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Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure: A Little Known Failure of Conventional Medicine

Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure: A Little-Known Failure of Conventional Medicine


By Heather S. Oliff, PhD

Sadly, millions of Americans who think their blood pressure is under control are wrong! Shocking evidence reveals that most people treated with antihypertensive drugs still have higher-than-optimal blood pressure.1,2 As a result, they remain at a heightened risk of suffering stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.

Because hypertension (high blood pressure) is a multifactorial problem,3 effective management is rarely achieved by taking one drug. In fact, optimal management often requires a broad-based approach that includes both pharmaceuticals and nutritional components, along with regular self-monitoring of blood pressure. Compelling evidence indicates that many conditions that lead to and sustain high blood pressure can be corrected through an integrative approach emphasizing lifestyle modification, pharmaceutical agents, and nutritional support.4-18

Perils of Inadequate Blood Pressure Control

Clinical studies now show that an alarming number of adults under medical care for hypertension are unable to achieve optimal blood pressure control.

According to physicians at the Baylor College of Medicine, only 27% of Americans with hypertension have their blood pressure effectively controlled to levels below 140/90 mmHg.1 Elderly women are at the greatest risk. A study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that in an astonishing 77% of women over the age of 80, hypertension was not sufficiently controlled by the treatment plans designed by their doctors.19 Since optimal blood pressure is now considered to be less than 120/80 mm Hg,20 the number of Americans whose blood pressure is controlled to optimal levels is far lower than these disturbing official statistics suggest.1,19

Inadequately controlled blood pressure exerts a tremendous health burden, invariably contributing to stroke, heart attacks, and kidney disease.2 There are likely numerous contributors to this epidemic of uncontrolled blood pressure. An alarming study from 2002 revealed that many doctors do not recommend treatment to their patients unless blood pressure values exceed 160/90 mmHg . . . a level proven to increase disease risk!1

Another possible contributor to inadequate blood pressure control is that physicians are reluctant to treat older patients aggressively, even though elderly patients are at greatest risk of suffering from hypertension. Clinicians’ reluctance to implement comprehensive treatment plans in their older patients may stem from a perception of lower benefits or greater risk of side effects in this population.21

Furthermore, blood pressure is controlled by a complex interplay of factors that include diet, genetics, response to stress, medications, and other underlying health conditions.3 Thus, enlightened health care practitioners and their patients are discovering that inadequately controlled blood pressure requires a multifactorial strategy. An optimal strategy employs a combination of nutritional and pharmaceutical options to offer a comprehensive approach for normalizing blood pressure.

Limits to Standard Treatment for Hypertension

Standard treatment for hypertension includes lifestyle modifications such as avoiding dietary salt intake and losing weight, as well as the use of various prescription drugs such as diuretics, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiote

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