Is the price you pay for lower blood pressure really worth it?
If you are one of the millions of Americans who are currently taking medication for high blood pressure, I have some good news.
You might be able to reduce the amount of drugs you’re taking or gradually do away with them altogether.
Now, you could be thinking, “Why would I want to stop taking blood pressure medication? It’s not very expensive and my doctor told me to take it, so what’s the problem?”
While taking drugs may ease symptoms of high blood pressure, it does not correct the underlying issue that is causing the problem to begin with.
If you have high blood pressure (sometimes called hypertension) and you’re not willing to change your lifestyle to lower it, then you will be taking drugs – and dealing with the complications – for the rest of your life. It’s really that simple.
And in most cases, it’s completely unnecessary. Here's why.
Problematic Side Effects of BP Drugs
You must be aware that all prescription drugs have side effects, and the medications used to lower blood pressure – diuretics, beta-blockers, and ACE inhibitors – are no exceptions.
There are several types of diuretics, and they are sold under many different names, including hydrochorothiazide, Lasix (furosemide), metolazone, Diamox, Naturetin, HydroDiuril and Exna, to name just a few.
Diuretics, also known as water pills, are usually prescribed as first-line treatment and help lower blood pressure by encouraging the body to eliminate salt and water through the urine.
Diuretics’ side effects, which tend to be more problematic for older people, can vary, but generally they include:
- Loss of essential minerals
- Kidney damage
- Erectile dysfunction
- Digestive disorders
- Elevated triglycerides (blood fats) and LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Vision problems
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Sensitivity to sunlight
Now, let’s look at just one of those side effects – mineral loss – to see what it means to your health.
The Dangers of Mineral Loss
Your body must have minerals to function. Yet most diuretics flush some of the most important ones from your system, including potassium, which we believe the loss of potassium is the most serious problem caused by diuretics.
Potassium performs very important functions in the body, including transmitting electrical impulses in the heart to maintain regular rhythm. In addition, it has repeatedly been shown to lower blood pressure, assist neuromuscular functions, and maintain healthy levels of water and acidity in the body.
If a blood test reveals that you are low in potassium, your doctor might prescribe potassium-sparing diuretics, such as Aldactone and Midamor. But these can be risky for individuals with kidney disease. And they definitely are not appropriate for those who already have high levels of potassium in the blood, since too much potassium also presents health risks.
If your blood levels of potassium aren’t being regularly monitored, you won’t know that there’s a problem until you develop a symptom like muscle cramps, weakness, or an irregular heartbeat.
If you do have high blood pressure, we also suggest you avoid two popular herbal remedies: ginseng and licorice root.
Ginseng can make heart arrhythmias worse, and it elevates blood pressure.
Meanwhile, licorice root, which is often taken for digestion, can raise blood pressure, cause a drop in blood levels of potassium, and worsen an irregular heartbeat.
Don't Cut Out Salt—Refine It
“Eat less salt” has become the mantra of mainstream medicine when it comes to high blood pressure.
But does it work?
The results of the studies on the matter aren't exactly definitive. Restricting salt may help salt-sensitive individuals lower their blood pressure a bit, but it’s not a remedy that works well for most.
That said, there is one very good reason to give up ordinary table salt – it lacks beneficial minerals, especially potassium and magnesium. These are both needed to maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce your body’s acidity.
That is why we encourage our readers to use healthier types of salt.
Look for unrefined products labeled sea salt, Himalayan salt, or Celtic salt, to name a few. These types of natural salt can contain more than 90 different trace minerals that support various bodily functions.
There are also enhanced salt products available. Sometimes called “lite” salt, these products include added minerals, like potassium or magnesium. These products all cost a little more than conventional refined salt, but they are well worth it, in our opinion.
Look Out for Iodine Loss
While we strongly encourage our readers to replace ordinary table salt with more beneficial products, there is one concern you should be aware of – iodine deficiency.
A trace mineral, iodine, keeps your thyroid functioning properly. As with any nutrient, it’s important to get the right amount, and that is especially true of iodine.
Both too much and too little iodine can cause low thyroid problems, known as hypothyroidism or, if you already have a low thyroid, it can make the condition worse.
Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Fatigue or weakness
- Memory problems
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain
- Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
Since most ordinary table salt is fortified with iodine, replacing it with a healthier alternative means you’ll be getting less iodine. That could leave you vulnerable to heart disease, certain types of cancer, and depression.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of iodine is 150 mcg (micrograms). The easiest way to make certain you’re getting enough is to purchase a multivitamin containing iodine, like Newport Natural Health's LifeMax Multivitamin.
The nutrient is also found in several types of seaweed and seafood, which is good news for sushi lovers!
Other Side Effects to Watch For
Oftentimes, a drug’s side effects won’t kick in for weeks, or even months, after you start taking the medication. So it’s quite common for people to fail to connect the dots and not realize that the symptoms are linked to the medicine.
It's also common for some patients to develop a tolerance for diuretics, making them less effective. If you do develop diuretic resistance, your physician might ask you to drink less water and reduce sodium intake even further than you already have.
It’s likely you will also be told to avoid pain-relievers in the category known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
In fact, if you have high blood pressure, there are several over-the-counter medications that you should use sparingly, since they either raise blood pressure or make blood pressure medication less effective.
Taking NSAIDs regularly, for example, can cause damage to the kidneys, which, in turn, boosts blood pressure.
Similarly, over-the-counter cold medications containing pseudoephedrine shrink the body’s blood vessels, elevating blood pressure.
Getting Off Medication is a Process
Unlike some medical conditions, high blood pressure can be controlled without drugs and their harmful side effects.
Among the natural remedies for high blood pressure that could replace your blood pressure medications in time are ingredients like:
- Magnesium (suggested dosage: 350 to 500 mg daily)
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) (suggested dosage: 100 to 200 mg daily)
- Omega-3 fatty acids: (suggested dosage: 2 to 4 grams daily)
- Vitamin D (suggested dosage: 1,500 IU daily), and
- Calcium (suggested dosage: 1,000 to 1,500 mg daily)
That may seem like a lot of nutrients, but be aware that many Americans are deficient in some or all of these substances, and even the healthiest diet might not provide sufficient amounts.
If you are currently taking medication, however, do not stop suddenly without speaking to your physician.
Keep an eye out for potential side effects mentioned above, and work with your doctor to monitor your progress and guide you through the process of replacing medications with more natural ingredients.
Together, you can put an end to the side effect insanity.
Take good care.
Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Last Updated: August 15, 2020
Originally Published: July 9, 2013