Thursday, 25 March 2010

Variable Blood Pressure Now Thought to Increase Risk of Stroke

In a series of studies published by “The Lancet”, researchers from both the UK and Sweden examined the effect of the month-to-month variability of blood pressure on stroke risk.

This research suggests that the extent of fluctuation is a bigger predicator of risk than the average figure … which flies in the face of guidelines followed by GP’s for decades!

The leader of this research, Professor Peter Rothwell of the Department of Clinical Neurology at the University of Oxford, believes that these findings now have “major implications” with respect to how GP’s identify and treat those most at risk of stroke.

Up until now numerous patients monitoring hypertension from home would report to their GP’s that their blood pressure was “all over the place”. This was considered not nearly as serious as the magnitude of their average reading taken each month.

In fact, guidelines suggest a one-off fluctuation should be discounted and treatment indicated only when consistent hypertension has been measured. People with so-called episodic hypertension are often not treated according to Joe Korner, director of communications at the Stroke Association (UK).

As a result of these findings, we now may have a keener appreciation of the damage caused to blood vessels by fluctuations of blood pressure over many years.

It is well established that some medications increase the extent of fluctuation (and therefore the risk of stroke) more than others … and that patients routinely report variations by as much as 20-30 mm of mercury per month!

Interestingly enough, beta blockers used to control hypertension are unpopular because they make people feel tired. Now this family of medications has been shown in a separate study by “The Lancet Neurology” to increase blood pressure variations more than other protocols.

Perhaps even a sick, tired, over-medicated body still has the ability to sense that such interventions are counter-productive to health?

Guidelines related to stroke risk and the relationship with blood pressure are up for review in the UK in the next few months and the Stroke Association is calling for these national benchmarks to be overhauled as a result of these new findings.

But here’s what I find so sad …

In all the discussion I have seen related to this, not one word has been uttered about natural alternatives to blood pressure medications.

Doctors around the world routinely document cases where patients respond favorably to less conventional protocols such as medically-supervised fasting combined with diet and lifestyle changes.

Why do these cases not receive the attention they surely deserve?

Instead, the resounding takeout from these findings has been to keep the blinkers on and give drugs that produce the most steady blood pressure levels.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation notes with caution that current practice is not “wrong” but he does acknowledge that this may indeed impact the way doctors identify candidates for treatment and the drug protocols that are prescribed.

I understand that medical science is constantly advancing and cannot possibly have all the answers. But what I don’t understand is why the conventional medical community won’t accept this.
Their arrogance and single-mindedness costs lives and causes untold suffering, yet we still hold them in such high esteem. Why won’t they think outside the box?

Surely in the interests of broader public health, medical research should be focusing on ways to wean people off drugs, not just finding the “perfect” drug?

Until this culture changes, people will continue to get sicker.