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Dangers of Blood Pressure Medications

By Mila McManus MD

In medical school, we are taught that 95% of the cases of hypertension (high blood pressure) that we come across are considered idiopathic, meaning that it does not have a known cause. We know there are some obvious contributors to high blood pressure such as stress, being overweight, and taking certain medications, but how can it be that so many people require blood pressure medication for no known reason? From a wellness perspective, most cases of hypertension do have an obvious underlying cause, and that’s diet. The ever-worsening American diet is causing an ever-increasing number of people with high blood pressure. It’s time to reflect on the amount of sugar, alcohol, caffeine, salt, toxins, grains, and allergens you are consuming if you have high blood pressure.

Below is a list of common classes of blood pressure medications and some of the more common side effects of them:

  • Diuretics (“water” pills, e.g., hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide, chlorthalidone).  Diuretics work by flushing excess water and sodium from the body, thus lowering blood pressure. Side effects include:

o   Arrhythmia

o   Low platelets

o   Pancreatitis

o   Low white blood cell count (ie deficiency in immune cells)

o   Glaucoma

o   Excess calcium in the body

o   High blood sugar

o   High cholesterol

o   Diarrhea

o   Headaches

o   Muscle cramps

o   Sexual dysfunction

Due to the nature of how these types of medications work, they cause depletion of numerous nutrients, such as:

o   Vitamin B6 (relating to depression, sleep disturbance, increased heart disease risk)

o   Vitamin C (relating to weak immunity, easy bruising, poor wound healing)

o   Zinc (relating to weak immunity, poor wound healing, altered sense of smell/taste, sexual dysfunction)

o   CoQ10 (relating to various cardiovascular problems, weak immune system, low energy, muscle weakness)

o   Potassium (relating to irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, fatigue, edema)

o   Sodium (relating to muscle weakness, dehydration, memory problems, loss of appetite)

o   Magnesium (relating to cardiovascular problems, including higher blood pressure, asthma, osteoporosis, muscle cramps, PMS)

