Talk­ing to kids about cancer; de­men­tia and high blood pres­sure

Texarkana Gazette - - RECORDS/ADVICE - By Michael Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Q: My sis­ter was di­ag­nosed with breast cancer (they caught it early), and she’s go­ing to have to go through a lumpec­tomy and chemo­ther­apy. The part she’s re­ally ago­niz­ing over is how and what to tell her 10-year-old daugh­ter. Any ad­vice?—Sharon B., Lin­coln, Ne­braska

A: At age 10, kids un­der­stand a lot, so your sis­ter doesn’t have to worry too much about her daugh­ter grasp­ing the ba­sic med­i­cal facts—and she should share them. They’re much more re­as­sur­ing than any fan­tasy or wor­ries her daugh­ter might cook up in her own mind or hear from friends. But emo­tional re­ac­tions need care­ful man­age­ment, too. That’s why it’s im­por­tant for your sis­ter to tell her daugh­ter about her di­ag­no­sis when ev­ery­one is well-rested and com­fort­able and there’s plenty of time on the sched­ule.

First, she needs to ex­plain the ba­sics, such as what cancer is (bad cells that need to be stopped), that it isn’t con­ta­gious and that her spe­cific cancer is ef­fec­tively treated th­ese days.

Then, she should ex­plain why she’s de­cided on her course of treat­ment and men­tion that she may feel pretty rot­ten from the treat­ment some­times, but when that hap­pens she’s not get­ting worse, she’s get­ting bet­ter.

Your sis­ter should ask her daugh­ter what ques­tions she has or if she’d like to think about them and talk again later. Then she should keep an eye out for any change in be­hav­ior or mood swings. And make your­self avail­able to your niece. She might open up to you about con­cerns that she’s re­luc­tant to dis­cuss with her mom. One more thing— your sis should ask her doc about ge­netic test­ing; if she was di­ag­nosed be­fore age 40, she may carry an iden­ti­fi­able mu­ta­tion.

Just so YOU know, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Cancer So­ci­ety, if the cancer hasn’t spread be­yond the breast or in the lymph nodes (stage one), the five-year rel­a­tive sur­vival rate is 99 per­cent!

Q: My hus­band, 62, has high blood pres­sure and heart dis­ease, and as if that weren’t enough to worry about, now I hear it can af­fect his brain, too. How does that work, and what can he do to pro­tect him­self?—Kay D., Iowa City, Iowa

A: High blood pres­sure en­dan­gers blood ves­sels ev­ery­where, in­clud­ing in the brain.

A study re­cently pub­lished in Neu­rol­ogy found that high blood pres­sure late in life (65-plus) boosted the risk for con­stric­tion/block­age in the brain’s blood ves­sels that are as­so­ci­ated with vas­cu­lar de­men­tia by 46 per­cent when par­tic­i­pants’ top/sys­tolic blood pres­sure num­ber was 147, com­pared with par­tic­i­pants with a mean level of 134. The re­searchers also found that el­e­vated sys­tolic blood pres­sure in­creased Alzheimer’s dis­ease-as­so­ci­ated tan­gles in the brain.

Un­for­tu­nately, 50 per­cent of older folks with high blood pres­sure aren’t re­ceiv­ing ben­e­fi­cial treat­ment. In a 2013 study, re­searchers found that tak­ing potas­sium-spar­ing di­uret­ics re­duced the risk of Alzheimer’s nearly 75 per­cent, and tak­ing any type of an­ti­hy­per­ten­sive med­i­ca­tion low­ered the risk by about a third. Some of the meds also made Alzheimer’s, once di­ag­nosed, less likely to progress.

A study pre­sented at the Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing re­cently found that when sys­tolic blood pres­sure was low­ered to 120, folks were 19 per­cent less likely to de­velop mild cog­ni­tive and info-pro­cess­ing prob­lems, and 15 per­cent less likely to even­tu­ally de­velop cog­ni­tive de­cline and de­men­tia.

For pre­ven­tion:

1. Eat un­pro­cessed foods, whole grains and lean pro­teins.

2. Lose weight if needed.

3. Get in 10,000 stepst daily.

4. Get your blood pres­sure checked reg­u­larly.

5. If needed, work with your doc­tor to find the right an­ti­hy­per­ten­sive med or meds for you.

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