Q:I have been dealing with high blood pressure for years. When I am under stress, my blood pressure goes up to around 150.
My doctor has prescribed lots of different drugs, with mixed results. Atenolol caused fatigue and depression. Amlodipine made me dizzy to the point I couldn't function. Lisinopril caused a horrible cough. Now I am on Diovan with no problems, but I read recently that drugs like this are linked with cancer.
I am ready to try a more natural approach. I heard that beets can lower blood pressure. How effective are they, and what else might help?
A:An article in The Lancet Oncology (July 2010) has raised questions about the safety of drugs like Atacand, Diovan and Micardis. The investigators analyzed many scientific studies and concluded that such drugs "are associated with a modestly increased risk of new cancer occurrence." Drug regulators and clinicians don't know what to make of this new information.
An article published in the journal Hypertension (online, June 30, 2010) suggests that about 8.5 ounces of beet juice can significantly lower systolic blood pressure.
Q:I started taking 10,000 IU of vitamin D a day. Six months later, I suddenly developed severe constipation. Was the constipation caused by the large dose of vitamin D?
A:Vitamin D is a superstar among vitamins these days. It has become clear that low vitamin D level are common and that the consequences can be serious. Too little vitamin D has been linked to a higher risk for conditions such as arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and even heart disease and stroke.
It's no wonder that many people have decided to take more vitamin D. Many experts agree that the RDA of 400 IU daily is too low. But excess vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, can be toxic. Constipation is one possible symptom of too much vitamin D. Other side effects may include digestive upset and weakness.
Q:I have a curious question. Whenever I take a Tums Dual Action tablet for heartburn, I can't go to sleep. It keeps me awake all night.
I've tried taking half a tablet and taking it earlier, but it still keeps me awake. Why could this be? Is it the famotidine? I can take the regular Tums just fine.
A:Tums Dual Action contains calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide and famotidine. Famotidine is an acid reducer that doesn't usually cause insomnia. Nevertheless, this symptom has been reported as a side effect in some clinical trials. You may be one of those rare individuals who are affected. You might want to stick with regular Tums or find a different way to treat your heartburn.
Q:I am a mosquito magnet. The only thing that eases the itch is to put my poor bitten legs under hot running water. Tap water is not hot enough.
After I have been out feeding the mosquitoes, I just come in and take a hot shower or an appendage bath and don't have to suffer more.
A:We first discovered this home remedy for itchy bug bites and mild poison ivy in a dermatology textbook from 1961. The hot water - hot enough to be uncomfortable but not hot enough to burn - needs to be applied for just a few seconds to short-circuit the nerves that cause itching. The effects can last for a few hours.
Q:I would like to tell you about a remedy for leg cramps or spasms. One evening we were playing cards with some friends, and suddenly my husband bent over with a severe leg cramp.
Our host went to the refrigerator, got the jar of pickles and poured 1Ž4 glass of pickle juice. He told my husband to drink it, and the leg cramps eased almost immediately.
A:We have heard from other readers that pickle juice can ease leg cramps. Scientists at Brigham Young University recently tested this remedy on 10 college students. A mild electrical current was applied after exercise to induce a muscle cramp. The volunteers were given pickle juice or water. Water did nothing, but pickle juice relieved the cramps about 40 percent faster. Pure vinegar may work just as well, if not better.