Blood Pressure Medication Brought Into Question

Wellness markers such as high cholesterol, being overweight, having diabetes,  smoking, being stressed out, being inactive or having high blood pressure(BP)  are all signs (indicators) that you're at risk of developing problems with your  heart and brain later on in life.

It seems obvious, but the more of these  indicators you have the higher the risk you are.

I work with people who  have all of these indicators - here in South Wales there are lots of stressed,  obese, diabetics with high BP, which smoke, drink heavily and eat unhealthily.  It may be an extreme example but not so extreme that I can't think of lots of  people who fit this description.

To me they are like a time bomb's  waiting to go bang or a train which is destined to crash.

If you only  suffer from one problem from the list of indicators, and all the others are fine  then you are pretty low risk.

Each of these need to be applied into the  context of the person's overall health and well being.

High BP is one  example of that.

If you have high BP, are overweight and have a poor  lifestyle, your pretty much guaranteeing yourself poor health in the future in  some shape or form. Conversely if you have just high BP but you are otherwise  fit and healthy, it's not deemed as high of a risk.

Although hard to spot  at first, as people who suffer from high BP will not encounter any symptoms,  high BP sufferers if treated by a doctor will be prescribed blood pressure  medication to help the problem. I have been a big fan of blood pressure  medications as they helped me deliver exercise, safely and effectively, to  hundreds of heart attack patients.

However in more recent years along  with cholesterol reducing medication (statins) blood pressure medication and its  effectiveness is actually being brought into question. Now I might never suggest  you ditch your beta blockers or your ace inhibitors and alike but it's an  interesting discussion, one which I will have with you today, read on to find  out more.

This is what lead me to writing this article, a couple of  quotes, from a Doctor. "I've been aware for some time that salt reduction  (vigorously promoted by most Governments and relevant health agencies) doesn't  appear to have any miraculous positive effects(on BP), but what about drugs for  blood pressure so-called antihypertensives? Do these medications deliver on  their promise? "

Before we go any further with the controversial side of  things let's get familiar with the basics of blood pressure.

Blood  pressure medication effectiveness would not have been questioned 10-15 years  ago. I myself ran a cardiac rehabilitation programme for six years and  medication was at the centre with the therapy given to preserve life and keep  these post heart attack clients as fit and active as possible.

What is  high blood pressure?

High BP which is often referred to as hypertension  is defined as a persistently elevated pressure of blood within the arteries.  Blood pressure is the force of blood which is pushed around the body and the  blood vessel walls.

High BP and hypertension can lead to such health  risks since:

Strokes or heart attacks

Heart  failure

Aneurysms

Blindness

Kidney failure

Renal  failure

If you want to know your BP reading then it is simple, you can  get it tested easily at your local pharmacy, doctors or you can even get a home  testing kit.

As I mentioned there are very little symptoms of high BP so  it is difficult to spot. But if you do suffer from symptoms such as nosebleeds,  thumping of the heart, constant head aches, dizziness, flushing of the face and  unusual fatigue then it would be worth getting your blood pressure  tested.

When BP is tested you will give 2 values firstly Systolic  (working) and then Diastolic (resting). If your blood pressure is greater than  120/80 mm Hg then you according to health practitioners have high  BP.

Blood pressure values of between 120/80 - 139/89 is called pre  hypertension where people at a greater risk of hypertension, blood pressure  values of 140/90 or above are defined as hypertension.

What are the  causes of high BP and hypertension?

There is no definitive answer but as  I mentioned earlier there are many "risk" factors which are associated with high  BP:

Sedentary lifestyle

Poor eating  habits

Smoking

Obesity and being overweight

Lack of  exercise

Diabetes

Stress

Aging

High Salt  intake

Adrenal and thyroid problems

And many more. Doctors use a  wide variety of different drugs to treat high BP and hypertension.

Some  of the medications prescribed include beta blockers, vasodilators, ace  inhibitors, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, rennin inhibitors, alpha  blockers, alpha beta blockers and central acting agents.

These  medications can be prescribed individually to help reduce high BP or in  combination with other BP medication. There is a general consensus amongst  Doctors that combinations for the drugs work better that one pill  alone.

This begs the question how effective are these treatments and how  healthy is it to be taking so many different types of medicine, what with all  the side effects. One side effect of some BP meds is actually high blood  pressure!

How effective are these BP medications?

Now I'm not an  expert on this, doctors are, so I have sought out some words of wisdom with a  doctor who does not seem to suffer the same brain washing as many of his  peers.

