Most dangerous health risk still ignored

I’ve repeatedly reported on the government’s decades-long, misguided, misinformed and ineffective campaign to control blood pressure. And now mainstream media outlets are catching on. You wouldn’t believe my surprise when I saw the lead editorial in The New York Times on Sunday, September 9, 2012. 

In this case, the “paper of record,” got the record right when it comes to the government’s abysmal efforts on blood pressure, the single leading cause of heart disease, our nation’s No. 1 killer.

The headline succinctly says it all, “Simple Treatments, Ignored: How the health system fails to control high blood pressure.”

You see, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued a damning report about the failure of the government’s campaign to control blood pressure. Yet despite their failure, they’re now launching yet another misguided and ill-informed campaign called “Million Hearts.”

I can’t help but wonder if this is just a weak attempt to deflect criticism and responsibility for their blunders. “A Million Excuses” might be a better moniker for the government’s performance.

The government has wasted billions of dollars on useless research and medical practices during their last disastrous blood-pressure campaign. And it doesn’t take a panel of experts from the National Institutes of Health or fancy statistical footwork to see the terrible dimensions of these failures. The raw data speaks for itself…

There are 67 million Americans with high blood pressure (not really a surprise given the stresses of modern life, especially the stress of today’s economy). But 36 million of these cases are not being controlled. Even though 32 million are getting regular medical “care.” And 30 million of these have health insurance (so it doesn’t look like new health insurance “mandates” will solve this problem either).

Only 31 million (less than half) are actually being treated with therapies that reduce their blood pressure to a safe level.

In some cases, patients had numerous high blood pressure measurements recorded in their medical charts. Yet nobody treated the condition. Or even told them about it!

In other words, doctors are ignoring the single most important, most treatable, most dangerous medical problem of our era.

There is nothing more important—nor more treatable! So, why are the American people not being treated?

I also warned you about this huge problem with the very first series of Daily Dispatches I sent out in June. Again, as the editorial says, “This is an abysmal record for a condition that is easy to detect and treat.” And as I’ve said before, “mostly because overburdened doctors did not give hypertension high priority.” 

Despite all the misplaced emphasis in government programs and healthcare practices, this problem should be easy to solve. According to the editorial, in Northern California, Kaiser Permanente doubled the percentage of patients whose hypertension was brought under control—from 44 to 87 percent—in less than a decade.

As a result, they also reduced strokes by nearly half, overall heart attacks by one-quarter, and serious heart attacks by nearly two-thirds.  

And just as I recommend, the editorial points out, “There is little doubt that drugs are beneficial in treating patients who have severe cases of hypertension (a systolic blood pressure of 160 or more).”

Even the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a group of independent health experts that advises the CDC and other government health agencies, has found good evidence that treating high blood pressure with medication would decrease heart disease while causing few major problems.

Of course, I still recommend you choose the right kind of medication. And for overall prevention and long-term management of heart health, there are other proven key natural and alternative therapies to consider as well (salt restriction is NOT one of them).

By the way, just one more important  point … Please don’t let the “natural know-it-alls” mislead you with irresponsible claims that you can control blood pressure without ever using medications. High blood pressure is a deadly threat that must be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. While I believe strongly in natural approaches to health, I don’t believe in irresponsible medicine. One must address immediate risks first, then focus on the bigger-picture, long-term solutions.