I met Bobbi when I was about 35 years old. It was love at first sight. She was a redhead and weighed about 100 pounds. We remained friends through the years – marriages, divorces, children, and now grandchildren. The last time we saw each other, about 10 years ago, she looked pretty much the same – still tiny and beautiful – but she had a ‘medical problem’: high blood pressure.
But because of her physiology, Bobbi couldn’t tolerate the powerful anti-hypertensive drugs. So she, unwillingly, became an interesting experiment in: ‘What happens to a patient with seriously elevated blood pressure if you do nothing?’
I checked in with her recently, and she’s doing just fine. She’s ’50-something’ (I think close to 60, but I didn’t dare ask) and still has very high blood pressure.
So if someone like Bobbi can do just fine without medication for over a decade, why are the health ‘experts’ out there suddenly so hot and bothered to get even more people on medication by lowering the already ridiculous hypertension guidelines?
I think that most doctors are forgetting (if they ever knew at all) that hypertension isn’t actually a disease in itself – it’s only a symptom of some other malfunction in your body. It’s possible that the elevated blood pressure is a protective effect enabling the heart to get the blood to all the tissues in spite of the disease, whatever that may be.
But since we still haven’t figured out what that disease is, most doctors just throw drugs at the symptom and consider the problem solved when the high blood pressure goes down.
The REAL problem here is that just because the drugs have made the hypertension go away, it doesn’t mean you’re ‘cured’ – or even safe, for that matter. People taking blood pressure lowering medications inevitably feel worse on the drugs. You would think this would signal to the doctor that he’s making the patient worse, and that the pressure is elevated for some good physiological reason. But most likely, he’ll just continue to prescribe away.
There are four major types of drugs prescribed to lower blood pressure. In order of their date of appearance on the market, they are: diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers. Remember, these drugs are only masking one symptom of an unknown disease. Anti-hypertensives have no healing properties.
Even the least toxic drugs can cause deadly side effects
The diuretics are basically dehydrators; that is, they remove fluid from your body by way of the kidneys. This may cause a drop in blood pressure, but the first question to come to mind to all of you smart readers is: ‘If I don’t have oedema (swelling), am I going to accomplish anything by draining my body fluids?’
Those fluids contain many vital minerals, such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium, and getting rid of them will cause electrolyte imbalances (loss of minerals) in your body.
But electrolyte imbalance is only the beginning. Other problems caused by diuretics include cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), gout, kidney damage or failure, uraemia, hyperglycaemia leading to diabetes, abnormal cholesterol, anaemia, photosensitivity, indigestion, headaches, visual disturbances and impotence.
And the diuretics are the least toxic type of hypertension drug treatment.
Not just a blood pressure medication
Then there are the beta blockers. Beta blockers reduce the force of the heart’s contractions. Basically, the heartbeat slows in reaction to the drug, and that lowers your blood pressure. So keep in mind that you’re dealing with a dangerous cardiac drug, not ‘just blood pressure medicine’.
Your doctor probably didn’t dwell on this significant fact, but you need to know the truth. He didn’t necessarily lie to you: He just didn’t want to spend too much time on unpleasant things that might have caused you to throw the pills in your rubbish bin – or not get the prescription filled at all.
OK, class – quiz: Being cardioactive drugs, what might you expect in the way of side effects from beta blockers? You’ve got it – signs of serious heart disease. You may experience any or all of the following symptoms: congestive heart failure, which will lead to pulmonary oedema, a good old-fashioned heart attack, or arrhythmia. And, of course, all of these irregularities can be fatal.
Beyond the heart, there are many other possibilities for mischief. There’s also a strong possibility that you’ll experience a stroke, which could cause partial paralysis or death. And asthmatics should never take beta blockers, since they may trigger life-threatening airway spasms.
All this is a mere sampling of the possible side effects that you may experience from these powerful cardiotoxic compounds.
Anti-hypertension drugs are waging chemical warfare on your body
ACE inhibitors wage a sort of chemical warfare attack in your body. They lower blood pressure by blocking the release of angiotensin. Your body releases this molecule in order to raise your blood pressure.
As I mentioned earlier, the body’s chemical regulatory mechanisms do things for a reason; usually high blood pressure is a protective mechanism designed to maintain your ‘homeostasis’, your biological balance in the turbulent world inside your body. The ACE inhibitors lower blood pressure by counteracting this blood pressure raising agent. Your doctor thinks this is a good thing. I think it is a bad thing.
