According to Dishman (201), high blood pressure (or hypertension) is increasingly becoming a major health problem. According to recent estimates, one in every three Americans suffer from high blood pressure (Dishman (201). Compared to teenagers and children, the incidence of high blood pressure among adults is relatively high.
Globally, estimates show that more than 25% of the world population suffers from hypertension. This percentage amounts to about one billion people living with hypertension around the world. Cumulatively, more than 70 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure (Dishman 202).
Many people perceive high blood pressure to be a “silent killer” because it is often undetected. However, the main challenge for managing the disease lies in its treatment.
For example, many medical experts are undecided regarding the use of drug treatment for high blood pressure. Rhoden (185) warns patients suffering from mild high blood pressure against the risk of developing severe hypertension when they take over the counter (OTC) drugs.
However, some medical experts approve the use of drugs for the management of the disease because drugs offer immense opportunities for decreasing blood pressure. Indeed, proponents of drug treatment cite the importance of drugs in managing blood pressure as a management tool for the disease (Lenzer 7).
Their contribution considers situations when a lifestyle change is impossible to achieve. This paper investigates the truth behind both arguments (for and against drug use) and ends by stating if patients suffering from high blood pressure should take drugs or not. However, first, an explanation for the treatment options for mild and severe high blood pressure provides the framework the understanding of this paper’s findings.
Treating Different Levels of High Blood Pressure
The dilemma witnessed in medicating high blood pressure patients has been mirrored in research studies done by the widely respected, Cochrane Collaboration (Lenzer 3). However, these studies hinge their outcomes on understanding the distinction between “mild” high blood pressure and “high” high blood pressure.
Lanier explains this distinction by stating that “A reading below 120/80 is considered normal, below 95/60 is considered low blood pressure and higher than 140/90 is considered high blood pressure, or hypertension” (Lanier 4).
Lenzer (7) explains that there is a wide discrepancy between the effectiveness of drugs used to treat “mild” forms of hypertension and severe forms of hypertension. His findings revealed a high unresponsiveness to drugs for patients suffering from mild forms of hypertension.
In fact, the studies show a poor response to drug treatment for patients suffering from “mild” high blood pressure because their risk of stroke, heart disease, and death (which are often associated with severe forms of high blood pressure) are constant, despite the treatment (Lenzer 7).
The above research has faulted previous studies, which have promoted the use of drugs for patients with hypertension by citing their weakness in bundling all forms of hypertension into one group. In other words, Lenzer (8) proposes a difference in the effect of drug treatment for patients suffering from mild and extreme forms of hypertension (older research studies proposed a general positive effect for drug treatment on patients with hypertension, without considering the distinction between mild and severe forms of hypertension).
Lenzer (10) also warns against the possibility of a “disease creep” if patients suffering from mild forms of high blood pressure subject themselves to drug treatments (a “disease creep” occurs when patients suffering from a mild disease subject themselves to a treatment plan designed to treat an extreme form of the disease). Nonetheless, drug treatments for patients with severe high blood pressure are successful and efficient.
However, this outcome is best realized when multiple drugs are used (but even in such circumstances, more harm than good occurs because of the side effects of using multiple drugs). Overall, drug treatments for patients suffering from mild hypertension only poses a strong profit potential for drug companies (by increasing the number of patients depending on the drugs) but it does little to improve the overall well-being of the patients.
Advantages of Drug Use
This paper already highlights the negative side effects of drug use for patients with high blood pressure. However, according to Rhoden (177), drug use helps to reduce high blood pressure.
He highlights the reduction in blood pressure (by opening and widening the blood vessels to allow for more blood flow) as one benefit of drugs in reducing blood pressure (Rhoden 178). Indeed, part of the reason for increased high blood pressure is the narrowing of blood vessels, which occurs from several factors (including too much fat deposits in the blood).
Another way drugs reduce blood pressure is by preventing the blood vessels from narrowing so that they remain wide enough to allow for sufficient blood flow (Rhoden 178). Rhoden (178) does not elaborate how drugs achieve such an outcome, but he couples this advantage with the ability of drugs to reduce the heart’s workload. This effect is normally more efficient for patients who develop high blood pressure from obesity and related complications.
