B-12 needed for blood cell production and nerve health
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am an 81-year-old woman in good health. After a favourable checkup recently, the doctor told me I should have a vitamin B-12 shot every month for the rest of my life. I am not anemic. I have always been reluctant to take pills and shots of any kind. I am puzzled about this suggestion. — G.M.
ANSWER: Vitamin B-12 is an essential ingredient in the production of red blood cells and in the maintenance of nerve health. It’s a unique vitamin. It is found only in meat. In addition, it requires intrinsic factor for its absorption. Intrinsic factor is made in the stomach. It takes B-12 by the hand and ushers it into the blood through the intestinal wall. Without intrinsic factor, B-12 leaves the body. A deficiency of the vitamin gives rise to pernicious anemia and leads to nerve and the spinal cord damage. You have no signs of either, and all your lab tests are OK.
At older ages, the production of intrinsic factor wanes, and that’s the reason pernicious anemia is more common then.
Since people with intrinsic factor deficiency cannot absorb B-12, doctors in North America treat the deficiency with shots. The shots bypass the need for intrinsic factor. Doctors in Europe give large oral doses of the vitamin, and some of that oral dose is absorbed.
I, too, am puzzled why your doctor wants you to take B-12 shots. At one time, they were given as a tonic for people complaining of weakness and lethargy. That’s not done much these days. Why not ask the doctor for his reasons for wanting you to have shots? You’ve roused my curiosity. Let me know what he says.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Our 48year-old son has a horizontal indentation on both earlobes. Do they really signify potential heart problems? — J.G.
ANSWER: A crease that runs diagonally from the top of the earlobe to the edge of the bottom part of the earlobe has been said to be associated with a greater risk for heart disease. This idea pops up from time to time. Maybe there’s something to it, but I would give a lot more credence to things like cigarette smoking, high cholesterol, family history, diabetes, high blood pressure and physical inactivity.