Friday, May 30, 2008

Stroke, Parkinson's and tomatoes

Today's frightening story links hay fever to stroke.

A study in South Carolina suggests hay fever sufferers face a doubled risk of having stroke. Apparently earlier reports have also linked stroke to asthma. And I recall that other report linking allergies to Parkinson's disease. Now the South Carolina finding may be a freak. After all, although it involved some 9,000 people only 125 suffered strokes.

What's the common thread? It's that some allergies cause long-term, low level inflammation which could ultimately lead to all sorts of illnesses. As it happens there is Parkinson's disease in my family. I was talking to the person concerned over the last few days and discovered he has a life-long aversion to tomatoes. I didn't know that but he's a relative and I was also never keen on strongly flavoured tomato products. I don't mind fresh tomatoes - although I don't eat them now - but I hated tinned plum tomatoes, in fact I loathed them with all my being.

Then I watched as he ate a meat dish, a cottage pie, made with tomatoes and watched as he reached for his handkerchief to wipe his nose.

Now I know other family members who hate tomatoes. So perhaps tomato-aversion is the sign that could help us trace the genetic course of this malady.

If you go back to the discussion on Samter's Triad, that was when I realised that I had non-allergenic rhinitis, otherwise known as a chronic stuffy nose. It's not classic hay fever, it's "non-allergenic" but it's the same sort of condition.

Now that's probably not on my medical notes. No doctor ever attempted to list all the mild symptoms that are linked to this condition. In Britain they're interested in the major symptoms and good for them. We'd all be hypochondriacs otherwise. I did tell the consultant that I suffered from "summer colds" as a child but he dismissed that, pointing out that as I grew up on a farm it was extremely unlikely I'd develop hay fever.

In a week or two I'll have my last appointment with a dietician and then it will be back to the GP. The level of GP knowledge of this - and the quality of their notes - extends to "how is your asthma?". I don't have asthma - yet - and I hope to God I don't get it.

But as the latest reports on hay fever and stroke point out, chronic hay fever can no longer be considered a "benign" condition. The same applies here - perhaps the best thing to do would be to go onto statins as you are now allowed to self-medicate with them and apparently they are the wonder drug that will prevent heart disease, stroke etc. Let's hope they don't contain salicylate.

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