Rhoden (179) explains that regular drug use solves this problem because it reduces the heart workload. Finally, Rhoden (271) explains that drugs help reduce blood pressure by reducing the volume of fluids in the blood. Through a reduction in fluid volume, the blood pressure reduces.
Risks of Taking Drugs
Drug treatment methods for high blood pressure group under different levels of medications. However, the most commonly known type of drug medication for hypertension is diuretic drugs (American Heart Association 1). One disadvantage of using this type of drug is the reduction in potassium levels.
However, the American Heart Association (1) proposes supplementary potassium intake as a remedy for potassium loss. Nonetheless, many patients fail to realize that their drug intake reduces their potassium levels and therefore, they fail to supplement their potassium levels (American Heart Association 1).
Albeit uncommon, reports of patients suffering from gout after they have experienced prolonged exposure to diuretic drugs exist. This side effect exposes the danger of drug use for patients with high blood pressure but it barely highlights the risk patients suffering from both high blood pressure and diabetes experience when they use diuretic drugs.
The American Heart Association (1) explains that diabetic patients who use diuretic drugs suffer increased sugar levels when they use the drugs for a long time. However, to remedy increased blood sugar levels, the American Heart Association proposes, “a change in medication, diet, insulin or oral anti-diabetic dosage” (1).
Another side effect for hypertension patients who use diuretic drugs (to treat the condition) lie in the increased chances of impotency that diuretic drugs pose. This side effect rarely occurs but it still adds to the dangers hypertension patients risk when they take drugs.
In an unrelated context, Griffin (1) reports that some types of OTC drugs (such as nosteroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs) may have a severe impact on the wellbeing of patients suffering from high blood pressure. This risk is especially profound when the drugs contain ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and ketoprofen compounds (because these compounds have serious side effects on the patients) (Griffin 1).
However, certain painkillers are considered to have fewer side effects and therefore, they are not considered to be highly dangerous for patients suffering from high blood pressure.
For example, acetaminophen (an active ingredient in painkilling drugs) has few side effects for patients with high blood pressure (Griffin 1). In other words, this compound does not raise the blood pressure. Nonetheless, regardless of the absence of significant side effects for a specific group of drugs, they still have their own side effects (which do not directly relate to the management of high blood pressure).
Therefore, from this understanding, Griffin (1) cautions patients with high blood pressure from taking prescription drugs for more than ten days.
The potential danger of drugs to inhibit blood flow to the kidney is one effect that manifests as a major concern for patients with high blood pressure (the inhibited blood flow to the kidney slows the functions of the kidneys) (Griffin 1).
Therefore, instead of the kidneys filtering blood more efficiently, it is slow to achieve this purpose (consequently, many fluids increase in the blood and the blood pressure increases) (American Heart Association 1). The increased high blood pressure is especially worse for patients who suffer from some form of heart complication.
Research has proved that when prescription drug use is common, there may be a potential complete damage to the kidneys (Griffin 1). This risk begs the question regarding what patients with high blood pressure should do when they have another discomfort (like a headache or a cold). To answer this question, Griffin (1) suggests that safe drugs (like asprin) are safe to medicate such patients.
Since many drug treatment methods have side effects, doctors who have warned against the effects of drug treatment, propose the adoption of alternative treatment methods. This section of the paper concentrates on explaining five alternative treatment methods, proposed by Mayo Clinic (1) to be extremely effective in reducing high blood pressure. One alternative treatment is reducing the body weight and watching the waistline.
The effectiveness of reducing body weight traces its roots from the relation between body weight and blood pressure. Mayo Clinic (1) confirms that there is a positive relation between high blood pressure and excessive body weight. From this relationship, Mayo Clinic (1) proves that reducing even ten pounds of body weight is likely to have a positive impact on blood pressure reduction. Finally, Mayo Clinic (1) explains that body weight reduction also improves the efficiency of drug treatment.
