There are a lot of hypertension myths floating around out there. Ask any doctor or patient about hypertension, and you’ll get the same answer: It raises risk of heart attacks, strokes, and premature death, and lowering blood pressure saves lives. Increased awareness and treatment of hypertension is considered to be one of modern medicine’s greatest achievements.
What if I were to tell you that for many of the 70 million Americans labeled with hypertension, high blood pressure is not a problem. That the risks of mild hypertension—the type that affects the majority—are overblown and insignificant. That tens of millions are overmedicated with side effect-ridden prescription drugs that do more harm than good. That the $32 billion we spend every year treating mild hypertension is a complete waste. Let’s take a closer look.
Mild Hypertension Myth: It’s NOT a Killer
Another hypertension myth is that it is a silent killer that sets us up for strokes and heart attacks and knocks about five years off life expectancy. Although this is true for patients who have very high blood pressure and/or existing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or kidney disease, the picture is considerably different for mild hypertension, which is defined under current guidelines as 140-159/90-99.
Scientific data published in top medical journals over the past few years makes it clear that mild hypertension does not confer these risks. For example, reevaluation of data from the renowned Framingham Heart Study shows that deaths related to hypertension barely budge until systolic blood pressure reaches 175 and mortality rates climb significantly only above 185. In other words, malignant hypertension is a killer. Uncomplicated mild hypertension is not.
Sixty percent of hypertensive Americans fall into the mild category. Nevertheless, more than half of them are treated with medications. And that’s the real tragedy.
A Big Hypertension Myth Debunked
There is no convincing scientific evidence that treating basically healthy patients with mild hypertension provides any benefits. In a groundbreaking recent study, researchers reviewed all the clinical trials in the medical literature comparing drug treatment of mild hypertension with placebo or no treatment. They found no differences in heart attacks, strokes, and deaths between treated and untreated individuals. But they did find that the drugs caused a lot of misery. Side effects were so common and severe that 9 percent of the study participants dropped out.
The dangers of antihypertensive medications have been recognized for decades. In the March 1993 issue of Health & Healing, I wrote:
The current use of drugs to lower high blood pressure, in my opinion, is insane. Thiazide diuretics deplete supplies of potassium and magnesium, thereby increasing the risk of a heart attack and cardiac arrhythmias. Beta-blockers are notorious for causing impotence, fatigue, and depression. Calcium channel blockers weaken the heart and can damage the liver. This mayhem by drugs is incomprehensible because high blood pressure in the overwhelming majority of cases can be successfully treated with diet and other lifestyle changes.
That was more than two decades ago, folks, and nothing has changed. It’s actually gotten worse as more drugs have been introduced and more side effects uncovered. Physicians today are so focused on numbers that if blood pressure can’t be controlled on one drug, they prescribe two, three, or more. Even then, only 50 percent of patients are able to achieve the elusive, arbitrary goal of “normal” blood pressure.
A Safer, Saner Approach to Treating Hypertension
Antihypertensive medications are America’s #1 drug category in numbers of prescriptions, blood pressure follow-up is the primary reason for doctor visits among adults, and an estimated 30 percent of our public health expenditures go towards treating mild hypertension.
We would all be better served by shifting the focus to safe, natural, proven therapies that not only lower blood pressure but, unlike antihypertensive drugs, also improve multiple aspects of health.
Regular aerobic and resistance exercise, which reduces systolic blood pressure as effectively as many medications, rejuvenates every system in your body. Losing as little as 10 pounds or 5 percent of your total weight provides significant all-around benefits. Relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and neurofeedback reduce stress’s adverse effects on blood pressure, health, and quality of life.
Cutting out high-glycemic sugars and starches lowers blood sugar, lipids, insulin resistance, and other aspects of metabolic syndrome as well as helping to lower blood pressure. Beets, leafy greens, and other nitrate-rich foods boost synthesis of nitric oxide (NO), which dilates and protects the arteries. Adequate protein and fiber are also important, as is countering the effects of sodium with increased potassium by eating more vegetables, drinking Low-Sodium V8 Juice, and substituting regular salt with “Whitaker Salt” (three parts Morton’s Salt Substitute/potassium chloride to one part regular salt).
Powerful Drug-Free Therapies for Hypertension
Magnesium has powerful effects on blood pressure because it relaxes and reduces pressure on the arteries; that 75-80 percent of Americans fail to get the RDA of magnesium is a likely contributor to our high rates of hypertension. Coenzyme Q10 has positive effects on blood pressure and the entire cardiovascular system. Beet juice (dehydrated or fresh), potassium nitrate, Pycnogenol, and grape seed extract boost NO production. We also have good success at Whitaker Wellness with reishi mushrooms and Balance3, a mixture of Chinese herbs.
EECP, which we use at the clinic primarily for coronary artery disease and heart failure, predictably lowers blood pressure. Researchers report that 40 treatments lowered blood pressure by an average of 25/7.5 in hypertensive patients.
We also test for sleep apnea. Jackie M., a patient from Texas, wrote, “I came to Whitaker Wellness to address my high blood pressure. To my surprise, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and was educated on the fact that this is playing a large role in my high blood pressure. Now that I’m using my APAP machine every night, my blood pressure has lowered by 20 points and I’m feeling great!”
Time to Change Direction
Dated, disproven beliefs about mild high blood pressure coupled with other hypertension myths have turned millions of healthy people into patients subjected to a lifetime of medication. Doctors must start telling their patients the truth: There’s little to be gained from treating mild hypertension, and drug therapy is associated with serious side effects. I suspect that if patients were empowered with this knowledge, the health of Americans would dramatically improve.
My Recommendations for Lowering Blood Pressure
Lifestyle factors for lowering blood pressure include diet changes, weight loss, exercise, and stress reduction. Recommended supplements for lowering blood pressure, taken in divided doses are: magnesium 500–1,000 mg, coenzyme Q10 100–300 mg, omega-3s 4-6 g, Balance 3 1–4 tablets, reishi mushrooms 1,200 mg, Pycnogenol 50-100 mg, grape seed extract 75-150 mg, and potassium nitrate 600 mg or beet juice 1-2 cups fresh or dehydrated. To order, call 800-810-6655.
If you have moderate to severe hypertension or existing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or kidney disease, you need to get serious about controlling your blood pressure. Nevertheless, I encourage you to give this natural approach a serious try. To set up a free consultation to learn about treatment at Whitaker Wellness, call 866-944-8253 or fill out this form.