You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Hypertension is the Silent Killer.” But, how true is that statement? Are you really at risk of a stroke or a cardiovascular event? Are you dying from high blood pressure? Let’s discuss.
I worked in pharmaceutical marketing for many years. Nearly every drug I worked on treated a lifestyle-related illness. The drugs to treat lifestyle-related illnesses are also the most lucrative for Pharma. Hypertension. Diabetes II. Heart disease. Asthma. Anxiety. Depression. GERD. All of these “disease states” are treatable conditions that may not require medicinal intervention. I’m not a doctor and I’m not providing you medical advice here. Yes, if your blood pressure is measured and is off-the-charts high, by all means, bring it down with a doctor recommended prescription pharmaceutical remedy. But, if you are young, and your blood pressure is slightly elevated, know that you may be able to lower it through diet and lifestyle choices.
Were you aware that pharmaceutical companies pressured the Joint National Committee on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC) into lowering the definition of what constitutes hypertension?
The numbers for what was considered normal healthy blood pressure were the same for decades. They were based on the famous Framingham Heart Study. Normal hypertension was systolic 120 over diastolic 80 and anything up to systolic 140 was considered acceptable or high normal.
But, in 2003, the JNC 7 lowered those numbers by five points, both systolic and diastolic to 115/75. Why? Because prescription hypertension medicine is a big money maker for pharma. The wider they cast the net, the more people they can get on a prescription medication. Sometimes two or three. So, your doctor, who is now following the new protocol, will tell you that your blood pressure is elevated – when it’s really within a normal range – and will prescribe medicine to lower it. They even have a new disease state they call “prehypertension.” Like prediabetes, this new condition outlines a protocol for the medical community that sanctions docs to write you a hypertension prescription BEFORE you actually have hypertension! Are you following this? Because I’m having a problem keeping up. And, I know about this stuff.
In the JNC 8, there was pushback on the previous initiative to raise the “normal” blood pressure numbers back up to where they were. But, you may wonder, why would doctors write prescriptions for slightly elevated blood pressure in otherwise healthy people? Because their business model is dependent on your office visits! If you have to come in regularly to be monitored, they get your co-payment and they get paid by the insurance company. Since it is the nurse who measures your weight and blood pressure during your visit, your doctor only needs to spend a few minutes with you, reviewing the blood pressure numbers that the nurse entered in your chart. The doctor writes your prescription and says, “See you again in three months.” Boom! You pay your co-payment. The insurance company gets billed. The doctor gets paid. The drug store gets paid. The drug companies get paid. Win-win for everyone but you – if you really don’t need the drug. Don’t get me started on the side effects. That’s for another article.
So, it‘s a promising sign to me that there is pushback from the medical establishment in overtreatment, if you will, of patients with blood pressure readings at or above 120/80. Even patients who have kidney disease and or diabetes aren’t necessarily protected from advanced disease outcomes by taking medication for hypertension. The data do not support the position that blood pressure medications are saving lives.
If a patient presents with slightly elevated blood pressure, instead of prescribing medication, which comes with nasty side effects, a better tack would be to discuss lifestyle modifications. Untreated sustained high blood pressure leads to increased risk of heart disease and stroke. There are clear risk factors that are easily managed if the patient makes some simple lifestyle changes. In the case of hypertension, a simple 20 minute walk will reduce blood pressure by 5-10 points. I learned this from a doctor who would measure a patient’s blood pressure and if it was elevated, she would instruct the patient to take a 20 minute walk right then and there outside the office. Then she would again measure their blood pressure after their walk and the patient’s blood pressure would indeed be reduced. The 20 minute walk accomplishes two goals. It reinforces the idea to the doctor and the other practitioners who work at the office that exercise reduces blood pressure. More importantly, the patient experiences it firsthand and is now empowered to exercise more.
High blood pressure can also be reduced with the proper diet. Avoid processed foods. Watch your sodium intake. And, increase your ingestion of foods that are natural diuretics. An acupuncturist I know recommends that her patients juice a few stalks of celery daily and drink the celery juice. It reduces blood pressure very quickly. Lemon, ginger, parsley and apple cider vinegar are all natural diuretics. There are many more foods that lower blood pressure listed here.
Another way to reduce your blood pressure naturally is through meditation. The Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique was proven in clinical trials to reduce blood pressure with regular practice. The clinicians could measure the participants’ blood pressure while they were meditating and saw the numbers come down during TM. I have seen live demonstrations of lowered blood pressure of meditators that are wired to display their vital statistics to the watching audience. The American Heart Association (AHA) reported in its journal, Hypertension, that “it is reasonable for all individuals with blood pressure levels >120/80 mmHg to consider trials of alternative approaches as adjuvant methods to help lower blood pressure when clinically appropriate.” Notice that the AHA is still pushing drugs for pharma even when the clinical trial evidence of the success of alternative therapies is right before their eyes.
My own personal experience was that I passed out while exercising two months into the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Once I regained consciousness on the gurney in the back of the ambulance, the EMTs told me that I fainted because my blood pressure was very low. I told them it was impossible as I had hypertension. But, sure enough, my blood pressure was super low. I was able to suspend use of my blood pressure medication because my blood pressure was reduced by the combination of a healthy diet, regular exercise, and daily meditation.
The CDC still quotes the JNC 7 systolic and diastolic determination of what constitutes hypertension. Now that you know that those numbers are inflated and not a good marker of who is really at risk of a stroke or coronary event, don’t you wonder how much skin they have in the game? How much of their health information and patient advice comes to you from the marketers at pharmaceutical companies?
Feel free to comment below. And, then go for a walk. It’s good for your heart!