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These allow blood vessels to widen by preventing the formation of a hormone called angiotensin. Frequently prescribed ACE inhibitors include enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) and ramipril (Altace). Side effects include:
    • Swelling of the head, neck, tongue
    • Abnormalities of blood cells
    • Kidney failure
    • Liver toxicity
    • Pancreatitis
    • Headache
    • Diarrhea
    • Chronic cough
    • Fatigue
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Zinc deficiency which causes weakened immune system, impaired wound healing, altered sense of smell/taste, and sexual dysfunction
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers. These help blood vessels relax by blocking the action of angiotensin. Frequently prescribed angiotensin II receptor blockers include losartan (Cozaar), candesartan (Atacand) and valsartan (Diovan). Side effects include:
    • Chronic cough
    • Upset stomach
    • Swelling of head, neck, tongue
    • Kidney failure
    • Fatigue
  • Beta blockers. These work by blocking certain nerve and hormonal signals to the heart and blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure. Frequently prescribed beta blockers include metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), nadolol (Corgard) and atenolol (Tenormin). Side effects include:
    • Heart failure
    • Fatigue
    • Depression
    • Impotence
    • Cold extremities
    • Dizziness
    • Shortness of breath
    • Vertigo
    • Deficiency of CoQ10 which causes various cardiovascular problems, weak immune system and low energy
  • Calcium channel blockers. These prevent calcium from going into heart and blood vessel muscle cells, thus causing the cells to relax, which lowers blood pressure. Frequently prescribed calcium channel blockers include amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor XR) and nifedipine (Adalat CC, Procardia). Side effects include:
    • Arrhythmias
    • Heart failure
    • Edema (e.g. puffiness/swelling of hands and feet)
    • Headache
    • Nausea
    • Dizziness
    • Asthenia (restless feeling)
    • Constipation
  • Renin inhibitors. Renin is a substance produced by your kidneys that starts a chain of chemical steps that increases blood pressure. Aliskiren (Tekturna) slows down the production of renin, reducing its ability to begin this process. Due to a risk of serious complications, including stroke, you shouldn’t take aliskiren along with ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers if you have diabetes or kidney disease. Other side effects include:
    • Kidney stones
    • Swelling of head, neck, tongue
    • Diarrhea
    • Kidney failure
  • Alpha agonists. (clonidine, brand name of which is Catapres) This class of drug works on receptors in the brain that inhibit the release of norepinephrine, thereby relaxing blood vessels which, in turn, lowers blood pressure. Side effects include:
    • Depression
    • Dizziness
    • Dry mouth
    • Sexual dysfunction
    • Fatigue
    • Ear pain
    • Headache
    • Insomnia
    • Deficiencies of:
        • Coenzyme Q10 (Various cardiovascular problems, weak immune system, low energy)
        • Vitamin B6 (Depression, sleep disturbance, increased cardiovascular disease risk)
        • Zinc (Weak immunity, impaired wound healing, altered sense of smell/taste, sexual dysfunction)
        • Vitamin B1 (Depression, irritability, memory loss, muscle weakness, edema)
  • Alpha blockers. These medications prevent norepinephrine from binding to alpha-1 receptors on smooth muscle surrounding blood vessels, thereby keeping them relaxed, which in turn lowers blood pressure. Examples of this class include terazosin (Hytrin), Prazosin (Minipress), and doxazosin (Cardura). Side effects include:
    • Some research has found that some alpha blockers can increase the risk of heart failure with long-term use
    • Arrhythmia
    • Priapism (dangerous long lasting erection)
    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Fatigue
    • Edema (swelling)
    • Diarrhea
    • Shortness of breath
    • Nausea
    • Dry mouth
    • Blurred vision
    • Excessive urination
  • Vasodilators. (hydralazine). This class of medication directly relaxes the blood vessels by interfering with calcium transport. Side effects include:
    • Inflammation of nerves
    • Headache
    • Lupus
    • Abnormalities of blood cells

Now that you’ve read many reasons to avoid blood pressure medications, here are some alternative methods to consider which can all help to reduce your blood pressure naturally.*

  • Supplements, such as:

o   Magnesium-relaxes smooth muscle cells in blood vessels, thus reducing pressure. Read more about magnesium here.

o   Krill oil-according to writer Tanya Louise Coad in an article on livestrong.com, “hundreds of published studies have shown benefits from supplementing omega-3s for lowering blood pressure”. She further stated that “a study reported in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Food Science found a significant blood pressure lowering effect from krill oil on rats. The researchers extracted a peptide from oil located in the tail section and when they fed it to rats, it produced an immediate drop in the animals’ blood pressure”.

o   Vitamin D- according to an article by Dr. Mercola, vitamin D deficiency increases parathyroid hormone production, which increases blood pressure. Moreover, Vitamin D is also a negative inhibitor of your body’s renin-angiotensin sys­tem (RAS), which regulates blood pressure. If you’re vitamin D deficient, it can cause inappropriate activation of your RAS, which may lead to hy­pretension.

o   Neo40 is a supplement that boosts nitric oxide. Read about it here.

  • Deep breathing exercises

o   Several times per day, and especially when feeling stressed, stop and take 30 seconds to do the following: Sit relaxed in a chair, close your eyes, hold your hands together, picture a happy memory in your mind, and take 4 deep breaths with a 4-count in and 4-count out.

  • EFT
  • Meditation
  • Healing Codes
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake
  • Low carb diet- Insulin depletes magnesium, impairs body’s ability to produce nitric oxide, and causes sodium retention, all of which contribute to high blood pressure. Read Nancy Mehlert’s article about the vicious cycle.

*This information is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Any changes to blood pressure medication should be done under medical supervision.








By |2018-06-28T22:09:12-05:00March 10th, 2015|Articles, General|