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Taking Time to Appreciate Veterans

Dear Annie:

In the past year, the Department of Veterans Affairs has tackled many issues for our veterans, and we are proud to participate in the largest transformation of VA in recent history.

Our volunteers and community partners form a large part of this effort, allowing us to bring programs and services to our veterans that otherwise would be unavailable. At VA, every day is Veterans Day, but we take special notice in February to celebrate the National Salute to Veteran Patients. This year’s salute is Feb. 12-16, and we encourage communities across the country to take part in this effort to honor our hospitalized veterans and to seek out opportunities to volunteer at their local VA facility.

Last year, 413,253 valentines were received at VA medical centers, arriving from schools, community groups and youth organizations nationwide. These notes of recognition were distributed to our veteran patients at facilities across the country. Additionally, more than 11,000 volunteers and 1,500 community organizations contributed to events and activities recognizing our hospitalized veterans. VA appreciates your strong support of this important program, and I encourage your thoughtful readers to take time once again this February to honor our veterans.

I have a very special favor to ask. If your readers know a veteran in crisis, please be sure to direct them to the Veterans Crisis Line immediately. The veteran can call 800-273-8255 and press 1. Finally, if anyone would like to join us in our mission to honor the sacrifice and service of America’s veterans during the National Salute to Veteran Patients or at any time throughout the year, please visit your nearest VA facility or contact us online at

—David J. Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Dear Dr. Shulkin:

I appreciate your letter and your dedication to our veterans. We all owe veterans our deepest thanks, and the National Salute to Veteran Patients is a wonderful opportunity for expressing that gratitude. I encourage readers to participate.

Erratic heart rate episode may be atrial fibrillation

Dear Dr. Roach:

A couple of weeks ago, I had a sudden fast heartbeat with a very irregular and erratic pulse (approximately 150-161) for about six hours, along with a very low blood pressure, ranging from 74/59 to 79/52. I first felt a strange thumping in my neck area. I am treated for high blood pressure with amlodipine, losartan and HCTZ. My BP usually is in the normal range, and I have never had an episode like this. I called my doctor’s office a day later, and he ordered a Holter monitor (I will have it tomorrow). I was feeling some anxiety before this happened, but this has been an entirely new event for me. My other medications include thyroxine. I am 90 years old, in good health, mild arthritis, alert and oriented. What could possibly cause such an episode?



A sudden, fast heart rate without exertion can be caused by anxiety or fright; however, that doesn’t sound like what happened to you. Your report sounds very much as though you had an episode of atrial fibrillation. The atria are the top chambers of the heart, which fill with blood passively from the veins of the body (on the right side) or the lungs (on the left), and contract to fill the ventricles. The right atrium also normally provides the electrical stimulation for the heart. In atrial fibrillation, instead of, say, 60 beats a minute, the atria may put out a thousand impulses a minute. The heart cannot possibly respond to all those impulses (there is a safeguard built into the electrical system), so the heart rate becomes highly irregular and variable. The rate might be normal, but more frequently it is too fast. One of the goals in atrial fibrillation is to control the heart rate, to protect the heart from going too fast. A rate of 160 in a 90-year-old is not safe, and the fact that your blood pressure went down is concerning: I would have considered admitting you to the hospital in this situation, and certainly would have recommended that you be seen and get an EKG at the time.

People with atrial fibrillation also are at risk for blood clots forming in the heart, and these can travel to the brain, causing a stroke. The other major goal of treating atrial fibrillation is to reduce stroke risk. This requires anticoagulation. The erratic nature makes me think atrial fibrillation is the diagnosis.

Dear Dr. Roach:

You recently wrote that 1,200 calories a day is not enough for most people, but 1,200 calories will support a 120-pound person. Most diets recommend 2,000 calories. That is enough for a 200-pound person! And we wonder why we have so many obese people in our country? The answer is portion control!



I must disagree with your numbers. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a sedentary adult woman of 126 pounds requires 1,600 to 2,000 calories to maintain her weight. People with normal or high levels of activity will require more. Estimates of how many calories are actually consumed in the U.S. vary, but most estimates are that the average intake is close to 3,500 calories per adult per day. I agree with you that portion control is key, but telling a person that 1,200 calories is adequate is not supported by the data.

Olympics for all occasions

Mike Tirico and Katie Couric host coverage of the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games from PyeongChang Olympic Stadium (7 p.m., NBC). If you’ve never heard of PyeongChang, South Korea, you’re not alone. A fairly obscure place located near the divided peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone, it is often mixed up with North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang.

Olympics coverage always represents a mastery of logistics, and the broadcast of every new games has to top the last—if “broadcast” is the right word. NBC will offer more than 2,400 hours of sports coverage. That’s 1,000 days of “binging,” if you’ve got the time.

More than 1,800 hours will stream live on NBCOlympics .com and the NBC Sports app across desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs (note: You’ve got to “authenticate” your cable subscription to access this all-you-can-eat buffet of skiing, skating, snowboarding, hockey and curling).

To present its Olympics cornucopia, NBC will use more than 700 cameras and 89 commentators. To capture every moment of competition, NBC will use 2,200 terabytes of video disk storage, capable of filing away 8½ years’ worth of events.

Tonight’s highlight

  • A charity gesture irks potential clients on
  • “Bull”
  • (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

Late night

  • Nathan Lane is booked on
  • “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
  • (11:35 p.m., CBS).
  • Jimmy Fallon welcomes Paul Rudd and Laurie Metcalf on
  • “The Tonight Show”
  • (11:35 p.m., NBC), which could be pre-empted.
  • Chadwick Boseman, Dave Salmoni, ZZ Ward and Fitz visit
  • “Jimmy Kimmel Live”
  • (10:35 p.m., ABC, r).
  • “Late Night With Seth Meyers”
  • (11:35 p.m., NBC) will be pre-empted.
  • Channing Tatum, Adam Scott and Diego Luna appear on
  • “The Late Late Show With James Corden”
  • (11:35 p.m., CBS, r).