High Blood Pressure Medication Side Effects
You’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure. You’ve read about the causes. It is sooooo much easier to just pop a pill and control your blood pressure with no read hard changes in your lifestyle.
Don’t cut back on carbs. Don’t exercise. Just take one of the long list of medications available to treat high blood pressure and be done with it.
Every medication has a risk to benefit balance. There will ALWAYS be a price to be paid for the outcome, in this case a lower blood pressure.
In the US alone, medicating high blood pressure is a $93.5 BILLION industry. Billion. With a “B.’
What if this entire industry was, in most cases, a waste of money that causes FAR more harm than good? Before you snub your nose at this idea, make sure you read through this section.
In this section I’ll enlighten you on some of the scary side effects that you may not be aware of. Worse, you’ll find out that in many cases the side effects come without any actual benefits.
Blood Pressure Medication Side Effects: Calcium Channel Blockers and Diuretics
Calcium channels blockers are drugs (think “dipine” or “amil” names) that block the inflow of calcium into cells. This has a wide range of effects, but the important ones for blood pressure involve relaxing the blood vessels and weakening heart contractions.
Another class of blood pressure drugs are the diuretics. These force the kidneys to lose more water, dropping the amount of blood into the circulation. Less blood volume means lower blood pressure.
They go by names like Lasik, hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ for short) and spironolactone.
Every medication has its list of side effects; calcium channel blockers and diuretics included.
But what happens when you combine these two classes of drugs?
Turns out that the combination of diuretics and a calcium channel blocker DOUBLES the risk of a heart attack.
Yes—a heart attack.
One of the very organs we’re trying to protect by lowering your blood pressure with medications.
The problem is that this is a very real scenario since it is quite often that one drug does not provide enough of a blood pressure lowering effect. Also, over time, without the correct lifestyle changes, blood pressure becomes harder and harder to control with a single blood pressure medication.
Blood Pressure Medication Side Effects: Can They Cause Cancer?
As if we didn’t have enough problems with the toxic world we live in. You are unconsciously exposed to environmental chemicals like pesticides, flame retardants and plastics every day.
Many of these are well documented to cause health problems as scary as cancer. (If you’d like to read more on this topic in detail, feel free to read my article on environmental toxins by clicking here.)
Besides these environmental toxins that you may not be aware of, what about the prescription drugs you knowingly take in?
Maybe you assume they are safe and won’t cause cancer.
If this is the case you might be very wrong.
We can start with the easy answer to accept: the drugs were safe but are tainted with cancer-causing chemicals because they were made in a country like China.
This is the case with the massive recall of blood pressure medications in the angiotensin II receptor blocker class (mainly those containing losartan).
It was found that these drugs contained the cancer-causing chemical N-Nitrosodiethylamine. Since it wasn’t really a problem with the medication itself, you can breathe a sigh of relief and continue to take a version of your medication that was not made in China (if you can find it).
But what if it’s the drug itself that causes cancer?
Turns out this is all too true. Some of the major classes of drugs have been definitely linked to cancer. These include the Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs like Benicar and Cozaar and valsartan) and the diuretics.
By now you’re thinking, “well at least I’m safe on my calcium channel blocker (amlodipine or verapamil).”
If you’re a woman, this side effect should make you sit up and take notice.
The first links between calcium channel blockers and began to appear in 1996. It’s taken 17 years for another study to identify a dangerous risk of calcium channel blockers.
Turns out that the use of any type of calcium-channel blockers for 10 or more years increased a woman’s risk of ductal breast cancer 240% and lobular breast cancer 260%.
While this study does not prove that this blood pressure medication contributed to the breast cancers, it certainly doesn’t look good.
In just a little bit, I’ll show you that most blood pressure medication prescriptions have absolutely no benefit. If a drug does nothing for the patient, then ANY side effects of that drug are unacceptable.
Blood Pressure Medication Side Effects: Beta Blockers & Stroke
Anytime I described my background, I typically point out that I try to bring the medical research into my practice TODAY. All too often it may take TWENTY years or more for the research to make it into most doctors’ offices (unless it’s a brand new drug with millions of dollars of marketing behind it…).
Which brings me to the relationship between beta blockers, stroke and diabetes.
I first pointed out this link over a decade ago (2009), when a huge study found a 22% increased risk of stroke and a 15% higher risk of developing diabetes in beta blocker users.
Despite this, I still see patients coming into my office who are on beta blockers like atenolol, metaprolol or propranolol. Even the prestigious Mayo Clinic does not mention this common and dangerous side effect on their beta blocker page, 10 years after the links were published.
This just stresses the importance of a “buyer beware” attitude in healthcare—you NEED to be your own advocate because you can’t be sure your doctor is staying up with the research.
Better yet, stay tuned for the section on the lifestyle changes need to lower your blood pressure without dangerous blood pressure medications.
Blood Pressure Medication Side Effects: Gout
If you ask anyone who experiences gout, they will tell you it’s not a whole lot of fun. Gout is also strongly associated with prediabetes (uric acid levels rise with prediabetes).
The problem is that some blood pressure meds will increase your risk of this painful condition.
Researchers found that calcium channel blockers and losartan were able to lower gout risk, but the story was not so pretty with other blood pressure medications:
• 236% higher risk for diuretics
• 148% higher risk for β blockers
• 124% higher risk for angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
• 129% higher risk for non-losartan angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
Mainstream medicine takes a strong stance on measuring and medicating blood pressure.
However, it remains clear that, in many cases, this can make you worse off.
Blood Pressure Medication Side Effects: Quality of Life
The idea of going to your doctor and identifying health concerns should be to treat these conditions earlier and improve your quality of life.
Why else would you waste your time and money taking medications (for any condition) if it didn’t improve your quality of life?
I’m sure you know where this is going…
Researchers looked at the relationship between blood pressure medications and a patient’s physical and mental health of almost 6,000 people who had an average age of 57.
While this may come as no surprise, the use of blood pressure medications was associated with poorer health status. At the surface, this makes sense; people with poorer health status are more likely to have blood pressure problems.
Health status was the worst in those patients who were on at least 3 to control his or her blood pressure.
Here’s where the data got interesting….The actual blood pressure number was not a factor in health status.
In other words, it was the blood pressure medication and not the blood pressure itself causing the drop in health quality. To drive this home, both lower systolic and lower diastolic blood pressures were also linked to poorer physical and mental health status, regardless of what type of treatment they were receiving.
Blood Pressure Medication Side Effects: Shrinking Your Brain
I’m sure that you feel the same way when I state that I’d like to do anything I can to protect my brain.
As I made clear earlier, high blood pressure over time is bad for your brain. Prolonged high blood pressure puts stress on the blood vessels; this long-term stress leads to blood vessel damage and a reduced ability to deliver nutrients to your brain.
It would then make sense that lower blood pressure would protect the brain. But would you get that same protection from medication as you would from lifestyle choices?
This was just the question asked by researchers looking at almost 3,000 participants to see if certain medications could protect the brain and keep it from shrinking over time.
These 3,000 were put into two groups and some were medicated to reach goals of a systolic blood pressure goal of less than 120 or less than 140 mm Hg (i.e. using more medication).
So far so good.
But after 40 months, brain volume had shrunk 4.4% more in the group getting more drugs for blood pressure.
Given a choice between a bigger brain and a smaller one, I’m choosing the larger one.
I can guarantee that if you make the right choices for your blood pressure your brain will thank you. But using medications to achieve that same outcome will have disastrous outcomes.
Laura Opstad says
This is unbelievable. Thank you for this blog.
James Bogash says
Thanks for the feedback. Glad you liked it. Natural options coming next….