Sexy seniors search for natural solution
Q. A few months ago, a gentleman wrote to you about having an increase in libido after using beet root juice. You told him that the beet root juice had much the same effect as if he were taking Cialis or Viagra: The juice allowed more blood to flow to the penis, enabling him to have better erections.
I am 81 years old, and my wife is 77 years old. We are still very amorous with each other, but I have a problem maintaining a firm erection, so it is not possible.
The cost of Viagra means it's not a viable option. I would like to try beet root juice to see if it might improve the quality of our lives. My medications include simvastatin, levothyroxine and aspirin. I don't know if they could cause some adverse sexual effects.
A. A surprising number of studies (16) have shown that beet root juice lowers blood pressure (Journal of Nutrition, June 2013). The mechanism is by stimulating the production of nitric oxide in blood vessels. This natural compound helps blood vessels relax and improves circulation.
Erectile-dysfunction (ED) drugs such as Cialis, Levitra and Viagra also work by stimulating nitric oxide production and improving blood flow to the penis. Beet root juice has not been studied as a way to treat ED.
Erectile dysfunction has been reported as a side effect of statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs like simvastatin. Although the causal connection is controversial, such drugs do appear to lower testosterone levels (Journal of Sexual Medicine, April 2010).
Q. My pharmacy switched me from the asthma inhaler Ventolin to a generic albuterol. It doesn't work nearly as well. I have to prime the inhaler several times before the medicine comes out correctly, and even then it doesn't open my airways as much.
The pharmacy says the generic is the same as Ventolin, just from a different company. How could that be true?
A. The Food and Drug Administration maintains that all generic drugs on the market are identical to their brand-name counterparts, but we have discovered that is not always true. Generic drugs may have different inactive ingredients and release their active agent differently.
We have heard from others who believe that some generic albuterol inhalers are not as effective as the branded asthma medicine. For information about asthma and our Top 10 Tips for Taking Generic Drugs, we offer our book "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them" (online at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com).
Q. I think I have worn out several remote controls hitting the mute button on many loud drug commercials. But I have to say I am alive today because of hearing them.
I was given a new blood pressure medicine. Within an hour of taking the pill, it was affecting my speech. I called the pharmacy to see if it could be the drug and was told to call 911 immediately. I could not finish talking to the 911 operator since I was gasping for air as my throat was closing down.
If it had not been for continually hearing long lists of side effects recited on the commercials, I might have waited too long to make that call.
A. Thank you for sharing your scary experience. We all can use the reminder that drugs may have serious side effects that need emergency action.
Certain blood pressure medicines (ACE inhibitors such as captopril, lisinopril and ramipril, for example) can cause a sudden serious swelling of lips, tongue and throat. This angioedema requires immediate medical attention.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."