Taking a look at the other side of blood pressure drugs


November 24, 1992|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer

Untreated high blood pressure can cause stroke, heart attack and kidney damage. But many of the drugs commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure can cause impotence, elevate blood cholesterol levels and make you tire more quickly when you exercise.

The treatment for high blood pressure is to reach and maintain a proper body weight, stick to a low-fat diet and avoid stimulants such as caffeine. If these measures don't work, your doctor will probably prescribe medication.

Some of these drugs -- such as beta blockers, diuretics and the calcium channel blockers, nifidipine -- tire a person during exercise. Other calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, clonidine, methyldopa and prazosin, have not been shown to limit exercise performance.

Some of the drugs can interfere with sexual function. They include prazosin, phenoxybenzamine, spironolactone, methyldopa, guanethidine, thiazide-type diuretics, clonidine, beta blockers, captopril and guanabenz acetate.

Some high blood pressure drugs increase the level of the "bad" LDL cholesterol in your blood. They are thiazide-type diuretics, beta blockers and spironolactone. Prazosin and guanabenz acetate lower cholesterol.

The high blood pressure drugs that are least likely to cause impotence, raise cholesterol and make you tired include the calcium channel blockers, except verapamil, and the so-called ACE inhibitors.

Q: My sister says men go through menopause too. Is that so and how is it treated?

A: Men do go through menopause, but much more gradually than women. Slowly, over many years, a man loses most of his male hormone, testosterone. Generally, a 70-year-old man has only 60 percent as much testosterone as a 50-year-old man. His muscles and bones weaken, his sexual desires and his ability to make love diminish markedly, and he loses a lot of his male assertiveness.

The U.S. government is now funding studies to see if older men will benefit from, and can safely take, testosterone to counter these symptoms.

Taking testosterone can cause heart attacks, and a derivative of the hormone causes hair loss and stimulates the prostate to grow and even become cancerous. Some of these side effects depend on how the testosterone is administered -- by pill or by injection.

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

United Feature Syndicate

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