January 15, 2015

Back on Blood Pressure Pills: Feeling Good... Even Though I Was Wrong!

My anti-meds arsenal                                                     My lisinopril

This is the fourth post in my five-part series about getting 2015 off to a good start -- with a new medical team... and with a resolution concerning my primary health concern from last year. That big trouble in 2014 was my blood pressure (BP) roller coaster ride, in which my systolic number could vary from above 200 to below 60... all in the same day.  

It was scarier than the Space Mountain ride in Disneyland Paris:

My new medical team agreed that the BP trouble had two causes: 
  1. I was seriously overdosing on levodopa.
  2. I had exacerbated the problem by discontinuing my blood pressure pills.
Yesterday, I discussed the levodopa overdosing. Today, I'll reluctantly describe my battle against BP meds.

Pills and Me
My best drinking buddy who knew me well often said I wasn't happy unless I was tilting at a windmill. He was right. Throughout my life, I've taken up causes -- which is fine -- but all too often I've overdone it.

Here we have an example. One of my big concerns these days is the overuse of pills -- supplements and prescribed meds -- by patients and doctors. "Less is more" is a favorite mantra whenever I write about medications.

So when I came across Armon Neal's book Are Your Prescriptions Killing You?, it became my bible. The author is a board-certified geriatric pharmacist who has been counseling older patients and their caregivers on the safe, effective use of medications for over 40 years.

I was intrigued by his chapter on the widespread use of statins to control cholesterol, and by Neel's warning that people over 60 should "stay away from statins at all costs." I'd been using Lipitor for decades. After lots of research, I decided to stop taking the statin Lipitor: http://bit.ly/Px35TH.

That was in July, 2012. My cholesterol has been fine since then: http://bit.ly/1s4sC5j

Blood Pressure Pills and Me 
I've taken a BP med longer than a statin. While I ditched the statin over two years ago, I stuck with my blood pressure med until last April. 

New guidelines were emerging on the use of hypertension meds: for people 60+, anything within 150/90 was acceptable. But many doctors weren't comfortable with those raised numbers. In addition, more cautious doctors opposed another emerging guideline -- that anyone 80+ without coronary issues could stop taking BP pills. 

I met those criteria. My internist at the time wanted me to continue the meds, but my BP specialist said he "wouldn't lose any sleep" if I ditched the meds. While his comment wasn't exactly a convincing endorsement of the idea, I stopped taking the pressure pills: http://bit.ly/1gX2mWs 

It was a close call. But I was determined to prove I made the right decision. 

The Janaury, 2014 issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter featured an article about lowering blood pressure without pills. The author wrote favorably about "Zona Plus," a hand-grip device. One click on Amazon and it arrived on my doorstep. I've been pretty good about using it.

A highly regarded nutrition site has raved about the beneficial effect of hibiscus tea. Whole Foods stocks it and I drink it. 

These two products appear in the photo at the top of this post, along with the wrist blood pressure monitor that I wore -- for a while -- as often as my wristwatch. 

The Dangerous Blood Pressure Spikes
But surely you wonder: When I began began experiencing the dangerous BP spikes, why didn't I get back on the pressure meds? Well, you obviously don't know me very well.

I convinced myself I was dealing with a sui generis phenomenon... that the BP spikes were being caused by something unique but my underlying basic blood pressure numbers were usually within that 150/90 range..

Dr. Grill, the neurologist I consulted, was the first of my new doctors to address my BP roller coaster. His take? I was overdosing on levodopa and also paying the price for stopping the pressure pills.

Stubborn to the end, I was still unwilling to accept that I had been wrong about discontinuing the BP meds... until my internist and my regular neurologist also agreed 100% with Dr. Grill. 

Finally, I yielded. My internist prescribed lisinopril, a medication frequently used by seniors, and I'm now taking 2.5mg -- a very low dose -- each morning. This new med, combined with the significant reduction of levodopa in my system, has brought the BP roller coaster to a screeching halt.

When the outcome is this good, I can't get too upset about losing the argument about the BP medication. In this case, feeling good trumps being right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So glad to hear you resumed BP medicine, John. I was worried about it too. Madhav