But calcium channel blockers are, by far, the worst of the bunch. And, of course, they’re among the most widely prescribed drugs in the modern world. Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) block the movement of calcium across cell membranes.
This suppresses muscular contraction, which dilates the arteries and reduces resistance to blood flow. The doctor sees a reduction in your blood pressure and proclaims it medical magic: you take the little pills, your pressure comes down, and the doctor is a genius.
I wish it were that simple, but what else happens?
Your heart feels like a fish flopping around in a bucket. You feel like you are going to faint, especially if you stand up quickly. You figure you can live with that; you just won’t stand up quickly. But if going from sitting to standing can cause you to faint, how about going from flat on your back to standing?
This sudden drop in blood pressure can cause a stroke, and off to the emergency ward you go. But the calcium channel blocker won’t take any of the blame: after all, your doctor prescribed it to you to prevent a stroke brought on by high blood pressure.
The ‘cure’ that causes 85,000 unnecessary deaths each year
These killers can also cause heart failure, heart attacks, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and reduced white blood cell count (causing you to be more susceptible to infections). And another common – and deadly – possibility is their interaction with other drugs, which can lead to any of the above disasters.
The most important study to date on calcium channel blockers is the Wake Forest University School of Medicine research that was presented at an international cardiology meeting in Amsterdam in 2000.
According to the report, these very popular (with the doctors anyway) drugs may be responsible for an excessive number of heart attacks and cases of heart failure. It appears that they don’t even prevent the cardiovascular complications of high blood pressure. In fact, they cause complications.
For example, calcium channel blockers lead to about 40,000 ‘unnecessary or excess’ heart attacks in the US each year and about 85,000 such disasters worldwide, said Dr Marco Pahor, the professor of medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the US who headed the research project.
Another treatment worse than the disease
The real question here is whether the treatment is worse than the disease. Dr Pahor’s research team found that people taking long-acting calcium channel blockers had a ’27 per cent higher risk of heart attack and 26 per cent higher risk of congestive heart failure than did persons taking diuretics, beta blockers, or ACE inhibitors.’
And the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has reported that these drugs cause cancer in test animals. Would you rather have elevated blood pressure, which has not been proven to cause any of the problems for which it is blamed, or cancer, a heart attack, kidney or liver disease (or both), or a stroke?
With all of the problems associated with them, it seems almost criminal that the CCBs are the most popular hypertension ‘treatment’. But the reason they’re the most popular is that they’re the most promoted. That’s not science, of course; that’s business. That’s just the way it is.
If your doctor offers you one of these little killers, give him a copy of this article and tell him you will think about it. Don’t plan on going back, because (1) he probably won’t read it, and (2) if he does read it, he will not want to waste his time on someone like you. If you’re already taking a CCB, you must insist to your doctor that you be removed from the drug. But do not stop on your own. Ironically, that could be fatal too.
Actions to take:
It’s easy for me to play the role of ‘Dr. No’, but I have to do better than that. So, what else can you do? There are a number of safe approaches you can try.
(1) My first choice is homeopathy. But don’t run down to the pharmacy or health food store and buy the little bottles of drops or pills that your neighbour recommended – you’ll only be disappointed. Homeopathy is a complex science and requires the services of a practitioner who knows pathology, physiology, pharmacology, and all the other ‘ologies’ (a traditional medical education is not all bad, you know). Contact The Society of Homeopaths by calling 01604 621400 or visiting www.homeopathy-soh.org for the name of a qualified homeopath in your area.
(2) Acupuncture may be effective, and there are lots of practitioners who perform it across the country. To find one near you, contact The Society of Homeopaths by calling 01604 621400 or visiting www.homeopathy-soh.org
(3) I do have to add that if you have disastrously high blood pressure, say 180 over 110, you are in serious trouble and will have to try the drugs. But ‘malignant hypertension’, as it is called, is not common and your garden-variety hypertension will not metamorphose into it – and don’t let any doctor convince you otherwise.
(4) There are many other approaches, but one I must mention is simply to do nothing. I know this sounds radical, but you would be surprised how many people do exactly that with great success. Consider Bobbi, for example: she’s been living a normal, happy, and – dare I say – healthy life with hypertension (and without drugs) for years.
So if you try homeopathy, acupuncture, or any other non-drug approach without success, I recommend that you follow Bobbi’s lead and leave well enough alone.
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‘Popular Blood Pressure Medicine May Do More Harm Than Good,’ WebMD Medical News (www.webmd.com), 29/8/00