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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

    ''Once you tell people there's a cure for something, the more likely they are to pressure doctors to prescribe it.''
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    Wednesday, October 27, 2004

    Enough to Make You Sick: As if there weren't enough disease in the world, researchers, aided and abetted by the U.S. government, are inventing more:

    Nearly six in 10 Americans have blood pressure high enough to increase their risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney problems, according to a study released Monday.

    The official cutoff for high blood pressure, which doctors call hypertension, is a reading higher than 140 over 90. Last year, the government added a new risk category, prehypertension, that includes a top number between 120 and 139 or a bottom number between 80 and 89.

    The study found that 27 percent of adults have hypertension and 31 percent have prehypertension, for a combined total of 58 percent.

    ...The Wangs examined data from a government health survey of 4,805 adults conducted in 1999-2000. 'We're facing a very serious challenge,' Youfa Wang said..

    He was even more emphatic in the study:

    The prevalence of hypertension has increased by approximately 10 percentage points during the past decade. The awareness and appropriate management of hypertension among hypertensive patients remain low: 31% were not aware of their disease, only two thirds (66%) were told by health professionals to adopt lifestyle modifications or take drugs to control hypertension, and only 31% controlled their hypertension.

    With 60% of the population affected, the United States is facing a serious challenge in the prevention and management of prehypertension and hypertension. People’s awareness and control of hypertension remain poor. This study highlights the seriousness of the problem and the importance of promoting lifestyle modifications.

    Let me just say that including this "pre-hypertensive" category makes the problem seem larger than it is. Only 27% of adults actually have hypertension. And doctors aren't ignoring that. It's the silly, hyperventilating category of "pre-hypertension" that we're ignoring. This category came into existence by the grace of the Seventh Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Having run out of useful things to say after Committees 1-6, they came up with this designation, warning that people with normal blood pressure in the range of 120-139/30-39 run the risk of developing high blood pressure with time.

    And so they do. Our blood pressure tends to increase as we age. It's really a measure of the elasticity of our arteries. And as we age, we lose that elasticity and the arteries become stiffer. Stiffer arteries mean higher pressure. Stiffer arteries also mean a higher risk of strokes and heart attacks. (You know, "hardening of the arteries.")

    The question is, does doing anything about those normal readings in the "pre-hypertension" range make any difference in the long run? We don't know. As long as the "treatment" is benign, such as recommending diet and exercise, it's no big deal. But when researchers start hyperventilating about a widespread problem that isn't really a problem, well, that's a problem.

    I'd write more, but the pre-arthritis in my fingers prevents me. Must save them for future use. Instead, go here for another take on the matter.

    posted by Sydney on 10/27/2004 08:02:00 AM 0 comments


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