I wrote this article for my TCM colleagues, but the info is really for all of you…people who want to be healthier and know your options!
Researchers from the University of British Columbia looked at data from more than 8900 people using four gold standard (randomized placebo-controlled) studies. The subjects all had mild hypertension—systolic blood pressure of 140-159 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure of 90-99 mm Hg. The medications investigated included beta-blockers, thiazide, and thiazide-like diuretics. The studies lasted between four to five years and some patients were taking more than one of these drugs at a time. Compared to placebo groups, there were no measurable benefits in coronary heart disease, cardiovascular events, or mortality. One study showed a trend toward reduced risk of stroke (0.3% with anti-hypertensives vs 0.7% control group).
However, there were significant side effects for those on the drug treatment. Five times more people dropped out of the studies because of adverse events than those taking the placebo and 9% of the drug-treated group experienced negative side effects.
As TCMs, we know that there are effective alternatives to the pharmaceutical approach. Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs dan shen, shan zha, and hou po are examples of herbs that have research supporting their anti-hypertensive potential. Most of us have also witnessed that acupuncture can also lower blood pressure, and the American Heart Association journal also notes the benefits of acupuncture in lowering blood pressure. One of the mechanisms for this may be a lowering of sympathetic response.
Do you know your blood pressure? Ask your doctor, ask me when I see you next, or go to a pharmacy to check it out. Then know your options. One of them may be a TCM treatment.
Am I exaggerating? Sadly, no. But many people are taking this class of medications…NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). You might recognize the names as ibuprofen, naproxen, indomethacin, or celexocib.
“Since the mid-80s, more than 300,000 Americans have died of NSAID complications, and 1.7 million were hospitalized.”
NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal bleeds, actually destroy your joints (though they are often taken for joint pain!), increase cardiovascular risk, and even contribute to erectile dysfunction.
The article details: Healing the NSAID Nation
There are many natural supplements, foods, and treatment alternatives for managing inflammation and pain! Inflammation and pain are major causes of many of the health issues I treat daily. So, if you are taking an NSAID, consider that there are other options!
This is exactly what I say to my patients. Well, maybe not word for word, but certainly exactly this idea, from Frank Lipman, MD:
“Creating balance rather than just treating symptoms
When you are driving your car and the oil light goes on, you don’t cover the oil light and drive on. You take the car to the garage and see why the oil light has come on. Or when the fire alarm in your house goes off, you don’t (or you shouldn’t) take the battery out so you won’t hear the alarm anymore, you look for what triggered the alarm, where the smoke is coming from.
Similarly, when you have a symptom, for instance heartburn or a headache, it is your body’s alarm going off, it is a cry for help. It is telling you something is off, something needs to change, something needs to be done to see why your body is crying out for help. Unfortunately in Western Medicine, what we do is put a band aid over the oil light or we take out the battery to stop hearing the alarm. We suppress the symptom with a drug. For instance, if we have heartburn, we take Nexium or an antacid, if we have a headache, we take Tylenol, for depression, Prozac. When we do that, we think of heartburn as a Nexium deficiency, a headache as a Tylenol deficiency and depression as a Prozac deficiency.
We usually do not look to see why we have that symptom, what is the cause, what are the underlying imbalances. I learnt in Chinese Medicine that a symptom is a pointer to some imbalance in the system, it is telling us that something needs to be done to create balance again. Instead of suppressing the symptom, we try to create balance. Sometimes you do need to suppress symptoms, for instance if you are in a lot of pain, but it is essential to see symptoms as pointers to some underlying imbalance and try to see why your oil light is on.
In this new model of Medicine, we look for the underlying imbalance or dysfunctions and look for the root causes and address those to treat dis-ease rather than automatically resorting to drugs to suppress the symptoms.