Do Blood Pressure Drugs Actually Work?

May 05, 2014

BP Cuff By Dr. Marc Bubbs, ND

Did you know that in today’s workplace, one out of 4 people has high blood pressure? That’s right, twenty percent of North Americans are suffering from high blood pressure and its many associated health risks. In clinical practice, I commonly see patients on anti-hypertension or blood pressure lowering medications who have mild to moderate hypertension to control their high blood pressure. For decades doctors have been prescribing this treatment to prevent heart attacks and reduce you overall risk of death. Sounds reasonable… but does it actually work? A recent study in the prestigious Cochrane Review medical library sheds new light on this question, and its findings may surprise you.

Before we get into the details, let’s do a quick blood pressure review. The gold standard normal reading for blood pressure (BP) is 120/80mmHg. If you have a reading of greater than 130/85mmHg, this is considered ‘pre-hypertension’ and which means you need to start thinking about lowering your BP. A diagnosis of hypertension comes at two levels; Stage I hypertension begins at a reading of greater than 140/90mmHg, and Stage II greater than 160/100mmHg. Your GP will typically give patients in the pre-hypertensive stage 6 months to lower their levels with diet and exercise before initiating medication. If you fall into the Stage I category, your doctor may only give you 3 months before wanting to initiate treatment

Now, back to the aforementioned study. The goal of the study was to examine the effectiveness of blood pressure medications on people with mild to moderate hypertension, which means people with Stage I hypertension. The researchers reviewed 4 different studies that lasted more than 1 year in duration and comprised almost 9,000 individuals.

The results showed that compared to placebo (eg. doing nothing at all) people taking blood pressure lowering drugs for 4-5 years had no reductions in mortality, no reductions in heart disease, no reductions in stroke, and no reductions in heart attacks! That’s right… the latest in medical research does NOT actually show any improvements in people with moderately high blood pressure who are taking these medications. However, they did report plenty of adverse effects, such as;

  • Kidney damage
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of essential minerals magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron
  • Digestive disorders
  • Elevated triglycerides (blood fats) and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Anemia

Remember, the best ways to control blood pressure are through diet, exercise, and targeted supplementation (if needed). The risk of BP drugs is too high and the benefits – based on the latest research – too low to support using these drugs with people suffering from mild to moderate hypertension. If you are currently taking medications to control your BP then talk to your doctor about these recent findings, or contact us to find out how you can take control of your health.



Diao, D et al. Pharmacotherapy for mild hypertension (Review). Cochrane Database. 2012. Issue 8

Dr. Marc Bubbs N.D. has been working with athletes and active people for almost a decade. As a Naturopathic Doctor and Strength and Conditioning Coach, Marc focuses on the integration of health and exercise, believing that movement is the best medicine. He focuses on a holistic approach, using a combination of traditional Eastern and cutting-edge Western medicine to meet his client’s health and performance goals. Marc spent several years working in London, England as a personal trainer and strength coach for business executives and competitive athletes. He currently works as a sports medical consultant at Laylor Performance Systems and Canada Basketball. Dr. Bubbs practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

main image via flickr

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