Another alternative treatment for high blood pressure is regular exercising. Regular exercising has enormous benefits. In fact, Mayo Clinic (3) recommends patients to exercise for an hour (everyday) to reduce their blood pressure by about four to nine millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Observing regular exercise is also one way patients with mild high blood pressure can reduce their risk of developing severe high blood pressure (Divine 74).
Divine (74) however warn patients against doing strenuous exercises (say, twice a week) to compensate for other days of the week. Eating a healthy diet is also another medication-free treatment that has a positive effect on reducing blood pressure. Like exercising, eating a healthy diet not only has a positive effect on reducing blood pressure but also on improving the overall health of the patients.
However (concentrating on high blood pressure), it is important to highlight that eating a lot of grains, fruits, vegetables and low-cholesterol foods can reduce the blood pressure significantly (by about 14 mm Hg) (Mayo Clinic 3). This treatment plan defines the dietary approach to blood pressure reduction.
Reducing sodium in the diet is also another treatment plan that has a high efficacy when treating high blood pressure. Indeed, high sodium levels are associated with high blood pressure because even slight reductions of sodium in the diet have a two to eight mm Hg reduction in blood pressure (the recommended level of sodium consumption should be limited to 2,300 milligrams every day) (Mayo Clinic 3).
Lastly, Mayo Clinic (3) advises patients suffering from high blood pressure (and are alcohol consumers) to reduce their alcohol consumption as a strategy to reduce their blood pressure. However, alcohol consumption is a dicey issue for patients with high blood pressure because Mayo Clinic (3) posits that small amounts of alcohol consumption can lower the blood pressure by about two to four mm Hg (this benefit is lost during excessive consumption of alcohol).
Therefore, it is advisable to limit alcohol consumption to small volumes. Comprehensively, the above medication-free treatment methods help to treat high blood pressure without experiencing the negative effects of drugs.
After weighing the benefits and side effects of drug use, there is a clear divide between the pros and cons of drug use for patients who have a high blood pressure. However, since not all drugs have a negative (or severe) impact on patients with high blood pressure, there is a need to distinguish “dangerous” and “safe” drugs. It is therefore improper to state broadly that high blood pressure patients should not take drugs.
Indeed this paper shows that some drugs can be beneficial to the patients and ongoing research shows the ability of drugs to lower blood pressure by widening blood veins, reducing fluid volume, and reducing heart workload (as some of the benefits for drug use among patients with hypertension). Nonetheless, these treatment methods are incomparable to the benefits enjoyed by medication-free treatment methods (alternative treatment methods).
These alternative treatment methods do not only have a positive impact on the reduction of blood pressure but they also have a broad and positive impact on the patients’ health. Furthermore, these treatment methods constitute precautionary measures to prevent the occurrence of high blood pressure (and most importantly prevent the worsening of mild hypertension to severe hypertension).
Therefore, the adoption of alternative treatment provides a way for patients with “mild” high blood pressure can prevent the development of “high” high blood pressure. Comprehensively, drug treatment for patients suffering from high blood pressure is not entirely bad if safe drugs are used, but overall, it is advisable for patients to use alternative treatment options to avoid any possibility of suffering from the severe impacts of drug use.
American Heart Association 2012, Types of Blood Pressure Medications. Web. 28
Dishman, Rod. Physical Activity Epidemiology, Illinois: Human Kinetics, 2012. Print.
Divine, Jon. Action Plan for High Blood Pressure, Illinois: Human Kinetics, 2005. Print.
Griffin, Morgan 2012, High Blood Pressure: Everyday Pain Relief. Web. 28 September. 2012.
Lanier, Jennifer 2012, Difference Between High & Low Blood Pressure. Web. 28 September. 2012.
Lenzer, Jeanne 2012, Have Mild Hypertension? You may not need drugs. Web. 28 September. 2012.
Mayo Clinic 2012, 10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure without Medication. Web. 28 September. 2012.
Rhoden, Chad. Bringing Down High Blood Pressure, London, UK: Government Institutes, 2010. Print.