The Health Corner Vol. 61 – Blood Pressure V

To date, we have discussed a general overview of blood pressure and blood pressure medications such as diuretics, beta blockers, and ACE inhibitors. Now I would like to discuss the most deadly of all the medications used for high blood pressure, the calcium- channel blockers.

Calcium-channel blockers are designed to slow the movement of calcium into the smooth-muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels by blocking its movement across cell membranes. This action suppresses muscular contraction, which dilates the arteries and reduces resistance to blood flow. This weakens heart muscle contractions and dilates blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure. Because these drugs also slow nerve impulses in the heart, they are often prescribed for arrhythmias.

Calcium-channel blockers are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the modern world. The annual cost of blood pressure treatment with these drugs, which are taken daily, ranges from $740 to $990, which is much more expensive than treatment with a diuretic that costs only about $60 a year. Although that is ‘good’ business for the pharmaceutical industry, I do not believe it to be in the best interest of the patient.

The treatment of blood pressure using calcium-channel blockers causes 85,000 unnecessary deaths each year. The reason is simple. Calcium-channel blockers cause heart failure, heart attacks, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and reduced white blood cell count (causing one to be more susceptible to infections). Another common and deadly possibility is their interaction with other drugs, which can lead to any of the above disasters.

The most important study to date on calcium-channel blockers is the Wake Forest University School of Medicine research. This report was presented at an international cardiology meeting in Amsterdam in 2000 by Curt Furberg, MD, Ph.D., a professor of public health. According to the report, these very popular drugs may be responsible for an excessive number of heart attacks and cases of heart failure. It appears that they don’t even prevent the cardiovascular complications of high blood pressure. In fact, it seems they are more prone to cause complications instead. Calcium-channel blockers lead to about 40,000 ‘unnecessary or excess’ heart attacks in the US each year and about 85,000 such tragedies worldwide, said Marco Pahor, MD, the professor of medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the head of the research project. Dr. Pahor’s research team found that people taking long-acting calcium-channel blockers had a ‘27% higher risk of heart attack and 26% higher risk of congestive heart failure than did persons taking diuretics, beta-blockers, or ACE inhibitors’. And the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has reported that these drugs cause cancer in test animals.

The other side effects of calcium-channel blockers are headache, dizziness, edema, heartburn, palpitations, constipation, abnormal dreams, anxiety, confusion, light-headedness, drowsiness, jitteriness, nervousness, psychiatric disturbances, weakness, blurred vision, disturbed equilibrium, epistasis (suppression of a secretion or excretion as in menses), tinnitus, cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, bradycardia, chest pain, hypotension, loss of consciousness, tachycardia, anorexia, dry mouth, taste disturbances, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, urinary disturbances, sexual dysfunction, dermatitis, erethema multiforme (redness of the skin generally of the face, neck, legs, forearms, and backs of the hands and feet), increased sweating, photosensitivity, pruritis/urticaria, rash, gynecomastia, hyperglycemia, anemia, leucopenia, thrombocytopenia, weight gain, joint stiffness, muscle cramps, paresthesia, tremor, and gingival hyperplasia.

To me, this list denoting potential disaster is the clincher. I would rather take my chances with supposed high blood pressure than subject my body to such devastating effects. Fortunately, there is a better, safer, and foundationally more effective way…

In my next article I will discuss the alternative measures which can be taken to help lower blood pressure, if necessary.

Until then, here’s to your good health.

Dr. Jon R. Link