Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

High Blood Pressure, the Heart-And Hope: Are Prevention and Cure Being Ignored Because of a Fascination with Control Drugs?

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

High Blood Pressure, the Heart-And Hope: Are Prevention and Cure Being Ignored Because of a Fascination with Control Drugs?

Article excerpt

(Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Nutrition Health Review, Issue #16.)

We hear the warnings incessantly. They emanate from various "public service" announcements. The pharmaceutical industry also considers it a necessary function to make us .aware of hypertension's many dangers.

More than 25 percent of the population suffers from high blood pressure. Among the elderly, the figure soars to over 60 percent.

These certainly are anxiety-provoking statistics, because we also are cautioned to remember that hypertension is a "silent killer." No one is immune, and symptoms are seldom apparent. The toll is high from a rising rate of degenerative diseases, including stroke, heart attacks, and kidney failure.

Such a high-pitched concern for the public welfare is usually admirable. A few cynical observers, however, wonder why so much emphasis is placed on the use of anti-hypertensive medications rather than other less hazardous alternatives.

Why seek a cure? Control is easier.

A well-meaning, conscientious physician finds himself constantly bombarded under propaganda unleashed by pharmaceutical manufacturers. Predominantly it is in the form of advertisements that appear in the medical journals the doctor receives. Such publications derive their income from ads. Many do not require the doctor to pay for subscriptions. Editorial matter harmonizes with advertising themes. The entire atmosphere is laden with a prescriptive philosophy.

"Detailers," the manufacturers' representatives, also haunt doctors' offices extolling the virtues of their firm's particular anti-hypertensive drug. Textbooks reflect the same orientation. Drug therapy is the treatment of choice.

The subject of prevention is practically nonexistent in medical literature, except for references to the part that salt plays in raising blood pressure among most patients.

Salt is one aspect of diet that no one can ignore entirely. It is too flagrant a villain.

Armed with such knowledge, shouldn't the warriors against high blood pressure clamor for the public's "right to know" - how much salt is poured into the thousands of items that make up the market of food processing?

At present, a food processor need only indicate that salt is among the contents. Whether the percentage is high or low is left to the consumer's imagination. (Taste is not always a criterion - many foods contain both salt and sugar, the latter modifying the former!)

Pills as antidotes to salt

If our diligent doctor has qualms about keeping patients away from the barrage of salt, helpful drug manufacturers are ready with a handy solution: prescribe diuretics.

By the use of diuretic drugs, humans can be purged of their salt-laden tissues quite effectively. Safely? That's another matter.

The innocent-looking pill is capable of squeezing salt and water more efficiently than the body can sometimes tolerate. Too many users suffer the side effects of rashes, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, inflammation of me pancreas, depression of bone marrow, and impairment of kidney function.

What is a busy doctor to do if he has a room full of patients who have heard of these miracle drugs? Urge them to abandon their gourmet way of life? A simple pill can avoid so much hassle.

Consider such attitudes in the scenario recently portrayed on a television public service program:

A diner is about to pour salt on his platter of steak and potatoes. …

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