Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dr. Tumoriffic's All-Natural Blood Pressure Control Secret

The other day, as I discussed starting blood pressure medication with a patient. He said, "but isn't there a natural way?"

I hope I didn't drop my professional demeanor, but I found the question profoundly irritating.

The answer is, at least for some people, sure, there is a natural way. Only it's not what he was thinking. He was hoping there was some herb or vitamin pill that he could take to lower his blood pressure for a few cents a day with no side effects. There ain't no such thing.

'Natural' has come to mean easy and risk-free. It is a marketing term like 'classic' or 'authentic' that is rarely used meaningfully anymore. Easy and risk-free remedies only seem natural in a culture where it feels natural to flick a switch and have light, where food can be kept for days or weeks without spoiling, where poop disappears down the drain without contaminating your water, and anyone can hop in car, a bus, or a plane and travel hundreds or thousands of miles in a day. Easy answers are not natural, but artificial, and they often come with side effects.

The genuinely natural, pill-free way to treat blood pressure is not easy, nor is it free of side effects. If a patient's pressure is not at so-high-their-brain-is-about-to-burst-out-their-ear level, I may encourage them to try it. Here's the secret, natural way to lower your blood pressure and live longer: get enough sleep: exercise several times a week, the more the better; eat an unprocessed, mostly plant-based diet with moderate protein and fat, generally, the less the better. If your weight comes down, your blood pressure might as well. Now, keep that up for the rest of your life. Side effects include orthopedic injury, wardrobe malfunction, and culinary ennui. You'll probably still need a pill when you get old, because it is a normal part of aging.

Most often, my patients can't do the natural way. Their work hours and commutes are too long, and they have to take care of families. They would cut their hours, but they don't want to be singled out as the one at work who obeys the limits of human physiology, or, maybe, they just need the money. Usually, I end up having to put them on a pill or two. Most people whose blood pressure is successfully lowered with pills live longer than they would have otherwise and do not have side effects. Not all.

Now, if they ever market a weed as effective at lowering blood pressure as a pill, I guarantee you that it will be annoying to take properly and have side effects--just like a pill.

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