How drugs lower blood pressure
Drugs will bring high blood pressure down by an average of 5.5mmHG diastolic (see Measure your Blood Pressure box, below) – but at a cost. They all come with a fairly nasty number of side effects, which is why many people don’t stick to them either. These range from short-term ones like fatigue, muscle weakness and depression, to long-term illness including heart disease and a pre-diabetic state with high levels of insulin and blood sugar. The drugs come in four main types and their mechanisms range from relaxing the muscles of the blood vessel walls to making you pee more. The latest trend is to market a combination of two different types in one, with the promise of even more effective reductions in blood pressure (BP). But if you want to get control of your blood pressure, it helps to have some idea of how the whole system works; that way it’s easier to decide on a treatment plan that’s going to work for you. Unlike the pipes in your domestic plumbing system, your blood vessels play an active role in speeding up or slowing down your blood circulation. Their muscular walls tense and relax all the time. When you’re frightened or exercising you need them to tense and narrow to pump more blood around the body, but then they should relax. When they stay tense for too long the result is high blood pressure – or hypertension.
Understanding Blood Pressure
Blood pressure control is a complex, normally self-regulating system that is partly controlled by the ebb and flow of two pairs of minerals in and out of the cells lining the blood vessel walls. One of these pairs consists of sodium (salt) and potassium; sodium inside the cell pushes the pressure up, potassium inside brings it down. The other pair consists of calcium and magnesium – calcium raises while magnesium lowers. This explains why you’re advised to keep your salt intake down (more sodium raises BP) and why one of the types of drug is a calcium channel blocker (keeping calcium out lowers BP). But it also highlights the way that the two halves of the pairs are largely ignored by the conventional approach. As we’ll see below, getting good amounts of potassium and magnesium ......
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