In an article, by a man called Dr Biffa, about BP medication he  says that most doctors will prescribe medication on the basis of it being  evidence based where in truth there isn't actually good evidence supporting  this.

In this article Dr Biffa explained how a well respected group of  scientists (the Cochrane collaboration) reviewed the studies which tested the  effectiveness of blood pressure medication, they looked at four studies and over  9000 subjects with no history of cardiovascular disease over a period of 4/5  years.

This study looked into how effective BP medication was on people  with just mild cases of high BP. The subjects tested all recorded blood pressure  values of between 140-159 mmHg systolic blood pressures and 90-99 mmHg diastolic  blood pressures.

Half of the subjects were treated with actual blood  pressure medication and the other half were given a placebo. The results found  that the group who took blood pressure medication were at no reduced risk of  developing heart disease, suffering a stroke or any other cardiovascular  events.

Basically the meds didn't work any better than a  placebo.

So this study was done on a lot of most people and over a long  time and shows that the medication taken did not have a positive effect on the  subjects.

Briffa also said, James Wright editor of Cochrane Hypertension  Group wrote in the British Medical Journal that doctors have based their  opinions on a combination of assumptions and data from clinical trials in which  patients with mild hypertension were not analysed separately. Get more info neuropathy pain

He also  went on to say "In most cases medication works well on the sickest people,  people who suffer from mild hypertension (which is a lot of people) don't  benefit from being on this medication. "

Professor Jerome Hoffman wrote  in the British Medical Journal "that efforts to lower blood pressure to 'normal,  ' typically requiring multiple drugs, are not only usually unsuccessful but  produce more harm than good, since adverse effects of intensive procedure  outweigh the minimal marginal benefit of a little more blood pressure  'control'.

He went on to say that treatment of mild hypertension is of  great benefit to the drug makers even though it offers no real benefit to  patients. (This is the type of thing which really pisses me off (sorry), it's  always about the money, the governments and big pharmaceutical companies make  the decisions and they make that decisions are not based on health they are  profit based decisions.

In many professions such things called "conflicts  of interest" keep people doing what they are meant to do, not in the  pharmaceutical industry it seems, maybe they forgot they are meant to help  people, not just make money. rant over )

You may think that such a  finding would hopefully lead to many people with MILD BLOOD PRESSURE throwing  away their blood pressure relief medication and focusing on some natural ways of  lowering blood pressure. In reality this is not a good idea and ultimately won't  happen, not yet.

Another interesting point from Dr Des Spence, a general  practitioner and BMJ columnist. He's quoted as saying:

"Risk is abstract,  and doctors and patients struggle with the concept and may not follow the  guidelines. Doctors see a blood pressure of 156/98 and they prescribe. It's  better to treat than not treat-you never get blamed for overtreating.

And  that's what you will have to battle against, and in fairness I don't blame the  GP's, unfortunately its normal practice.

Prescribing blood pressure  medication to someone is the easiest step by a doctor and it's going to take  something BIG, and a lot more studies like the one I mentioned, to change  things. Interesting all the same.

Natural ways of reducing circulation  pressure

So let's look at what we can do.

As I mentioned there are  more natural ways to reducing blood pressure than taking a variety of drugs day  in day out.

Most of this is common sense.

However "common sense is  not common practice".

(You should already have a vague idea how to help  yourself, it's not rocket science. Do the opposite to what caused the problem.  Eat well, lose weight, drink less etc etc)

If you happen to are still  wondering a good way to start would be by looking at your lifestyle. How much  physical exercise do you do, what foods do you eat, do you smoke or drink a  lot?

All of these things need to be addressed and changed in order for it  to have a positive effect on their health and reducing blood pressure  levels.

So I shall put it into a simple easy list of 8 natural ways to  reduce blood pressure:

1 . Increase activity levels using  exercise

2 . Reduce salty & processed food intake

3. Reduce  alcohol consumption

4. Stop smoking

5. Eat a healthy diet  containing quality meat and plenty of fruit and vegetables

6. Aim for  foods rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium, or take supplements

7.  Eat garlic - garlic has been linked with lowering blood pressure plus it is a  great way of making up for the flavour lost from salt

8. Reduce body fat  grades - this should happen by doing the previous 7 tips

These 8 steps  can be very useful if used in combination with your meds, and maybe if your meds  become too effective the GP will be forced to reduce them (they don't like doing  this mind you, be warned). I have had clients taken off meds or have their meds  reduced but usually I needed to make the case via a cardiac rehabilitation  midwife, which is fine, as long as the GP's listen it doesn't matter who gets  them to comply!

Thanks for reading, let me know your thoughts below, I  will respond to all your questions ASAP,