I’m thinking about getting a vasectomy. We have two kids, and that’s perfect for us. This seems like the best method of birth control. Are there any downsides? — Glen H., Cincinnati
Any operation increases your risk of infection, but a vasectomy is a relatively safe and simple procedure: The vas deferens (sperm canal) is detached from each testicle. You’ll need an ice pack to control swelling and will experience slight discomfort, but you should be up and running in seven to 10 days.
The process is 99.9 percent effective as birth control and as a bonus, there’s some new, good news about an unexpected benefit for men who’ve undergone the procedure: The conventional thinking has always been that the only change after a vasectomy is the loss of sperm in the ejaculate (it makes up only about 5 percent of the fluid). A man’s sex drive, erections and orgasms were thought to be unaffected. But apparently that’s not so. When a guy wants to and does eliminate the possibility of pregnancy, his enjoyment of sex increases.
According to a study from Germany’s Frankfurt University of 279 heterosexual men who had vasectomies, guys develop a stronger sex drive, have sex more frequently and experience better orgasms post-vasectomy — and a woman’s satisfaction isn’t reduced. Proving, once again, the strongest sex organ is between your ears!
But beware! It can take up to three months to clear the sperm out of your ejaculate, so stick with your current birth control method during those three months. And if, down the road, you have a change of heart or circumstances and want to hook the boys back up again, you can have a vasectomy reversal. After a reversal, pregnancy rates range from 30 to 70 percent; however. patency rates — the return of sperm in the ejaculate — can reach 95 percent.
Yesterday I didn’t have high blood pressure; now, even though my numbers haven’t changed, my doc says I have prehypertension, whatever that is! What’s going on? — Greg F., Chicago
The American Heart Association is catching up with our recommendation (first published in our books in the 1990s) that defined high blood pressure as anything above 130/80 mmHg. After a very careful review of old and current research, the AHA lowered its definition of stage 1 hypertension from 140/90 to 130/80. It also has recommended a plant-based diet. Bravo!
But there’s more…
• Normal BP is now considered less than 120 over less than 80!
• Prehypertension is 120-129 over 80 or less.
• Stage 2 hypertension is 140 or higher over 90 or higher.
• Hypertensive crisis is 180 and/or 120 or higher.
If you’re in Stage 1 or 2, talk to your doc about taking anti-hypertensive medication and making lifestyle changes, including more physical activity, less animal protein and more stress management. In Stage 1 you may be able to reduce your blood pressure to below 130/80 and keep it there with lifestyle changes, but work with your doc and the meds first, then decide together how to move forward. Never stop HBP meds abruptly.
Lifestyle changes you should embrace include:
• Shedding just nine pounds (if you’re overweight). That could lower systolic pressure (the top number) by 4.5 mmHg and diastolic pressure (the bottom number) by 3 mmHg.
• Adopting the DASH or a Mediterranean diet that emphasizes fresh produce and elimination of processed foods and red meats. Also, cut sodium consumption and limit alcohol to two drinks daily for men, one daily for women. FYI: Cutting salt intake by 3 grams for a few weeks could lower systolic BP by 5-7 mmHg and diastolic by about half that.
• Taking potassium supplements (they relax blood vessels), unless you have kidney disease, or take meds that block potassium secretion. Ask your doc!
• Getting 10,000 steps daily and two to three strength-building sessions weekly. That can lower your systolic number by 5-8 mmHg.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairoftheWellnessInstitute at the Cleveland Clinic.