Some hypertension treatments can have adverse side effects

FITNESS CLINIC

November 26, 1991|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,United Feature Syndicate

Untreated high blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause strokes, heart attacks and kidney damage. But many of the drugs commonly used to treat it can make you feel tired during exercise. Some can even cause impotence and elevated blood cholesterol. It's best to know what the drug you're taking can do to your body.

Treatment for high blood pressure is to lose weight. If overweight, follow a low-fat diet and avoid stimulants such as coffee. If these measures don't reduce your blood pressure, your doctor will prescribe an anti-hypertension medication -- such as a beta blocker, diuretic or a calcium channel blocker. All of these drugs can make you feel tired during exercise. Luckily, other drugs -- such as other calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, clonidine, methyldopa and prazosin -- don't restrict exercise performance.

Some anti-hypertension drugs can interfere with sexual functioning. These include prazosin, phenoxybenzamine, spironolactone, methyldopa, guanethidine, thiazide-type diuretics, clonidine, beta blockers, captopril and guanabenz acetate.

Some increase blood cholesterol levels. These include thiazide-type diuretics, beta blockers and spironolactone. The alpha drugs -- prazosin and guanabenz acetate -- lower cholesterol.

The high blood pressure drugs least likely to tire you out, cause impotence or raise cholesterol are the so-called ACE inhibitors and the calcium channel blockers -- except for verapamil.

Q: Please settle an argument. Should athletes abstain from lovemaking the night before a game?

A: Making love on the night before a game won't affect your performance on the athletic field. Still, some boxers won't make love for a month before a fight. Some football players won't make love on the night before a game. Some runners won't make love immediately before they race.

Most of these athletes are afraid that lovemaking will drain the energy they will need to compete at their best. They're wrong. Lovemaking takes about as much energy as walking up two flights of stairs. No matter how aggressively or passionately you make love, you still can't burn more than 250 calories an hour. According to Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, making love averages less than seven minutes. That amounts to fewer than 35 calories. An athlete will burn more calories than that during pregame warmups.

On the other hand, not making love on the night before a game can actually prevent athletes from performing at their best. Most athletes cut back on their workouts on the days just before a major competition. If they are accustomed to making love on a regular basis and also cut back on that activity before a competition, they will have a lot of extra energy and no place to expend it. They can toss and turn all night instead of sleeping. The next day, they'll feel tired and won't be able to perform at their best.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

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