Friday, November 17, 2017

Bombs Away!

I laughed my ass off when the new blood pressure guidelines came out.  First thought is Big Pharma is wetting itself and will need its own medications to stave off the millions coming their way when the prescriptions rise. Bombs away!

In the 15 minute revolving door that comprises Doctor appointments you will be promptly monitored, promptly diagnosed and promptly given a script for medications that you neither need or possibly could do more harm than good over the long run.

My Dental Hygienist (whom I dislike and actually think she sucks at her job) takes my BP every appointment.  It is always 175 over 90.  Technically that would make me one step removed from entering the hospital.   I just sit there and say nothing.  It was that the day of my dental surgery and rising as the bullshit went on that morning ending with the Anesthesiologist picking me up physically and throwing me into the operating room where I was under one hour longer than I should have been putting me at risk if in fact my BP was that high.  Nothing says fun more then reading about regarding overbooking and the risks it poses for patients, which Vanderbilt was a part of.    And yes that was exactly why my surgery was delayed.  This is why I am advocate of alternatives.

It was then I decided to invest in a home monitor.  In the course of an hour my BP can be 137 to 148 over 82 to 91.  I drink shitloads of coffee.  I get angry thinking about the day ahead at the Nashville Public Schools or some moron outside of said schools that I will engage with that will set me off.  So my BP fluctuates as I do.    But I have a pretty good feel that my BP averages 138 over 85.  Not great not bad and I am 58.  A couple of years ago the same group that just lowered the bar had raised it for those over 50.  I feel my BP rising right now!

I drink wine, I am eating a marginally okay diet due to dental issues, I work out daily and walk a great deal.  But I hate my life here.  When I walk into any situation where Dental or Medical personnel are there my BP goes off the rail, its called White Coat Syndrome.  So what would blood pressure meds do? Lower it artificially and in turn put me at risk for other medical issues.  More money more money!  

But you trust your Doctor who gives you a solid 15 minutes of time right?  You know he gives a shit and takes all those tests and gives you the right medications because he is a caring knowledgeable individual who studies all the data and makes rational conclusions based on years of experience, right?  What.ever.

When I agree with a Medical Professional I am amazed but they are necessary evil like Lawyers only less evil.

Don’t Let New Blood Pressure Guidelines Raise Yours

OPINION NOV. 15, 2017

“Under New Guidelines, Millions More Americans Will Need to Lower Blood Pressure.” This is the type of headline that raises my blood pressure to dangerously high levels.

For years, doctors were told to aim for a systolic blood pressure of less than 140. (The first of the two blood pressure numbers.) Then, in 2013, recommendations were relaxed to less than 150 for patients age 60 and older. Now they have been tightened, to less than 130 for anyone with at least a 10 percent risk of heart attack or stroke in the next decade. That means that nearly half of all adults in the United States are now considered to have high blood pressure.

I bet I’m not the only doctor whose blood pressure jumped upon hearing this news. Disclosure: I’m an advocate of less medicine and living a more healthy life, and I worry we get too focused on numbers. But to make that case I’ll need to use some numbers.

The new recommendation is principally in response to the results of a large, federally funded study called Sprint that was published in 2015 in The New England Journal of Medicine. Sprint was a high-quality, well-done study. It randomly assigned high blood pressure patients age 50 and older to one of two treatment targets: systolic blood pressure of less than 140 or one of less than 120. The primary finding was that the lower target led to a 25 percent reduction in cardiovascular events — the combined rate of heart attacks, strokes, heart failures and cardiovascular deaths.

Relative changes — like a 25 percent reduction — always sound impressive. Relative changes, however, need to be put in perspective; the underlying numbers are important. Consider the patients in Sprint’s high target group (less than 140): About 8 percent had one of these cardiovascular events over four years. The corresponding number in the low target group (less than 120) was around 6 percent. Eight percent versus 6 percent. That’s your 25 percent reduction.

The effect was small enough that The New England Journal used a special pair of graphical displays used for health events that occur rarely. One display focused on those participants suffering the cardiovascular events (8 percent versus 6 percent); the other shows the big picture — highlighting the fact that most did not (92 percent versus 94 percent).

Oh, and did I mention that to be eligible for Sprint, participants were required to be at higher-than-average risk for cardiovascular events? That means the benefit for average patients would be even smaller.

But the problem with using Sprint to guide practice goes well beyond its small effect. Blood pressure is an exceptionally volatile biologic variable — blood pressure changes in response to activity, stress and your surroundings, like being in a doctor’s office. In short, how it is measured matters. For the study, blood pressure was taken as an average of three measurements during an office visit while the patient was seated and after five minutes of quiet rest with no staff members in the room.

When was the last time your doctor measured your blood pressure that way? While this may be an ideal way to measure it, that’s not what happens in most doctors’ offices. A blood pressure of 130 in the Sprint study may be equivalent to a blood pressure of 140, even 150, in a busy clinic. A national goal of 130 as measured in actual practice may lead many to be overmedicated — making their blood pressures too low.

One of the most impressive findings in Sprint was that few patients had problems with low blood pressure like becoming lightheaded from overmedication and then falling. But one of the most important principles in medicine is that the effects seen in a meticulously managed randomized trial may not be replicated in the messy world of actual clinical practice.

Serious falls are common among older adults. In the real world, will a nationwide target of 130, and the side effects of medication lowering blood pressure, lead to more hip fractures? Ask your doctors. See what they think.

Let me be clear: Using medications to lower very high blood pressure is the most important preventive intervention we doctors do. But more medications and lower blood pressures are not always better for everyone.

I suspect many primary-care practitioners will want to ignore this new target. They understand the downsides of the relentless expansion of medical care into the lives of more people. At the same time, I fear many will be coerced into compliance as the health care industry’s middle management translates the 130 target into a measure of physician performance. That will push doctors to meet the target using whatever means necessary — and that usually means more medications.

So focusing on the number 130 not only will involve millions of people but also will involve millions of new prescriptions and millions of dollars. And it will further distract doctors and their patients from activities that aren’t easily measured by numbers, yet are more important to health — real food, regular movement and finding meaning in life. These matter whatever your blood pressure is.

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