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More Drugs That Kill You

beta blockers, blood pressure drugs, surgeryPeople who receive blood-pressure-lowering drugs known as beta blockers shortly before, and after, having non-cardiac surgery are at higher risk of dying or having a stroke.

Surgery increases your heart's need for oxygen, and beta blockers are commonly given to help reduce blood pressure and heart rate, thereby reducing strain on the heart.

In the study of over 8,300 people, participants were randomly assigned to receive a beta blocker two to four hours before surgery, as well as for 30 days after the procedure, or a placebo.

Compared to those given a placebo, those who received beta blockers were 27 percent less likely to have a heart attack. However, they also had a 33 percent increased risk of dying, and double the risk of stroke.

An estimated 100 million people have major non-cardiac surgery each year, so the finding could have serious consequences. Even if only 10 percent of patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery were given beta blockers, that would mean that 800,000 people died unnecessarily in the past decade.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Would you knowingly trade a slightly lower risk of heart attack for an increased risk of death and stroke? Neither would I. In fact, I doubt that anyone about to undergo surgery would want to take on those odds.

Of course, if you enter a hospital for surgery, you’d be the rare exception if anyone actually explained to you the pros and cons of each pill they expected you to take. More realistically, you’re handed some pills and down the hatch they go, for better or for worse.

Old Treatments Die Hard in Conventional Medicine

And beta blockers are a great example of that.

Beta blockers work by “blocking” the normally stimulating effects of the adrenaline hormone on your heart. They also slow your heart rate and reduce your heart’s need for oxygen when you exert yourself, which means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard.

These drugs have been used for more than 30 years to treat high blood pressure, and they are recommended as the first line of defense in both the United States and international health guidelines.

However, it’s being increasingly suggested that beta blockers are not a good choice for high blood pressure at all. Aside from often being ineffective, they’re known to cause an array of serious side effects including:
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Fatigue, dizziness and weakness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Slow heartbeat and shortness of breath
  • Trouble sleeping
One review published last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology even concluded that “there is a paucity of data or absence of evidence to support use of beta-blockers as …  first-line agents [for high blood pressure].”

And they continue:

“Given the increased risk of stroke, their "pseudo-antihypertensive" efficacy … lack of effect on regression of target end organ effects … and numerous adverse effects, the risk benefit ratio for beta-blockers is not acceptable for this indication.”

Despite this, they are still widely prescribed. In one six-month period in 2007 alone, more than 75 million prescriptions were written for beta blockers, according to data from IMS Health.

High Blood Pressure Can be Treated Without Drugs

The Harvard Health Letter even recently named high blood pressure as one of seven common conditions that can be managed without medication.

It’s worth mentioning also to make sure your blood pressure really is high before you start worrying about it. Blood pressures are extremely variable, and all of the following can cause you to have a false high reading:
  • Emotional stress
  • Smoking
  • Coffee
  • Over-the-counter drugs containing caffeine
  • Decongestants
  • A cold room
  • A full bladder
  • Improper cuff size or arm position 
At least two readings should be taken at each doctor visit (separated by as much time as possible), and three individual sets of readings at least one week apart should be taken before you ever consider taking a blood-pressure-lowering drug. And even then, that should only be in extreme cases.

For the vast majority of you, the following three tips will cause your high blood pressure to normalize quite quickly:

1. Limit grains and sugars in your diet. This will help to normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is essential for good blood pressure. In my experience this is one of the most common reasons why people have elevated blood pressures. High insulin levels tend to drive blood pressures up.

2. Exercise regularly. In some cases, you may need to work your way up to one hour a day. This will also help to get your insulin and leptin levels where they need to be.

3. Manage the stress in your life. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a simple and inexpensive tool that can help you to do this.