Popular blood pressure drugs may harm health

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High blood pressure is a common issue affecting millions around the world, with nearly half of all adults in the United States—over a hundred million people—diagnosed with this condition.

As the global population ages, the number of individuals battling high blood pressure is expected to rise sharply, reaching 1.56 billion by 2025.

To manage this widespread health challenge, doctors often prescribe a type of medication known as L-type calcium channel blockers.

These drugs are among the most frequently used treatments for high blood pressure worldwide.

However, a recent study conducted by researchers at Penn State University alongside other institutions has raised concerns about these widely used medications.

The researchers discovered that while these drugs are intended to help the heart by managing blood pressure, they might also be causing harm.

L-type calcium channel blockers work by targeting the cells in the walls of our blood vessels. These cells, known as vascular smooth muscle cells, play a crucial role in regulating blood flow.

They do this by either contracting or relaxing, which controls how much blood passes through the vessels. For these cells to function, they need the right amount of calcium, which they get through special channels.

In people with high blood pressure, these channels might let too much calcium into the cells. This excess calcium can cause the cells to change and grow in ways that aren’t normal, a process called “remodeling.”

This can make the walls of the blood vessels thick and stiff, leading to increased blood pressure—the very issue the medication is supposed to treat.

The study revealed that L-type calcium channel blockers could actually trigger this unwanted remodeling process, even as they try to control blood pressure by managing calcium levels.

This paradoxical effect suggests that these drugs might be contributing to the problem they’re meant to solve.

The researchers used advanced scientific tools to study the smooth muscle cells from humans and rats, both in the lab and in live animals. They also reviewed medical records from the Penn State clinical database.

Their analysis showed a troubling trend: patients with high blood pressure who were treated with these calcium blockers had a higher rate of heart failure compared to those taking other types of blood pressure medications.

Given these findings, the researchers recommend that doctors be particularly cautious when prescribing these drugs, especially to older adults and those with severe high blood pressure.

The risks associated with these medications become even more pronounced in patients with additional complications, such as COVID-19, which could worsen the vascular damage.

This study underscores the complexity of treating high blood pressure and the need for careful consideration in choosing the right medication for each patient.

It also highlights the importance of ongoing research and monitoring to ensure the safety and effectiveness of treatments.

The full findings of this study are detailed in the journal PNAS, where the team led by Mohamed Trebak shares more about the intricate relationship between blood pressure medications and heart health.

This research invites both medical professionals and patients to rethink how best to manage high blood pressure, ensuring that treatment does not inadvertently lead to more severe health issues.

If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies that early time-restricted eating could help improve blood pressure, and natural coconut sugar could help reduce blood pressure and artery stiffness.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies about How to eat your way to healthy blood pressure and results showing that Modified traditional Chinese cuisine can lower blood pressure.

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