Before you reach for your statin medicine, try changing your lifestyle. This was the conclusion researchers at the American College of Cardiology made after finishing their first randomized, double-blind trial of alternative treatments for high blood pressure. Online behavioral therapy, also known as electronic counseling, was proven to decrease blood pressure by 10 points. This was almost double to the benefits received through medication. The new study was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session
Lead author of the study, Dr. Robert Nolan, Ph.D. said, “the electronic counseling (e-Counseling) intervention had an effect similar to that of adding an additional blood-pressure-lowering medication.”
To Pop or Not to Pop? That is the Question
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) annually notes the number of heart-related cases in America and those numbers are not encouraging. There has been an increase in the reported number of cases of hypertension over the last few years. The population that shows a marked increase are adults aged 20-30. These people who are affectionately termed “millennials” may not live longer than their parents if major health advancements are not made.
It was found that more than a third of the American population are currently hypertensive, meaning they suffer from high blood pressure. That translates to around 75 million people affected by this cardiac condition. Of these, only half have their hypertension under control.
The most common treatment for high blood pressure is medication. Pharmaceutical companies have developed synthetic drugs that effectively manage the heart processes. Several studies prove these drugs’ effectiveness at temporarily managing the measurable symptoms of hypertension. Yet these medications are not suitable for long-term use. The same studies that laud their efficacy also caution against prolonged use, the reason being that these medicines are not without their side-effects, the most severe being liver damage. (Follow more news on dangerous medication side effects at DangerousMedicine.com.)
Protect One, Destroy Others
In a paradoxical turn of events, hypertension drugs safeguard the heart while increasing the risk of other organ diseases. Medical professionals consistently advise their patients to regularly check their liver health. Statin drugs are known to affect the reproductive area as well. Men who take the drug are at higher risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction.
The problem, doctors warn, is escalation through compounding. Patients see the positive results of hypertension medicine but then experience other conditions which require more pills. The ripple effect concludes with a person potentially taking more than a dozen tablets every day to treat their multiple symptoms. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that around 60 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug every day.
This leads back to the importance of the new study. Authors say that these results prove that holistic wellness can be an ideal alternative to traditional therapy. Making the necessary lifestyle changes over a period of four months can dramatically change body functions and health. The conclusion still lacks understanding on why merely talking to someone and applying adjustments to one’s lifestyle lead to inconceivable reductions in blood pressure.
Hypotheses include improved mood caused by a lack of stress. Scores of medical studies have associated talk therapy with enhanced well-being. People who have strong social relationships (regardless of type) or have someone they can speak with on a regular basis report general happiness and reduced stress. These people have better immune systems and are less likely to develop heart-related conditions, especially those related to stress.
Dr. Nolan was aware of this and was not particularly surprised by the findings of the study. “In the e-Counseling intervention we tried to replicate the experience of going through face-to-face lifestyle counseling for a year. We made use of what we know from 60 years of research on the effective features of motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy, and we applied those features using the technology that was available to our team.”