Are Doctors Prescribing Unnecessary Medications?
- May 30
- Evans & Herlihy
- Personal Injury
Do you need medication to control your blood pressure? According to Consumer Reports, the answer depends on whom you ask.
Blood pressure consists of two measurements – systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. The normal systolic pressure range is 90 to 120, and the normal diastolic range is 60 to 80. Consumer Reports says that the American College of Physicians recommends blood pressure medications for people age 60 and older only if systolic pressure is above 150, whereas the American Heart Association advocates blood pressure medicine when systolic pressure exceeds 140.
High blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol levels increase one’s risk for heart attack and stroke. When LDL cholesterol levels are high, doctors may recommend a drug called a statin. However, statins can cause Type 2 diabetes. And medications used to treat blood pressure can make people ill, with side effects that include persistent nausea and diarrhea. So doctors must weigh the potential benefit of such medications against the negative consequences.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure may have some genetic component, so people whose parents had high blood pressure may be predisposed to that condition. However, lifestyle may be an even more important factor. Smoking and unhealthy eating habits are known to increase the risk of heart disease, and those habits may be prevalent among some families.
Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser recommends people not take blood pressure or cholesterol medicines unless their 10-year risk of stroke or heart attack is greater than 7.5 percent. An online calculator allows people to calculate their risk, based on their gender, age, ethnicity, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and history of diabetes, hypertension, and smoking.
With a risk lower than 7.5 percent, lifestyle changes alone could be enough to bring cholesterol levels and blood pressure within normal ranges.
Doctors often recommend patients try a diet called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The diet aims to control the intake of sodium, which is known to increase blood pressure. Its other key components include daily amounts of:
- Grains – 6 to 8 servings
- Vegetables – 4 to 5 servings
- Fruits – 4 to 5 servings
- Dairy – 2 to 3 servings
- Lean meat/poultry/fish – 6 or fewer servings
- Fats and oils – 2 to 3 servings.
DASH recommends 4 to 5 weekly servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes (such as beans or peas) and recommends limiting sweets to 5 servings per week. Moderation of alcohol consumption is also part of the DASH diet.
Exercise and Heart Health
The Mayo Clinic says that exercise, in some people, is just as effective as medication in lowering blood pressure. But exercise must be consistent to have a positive impact on blood pressure.
With regular exercise – about 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per day – it takes about three months for high blood pressure to begin returning to normal ranges. People who have a history of smoking, are obese, who haven’t been exercising regularly, or who have a chronic health condition should consult a doctor before engaging in regular aerobic or weight-training exercise.
Medications are necessary for some people with high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but many patients may benefit from a conservative approach to treatment that emphasizes diet and exercise.