary artery disease, but angina attacks are usually linked to physical activity and it is not normal to have this type of chest pain at rest or in bed to get.
There are other causes of chest pain, such as heartburn or indigestion, or there may be a musculoskeletal cause.
People with atrial fibrillation are more prone to blood clots because of the abnormal blood flow in the heart. This increases the risk of stroke and medications are needed to reduce that risk.
But some drugs can be responsible for the pain. Keep a journal of your symptoms and speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Q. I have read that eating fatty fish and taking fish oil can help prevent heart attacks and even dementia. Is it true?
A. The simple answer is that eating fatty fish or taking fish oil supplements is very unlikely to cause harm, but we cannot say whether a specific food or factor can prevent heart disease and dementia as the risk factors for this are many and complex .
Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish are considered good for the heart. The British Heart Foundation recommends eating fish twice a week, with at least one serving being oily fish.
Omega-3 fats can also be found in flaxseeds, walnuts, and some fortified foods. But it is the fish itself that has the best heart benefits, according to the studies.
Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish are considered good for the heart. The British Heart Foundation recommends eating fish twice a week, one serving of which is oily fish
A detailed statement from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in 2018 reviewing the evidence of nutrition and dementia found that people on a Mediterranean diet rich in fatty fish are less likely to have dementia – but of course this diet includes a range. of ingredients, so it might not just be the fish.
It could be the combination of oils and vitamins in fish that is protective, or the fact that fish is eaten in lieu of less healthy options. Or maybe it’s not the diet at all.
It is becoming increasingly clear that heart disease and dementia, as well as type 2 diabetes, are related. So staying on top of your weight, blood pressure and other factors such as cholesterol levels is also key to staying free from all of these diseases.
Q. My grandson was born in May. After a month of suffering from a urinary tract infection, he turned out to have a ‘horseshoe kidney’. Is this curable and how will it affect him?
A. A horseshoe kidney is an abnormality that babies can be born with. It is incurable, but does not cause long-term problems for many people.
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The kidneys are a pair of normally bean-shaped organs located on either side of your spine, under your ribs, to the back of the body. Each is about 5 inches long – the size of a large fist.
While they develop in the womb, in some babies the kidneys do not develop separately, but remain connected at the lower end and form a horseshoe shape. We don’t know exactly why this happens, but it is more common in boys than girls and occurs in about one baby in 500. Genetics undoubtedly play a role.
Horseshoe kidney is sometimes discovered during a pregnancy scan, or later when investigations are done for other reasons, such as looking for the cause of a urinary tract infection.
In about a third of children with a horseshoe kidney, there are no symptoms or problems and the abnormality is discovered by accident, often at a later age.
Because of the abnormal kidney shape, children with horseshoe kidney are more likely to develop kidney stones and reflux, meaning urine travels the wrong way from the bladder to the kidneys, leading to infections.
Once the abnormality is noticed, specialists can make an appointment for further examination of the kidneys and bladder to make sure everything is working properly.
It is important for parents to watch out for a fever as it can be a sign of a urinary tract infection.
But on a daily basis, a horseshoe kidney is unlikely to cause many problems.
I’m out of breath: is it Covid?
One of the most common causes of breathlessness is poorly controlled asthma. Sometimes it can be as simple as an inhaler is running low (file photo)
We have all become more aware of this symptom since the start of the pandemic, but chances are the cause is something other than Covid.
One of the most common is poorly controlled asthma. Sometimes it can be as simple as an inhaler running out. A pharmacist should be able to advise whether an inhaler needs to be replaced. If a new one doesn’t help, your dose may need to be increased.
Shortness of breath can also be caused by other conditions, including heart problems, chest infection, and even some blood problems, such as anemia. Other symptoms can give you an idea of the reason for your shortness of breath – for example, coughing and phlegm if you have a chest infection, or ankle swelling if there is a problem with your heart.
It is also possible that you have had the coronavirus without realizing it and have been left breathless as a result.
Vaporization anxiety stories are just a smokescreen
There is limited evidence of harm – this may show up over time, but vaping will undoubtedly prove to be much less harmful than tobacco, writes Dr. Ellie Cannon
I have long been a supporter of vaping as a great alternative to smoking. Scare stories that suggest it could be dangerous are always hugely exaggerated and, I would say, misleading.
In America, a spike in youth vaping was claimed to be caused by trendy ads and flavored vapes, although there were questions as to whether the stats include those who had only tried it once or twice.
Here in Britain, the number of teens vaping remains small, and many experts claim these kids were the ones who smoked anyway. Last week, an authoritative review concluded that vaping was the best way to quit smoking.
There is limited evidence of harm – this may show over time, but vaping will undoubtedly prove to be much less harmful than tobacco. Data suggests millions more smokers decided to quit during the pandemic, and I hope this new study reassures doctors and patients that vaping is a great option for anyone looking to quit.