Polypharmacy (taking multiple drugs at once) is a huge problem among older adults. Especially those taking multiple drugs to control high blood pressure (BP).
But a new study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently found that older patients may not need to take multiple drugs to achieve safe BP levels for their age after all. In fact, it turns out that older people who take fewer drugs do just as well as their over-medicated peers!
I’ll tell you all about that important study in a moment. But first, let’s back up to talk about how my thinking about BP has evolved over the years…
Why I had stopped taking daily BP meds
Last July 4,2019, I documented my experience with discontinuing my daily, generic BP medication amid growing concerns about its safety. (There had been numerous reports of contamination with carcinogens—about which nobody seemed to find any real answers.)
I felt confident making this change because, for one, my BP would really only spike in the doctor’s office, in anticipation of a big debate with my doctor (or his Physician’s Assistant [PA]). And when I monitored it at home, I found it was nearly normal for someone my age. In addition, I had already spent several years adjusting my diet, supplement, and exercise regimen.
Plus, more and more research had begun to show that many older patients with high BP are over-treated and over-medicated. In fact, multiple studies had shown that older patients often do better with moderately higher BP, since it enhances circulation and perfusion of blood, oxygen, energy, and nutrients into the brain, heart, and other tissues. And even when someone does have real high BP, studies had begun to show that it often takes fewer drugs—at lower doses—to get their readings back down to safe levels.
Which brings me back to the new study I just mentioned…
Older adults do just as well on fewer BP drugs
For the new study, researchers followed nearly 600 older men and women, ages 80 years and older, who were taking at least two different medications to help control their BP.
The researchers randomly divided the participants into two groups: a drug-reduction group and a control group. People in the first group stopped taking one of at least two BP medications. The people in the second group simply continued taking at least two BP medications.
Then, the researchers closely monitored the participants’ BP levels over the next 12 weeks.
It turns out, there was very little difference in overall BP control among the two groups during that time period…
In fact, 87 percent of the control group reached the primary goal of keeping systolic BP below 150 mmHg or less. And 86 percent of the drug-reduction group reached this same goal. In other words, for the most part, the folks taking fewer drugs did just as well as their over-medicated peers! Which is always a good thing.
The researchers concluded that some patients may benefit from reducing their drug prescriptions. And that BP goals should be personalized for each individual patient.
I quite agree.
The problem is…this kind of evidence just hasn’t made its way into clinical practices. In fact, I’d wager that most doctors practicing in the United States don’t even know about this latest evidence.
Instead, they’re flying blind, relying on old BP studies from years ago, which didn’t take the effects of polypharmacy into consideration.
In the end, if you’re older and feel like you may benefit from taking fewer BP meds (or lower doses of BP meds), I suggest you look up the study cited at the bottom of this Dispatch and take it to your doctor to discuss.
For the full backstory about why I no longer recommend BP medications, check out the October 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures (“Here’s why I no longer recommend any blood pressure medication”). If you’re not yet a subscriber, sign up today—you won’t want to miss this important report.
P.S. You can also learn about the many safe, effective, natural approaches to protecting your heart, without the use of ineffective and dangerous procedures or drugs, in my Heart Attack Prevention and Repair Protocol. To learn more about this comprehensive online learning tool, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Effect of Antihypertensive Medication Reduction vs Usual Care on Short-term Blood Pressure Control in Patients With Hypertension Aged 80 Years and Older,” JAMA. 2020;323(20):2039-2051. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.4871