By Dr. Mercola
Hypertension is dangerous if uncontrolled, increasing your risk for heart attack and stroke. But using drugs to lower your blood pressure may shorten your lifespan instead of extending it, according to the results of a University of Florida study.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,1 suggests that when it comes to blood pressure medication, less is more.
This is another example of using drugs to "Band Aid" a health problem without addressing the underlying cause. There is a major difference between achieving a healthy blood pressure number by eating well, exercising and managing stress, versus "forcing" your body to produce that number with a drug.
Drugs promised to be safe have, on many occasions, done more harm than good, yet blood pressure medications join sleeping pills and painkillers as some of the most popular drugs in America.
Be Careful—Blood Pressure Drugs May Backfire On You
The featured study was performed on individuals age 50 and up who had been diagnosed with both type 2 diabetes and CAD (coronary artery disease). The standard hypertension guidelines for diabetics suggest maintaining a systolic blood pressure under 130 mm Hg, but there is little data for the growing number of diabetics who also have CAD. This study aimed at filling that informational gap.
Each person in the study received one or more blood pressure medications (a combination of calcium antagonist, beta-blocker, ACE inhibitor, and diuretic) in whatever combination required to achieve a systolic blood pressure less than 130 mm Hg.
Researchers discovered that tighter control of blood pressure in these patients was NOT associated with better outcomes! The uncontrolled group fared worst, which wasn't surprising. But the group whose systolic blood pressure was held between 130 and 140 actually showed a slightly lower risk of death than the group whose systolic was maintained at the recommended level—under 130 mm Hg. The authors write:2
"In this observational study, we have shown for the first time, to our knowledge, that decreasing systolic BP to lower than 130 mm Hg in patients with diabetes and CAD was not associated with further reduction in morbidity beyond that associated with systolic BP lower than 140 mm Hg, and, in fact, was associated with an increase in risk of all-cause mortality. Moreover, the increased mortality risk persisted over the long term."
Tight Control Group 12.7 percent risk for death Usual Control Group 12.6 percent risk for death Uncontrolled Group 19.8 percent risk for death
Is It 'Pharmageddon'?
This isn't the first time pharmaceutical drugs have backfired. In fact, prescription drugs now kill more people than illegal drugs. Death by prescription drugs is a 21st-century epidemic, now killing even more Americans than motor vehicle accidents.
Drug fatalities more than doubled for teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008, and more than tripled among people age 50 to 69. It's estimated there are 450,000 preventable adverse events related to medications in the U.S. every year, accounting for a substantial proportion of emergency room visits.
In a June 2010 report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, almost a quarter of a million deaths resulted from in-hospital medication errors between the 1976 and 2006, based on a review of 62 million death certificates.
This doesn't include the people who died after taking drugs exactly as prescribed! And when you add in deaths from hospital-acquired infections, unnecessary medical procedures, and adverse surgical outcomes, conventional medicine should top the list of the leading causes of death in the United States.
The Little-Known Connection Between Carbohydrates and Your Blood Pressure
The good news is, the vast majority of you don't need prescription drugs to normalize your blood pressure. In most cases, hypertension can be reversed with a few basic adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.
Are you on a high grain, low fat regimen? If so, I have bad news for you. This nutritional regimen is a prescription for many to develop hypertension. For years I've been advocating avoiding wheat, and this advice is finally making its way into the mainstream. The LA Times just featured an article discussing how wheat (and low-fat diets) contribute to inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, joint pain and many other chronic health problems. Cardiologist William Davis is quoted as saying:3
"Eat more fat. Eat as little grain as possible. Grains don't really belong in the human experience."
This is not new information. Scientific research published way back in 1998 in the journal Diabetes reported that nearly two-thirds of the test subjects who were insulin resistant also had high blood pressure. Insulin resistance is directly attributable to a high sugar, high grain diet, especially if accompanied by inadequate exercise.
