This is Part 2 of Blood Pressure : what drugs are you on? Suffice to say, the list of drugs for high blood pressure is extensive so I am just covering what I consider to be the most commonly prescribed.
In part one of this article, diuretics were described along with their extensive side effects. The next most common BP drugs would be CCBs (calcium channel blockers) and ACEIs (angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors) which we will look at in this part. But first, another story from Dr Carolyn Dean.
Dr Carolyn Dean is stunned!
I first found out about the merits and miracles of magnesium (Mg) when I came across the book The Magnesium Miracle by Dr Carolyn Dean M.D., N.D.
This short story is enough to make you laugh and cry at the same time, but in fact, it is not funny! On page 96 of The Magnesium Miracle, Dr Dean explains what happened when she visited an internist friend of hers. She describes him as prescribing “recipe medicine” for his high blood pressure patients.
Sitting in on a consultation
He invited her to sit in whilst he consulted with one of his patients. This patient was an overweight, highly stressed newspaper reporter. He was suffering from seemingly unmanageable high blood pressure despite being on a plethora of BP drugs. The patient said he was becoming very depressed and was concerned about his serious blood pressure problem.
A serious side effect
Dr Dean recognised that the medication he was on could cause depression, especially as it didn’t seem to be improving his high BP. She also considered that the patient may be impotent, a common symptoms of many BP drugs. He did in fact confirm that he had been suffering from impotence since taking the drugs but had put it down to his stress. Dr Dean also asked about the patient’s diet as he was considerably overweight. Her doctor friend admitted that he had not given the patient a diet plan but had advised him to lose some weight.
Then she suggested that magnesium may be of benefit as this mineral excels as a natural antihypertensive, a muscle relaxant, anti depressant and anti anxiety mineral as well as a sleep aid.
And the answer!!
Her doctor friend stunned her with his next remark. He said that if the four different kinds of antihypertensive drugs didn’t help, he would add magnesium and it always did the trick!! She said that only her professional courtesy kept her from shouting “Why not prescribe magnesium first, before all the other drugs with their nasty side effects?”
Other BP medications
I covered diuretics in part one of this article so let’s look at two other common medications for hypertension:
Calcium Channel Blockers
So your medic has given you a hypertension drug known as a CCB (calcium channel blocker). Does your doctor actually know what a CCB does within the body. If he does, he should not be prescribing a CCB but a Mg supplement instead. He has no excuse whatsoever not to bypass this drug and give you a Mg supplement, which will do exactly the same job as a CCB but with no side effects. There must be another reason?
Mg controls Ca
If he does know what a CCB does, then he should know that Mg controls the ‘channels’ to our cells, allowing Ca into the cells only when the body needs it and ushering it out when the task it done. Without Mg, Ca can flood and stay in the cell and cause cell death. This doctor will surely prescribe a good quality Mg supplement instead of a CCB with all its side effects?
A possible reason why he won’t
My guess is that your doctor has no idea how important Mg is. Even if he does, he would still prefer and be encouraged to prescribe a drug. He could also be reprimanded for NOT prescribing the pharmaceutical’s hypertension drugs. That could be why he won’t prescribe a natural mineral which will do the job cheaply and without repercussions and with the added bonus of enhancing the general health of the patient at the same time. (With Mg you can also eat as much grapefruit as you like!!)
Side effects of CCBs
- Low blood pressure
- Slower heart rate
- Drowsiness & fatigue
- Swelling of feet ankles and legs
- Increased appetite
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Tenderness or bleeding of the gums.
- Sexual dysfunction (ED)
- Weight gain
- Breathing difficulties (shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing)
- Skin rash or hives
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- (Certain CCBs interact with grapefruit products)
ACE Inhibitors (angiotensin converting enzyme)
There is an enzyme known as ‘bradykinin’ which is a peptide (consisting of 9 amino acids), that dilates the arteries and decreases blood pressure. ACE inhibitors increase bradykinin by reducing its degradation therefore further lowering blood pressure. This seems to be an efficient way of reducing high blood pressure but it comes at a price. As with all drugs, there are side effects, some of which can be serious.
Side Effects of ACE Inhibitors
- A dry cough that refuses to shift
- Drug Induced Angioedema: a swelling in the throat, tongue and face which can happen suddenly and cause suffocation by blocking the airways
- Diminished kidney function exacerbated by taking ACEs together with diuretics and/or NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
The last two symptoms can be very serious and treatment is needed immediately.
Dr James R Roberts, who is the director of emergency medicine at Mercy Philadelphia Hospital in the US says that there is around one case per week of ACE related angioedema, some proving fatal. He says the condition is a “silent epidemic that is not appreciated by the public or by many doctors”. Taking ACE inhibitors with diuretics and/or NSAIDS he describes as a ‘triple whammy’ which increases the risk of kidney damage significantly.¹
If you are planning a family or are already pregnant, the FDA has issued a warning about taking ACE inhibitors before or during pregnancy. This comes after a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows higher birth defects in babies born to women taking ACE in the first trimester of pregnancy. It is already known there is a risk of birth defects when taking this drug later on in pregnancy but the study suggests that the risks may start earlier than previously thought.
This new study looked at ACE inhibitors in general and did not mention specific drugs but here are a few examples of ACE inhibitors:
‘Black Box’ Warning
A black box notice is the FDA’s strongest warning, is attached to ACE inhibitors alerting about possible birth defects when taking these drugs during pregnancy.
A spokesperson for the FDA says “The reason for that is that we’ve known for at least a decade, if not longer, that these drugs, when exposure occurs in the second half of pregnancy, are associated with abnormal kidney functions in infants, as well as sometimes abnormalities of the kidney anatomy itself”.
Remember in the list of side effects for the patient, abnormal kidney function was a possible problem with these ACE inhibitors. It would appear that the unborn child could also suffer the same side effect.
Part 3 of this article will be dealing with ARBs, similar drugs to ACE Inhibitors, and Beta Blockers.
1. Roberts JR, Lee JJ, Marthers DA. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor angioedema: the silent epidemic. Am J Cardiol. 2012; 109(5):774-775.2.