The Real Normals – Blood Pressure

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I’m an old nurse. Literally. I graduated in 1968. When you spend half a century in the same career, you are uniquely positioned to evaluate the changes that have occurred in the medical field. If you pay attention, you can begin to put things together and identify certain trends. One of those trends is how “normal” health indicators have changed in the course of those fifty years. That is not a good thing – in many cases, what was once considered normal is now considered a disease. And of course, a disease must be treated, preferably with the newest and most expensive medication. While treatment lines the pockets of the drug companies, it often does the patient no good.
Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is very common as one grows older. In a few cases, it is truly a medical issue (malignant hypertension) that must be dealt with. But for many of us, so-called high blood pressure may very well be a normal and even beneficial condition. When I graduated, normal blood pressure was considered your age plus 100. In other words, at age 60, normal was around 160 systolic (the top number in a blood pressure reading). Today, normal is considered less than 120/80 for adults no matter what your age.
Treating High Blood Pressure
Most doctors treat patients who have a blood pressure of 140/90. Treatment “should” be initiated with two blood pressure readings of 140/90, according to the American College of Cardiology. These recommendations are usually based on research performed by the drug companies or by doctors and scientists who are influenced, employed or paid in some way by the drug companies. Conflicting research rarely sees the light of day and the researchers are often viciously attacked for daring to point out the lack of clothes on the emperor’s derriere.
Hypertension Risk
According to the pundits, a 45-year old American who does not have hypertension (based on the current guidelines) has the following risk for developing hypertension within 40 years:
Chinese descent– 84 %
European descent (Caucasians) – 86%
Hispanic descend – 92%
African descent – 93%
In other words, nearly everyone will develop high blood pressure by the time they are 85 and should be treated. For many, that means two or more medications to get the blood pressure “controlled.”
The Problem With Treatment
Lowering blood pressure means less blood (and less oxygen) going to the brain and kidneys. Stand up suddenly and you’re likely to suffer from orthostatic hypotension – in other words, your blood pressure drops suddenly and you become dizzy and might faint. Elderly adults often break bones when they faint. Decrease the blood flow to the kidneys and your waste management system becomes a problem. Eventually, your kidneys can actually fail. Side effects of anti-hypertensive medications include dizziness, dehydration, constipation, electrolyte imbalances, dry mouth, cough and (in men) impotence.
Essential Hypertension
By the way, in all but a very few cases, no one can find any obvious reason for high blood pressure in older adults. This is called idiopathic or essential hypertension. Translation: We don’t have a clue. What if high blood pressure is a natural biological way to ensure the health of the brain, kidneys and other organs in older adults? What if most people don’t really need medication? Almost 60 million people in America are taking anti-hypertensive medication.
Think about it.

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