So, chances are that if you have hypertension, you also have poorly controlled blood sugar levels, because these two problems often go hand in hand. As your insulin level increases, so does your blood pressure.
Along with excessive carbohydrates, most people are consuming inadequate dietary fats, in terms of both quality and quantity. Contrary to what you've been told, glucose is not the preferred fuel of human metabolism—fat is. And fat doesn't make you fat—excess carbohydrates make you fat. I believe that most people would benefit by consuming around 50 to 70 percent of their diet as beneficial fats. Sources of healthy fats include
Olives and Olive oil (for cold dishes) Coconuts, and coconut oil (for all types of cooking and baking) Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk Raw nuts, such as, almonds or pecans Organic pastured egg yolks Avocados Pasture finished meats Palm oil (make sure it's the eco-friendly variety!)4 Unheated organic nut oils
My Prescription for Achieving Healthy Blood Pressure WITHOUT Drugs
- Replace most of your carbs with non-starchy vegetables and replace the lost calories with healthy fats as mentioned above
- Normalize your omega 6:3 ratio. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are essential for your health. Most Americans, however, are getting too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 in their diets. Consuming omega-3 fats is one of the best ways to re-sensitize your insulin receptors if you suffer from insulin resistance. Omega-3 fats are also important for strong cell membranes and good arterial elasticity. The best sources of omega-3 fats are fish and animal products. Unfortunately, most fresh fish today contains dangerously high levels of mercury. Your best bet is to find a safe source of fish, or if this proves too difficult, supplement with a high quality krill oil.
- Eliminate caffeine. The connection between caffeine consumption and high blood pressure is not well understood, but there is ample evidence to indicate that if you have hypertension, coffee and other caffeinated drinks and foods can exacerbate your condition.
- Consume fermented foods. Disturbances in gut flora appear to be a significant factor in the development of heart disease, as well as in many other chronic health problems. The best way to optimize your gut flora is by including some naturally fermented foods in your diet, such as sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, yogurt, kefir, cheese and natto. Fermented foods (especially gouda and edam cheeses) are an important source of vitamin K2, which plays a crucial role in protecting your heart and brain.
- Optimize your vitamin D level. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to metabolic syndrome, as well as to high blood pressure. Vitamin D is a negative inhibitor of your body's renin-angiotensin system (RAS), which regulates blood pressure. If you're vitamin D deficient, it can cause inappropriate activation of your RAS, which may lead to hypertension. Ideally, you'll want to get your vitamin D by safely exposing your skin to the sun, or using a safe tanning bed. If those are not possible, then consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement.
- Make exercise a priority. A comprehensive exercise regimen such as my Peak Fitness program is very important in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. Your routine should incorporate high-intensity burst-type exercises and weight training one to three times a week, as these have been shown to be even more effective than aerobic exercises at reducing your risk of dying from a heart attack.
- Get Grounded. Lack of grounding, due to widespread use of rubber or plastic-souled shoes, is likely contributing to chronic inflammation today. When you walk on the earth barefoot there is a massive transfer of beneficial electrons rom the Earth into your body. Experiments show that walking barefoot outside improves blood viscosity and blood flow, which help regulate blood pressure. So, do yourself a favor and put your bare feet upon the sand or dewy grass to harness the healing power of the Earth.
- Manage your stress. It's a well-known fact that stress elevates blood pressure, so controlling stress is an essential element of good heart health. My preferred stress-busting tool is Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which is easy to learn and easy to use. However, you might find other methods like yoga, meditation, or prayer, equally effective.
High blood pressure is reaching epidemic proportions in the Western world. Hypertension is best addressed using a natural approach, as opposed to a cocktail of prescription drugs that may actually backfire on you. One study showed that tighter control of blood pressure using pharmaceutical drugs is NOT associated with better outcomes and in fact may shorten your lifespan. Lifestyle changes, with particular emphasis on normalizing your insulin levels, will put you on the safest and most reliable path toward optimal health.