If you're a post-menopausal woman with mild hypertension, you have most likely been prescribed meds for your condition. Now, in a controversial new study published online in the respected Cochrane Library, researchers have questioned whether the treatment is necessary. They have even suggested that it might be harmful.
"Individuals with mildly elevated blood pressures, but no previous cardiovascular events, make up the majority of those considered for and receiving antihypertensive therapy," wrote lead author Diana Diao of the University of British Columbia and colleagues. "The decision to treat this population has important consequences for both the patients (e.g. adverse drug effects, lifetime of drug therapy, cost of treatment, etc.) and any third party payer (e.g. high cost of drugs, physician services, laboratory tests, etc.)."
In their review of literature on the subject, the authors found "no difference between treated and untreated individuals in heart attack, stroke, and death." In addition, they reported that about 9% of patients treated with drugs discontinued treatment due to adverse effects." In their conclusion, they wrote: "Therefore, the benefits and harms of antihypertensive drug therapy in this population need to be investigated by further research."
According to an article by Jeanne Lenzer, published online in Slate, most of the 68 million patients in the United States with high blood pressure have mild, or Stage 1, hypertension, defined as a systolic (top number) value of 140-159 or a diastolic (bottom number) value of 90-99.
Lenzer also points out that not everyone agrees with the Cochrane review’s conclusions. "William B. White of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and president of the American Society of Hypertension, Inc. says the analysis included too few studies and too few patients to draw any reliable conclusions. He also says the studies were too short to yield meaningful results for patients with hypertension," she wrote.
All of this notwithstanding, however, we at ThirdAge want to remind you that stopping your BP meds without your physician's advice and guidance can be dangerous. You might want to consider asking your doctor his or her opinion about the Cochrane research, but don't discontinue your medication on your own!