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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine August 2006
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Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure: A Little-Known Failure of Conventional Medicine

By Heather S. Oliff, PhD

Sadly, millions of Americans who think their blood pressure is under control are wrong! Shocking evidence reveals that most people treated with antihypertensive drugs still have higher-than-optimal blood pressure.1,2 As a result, they remain at a heightened risk of suffering stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.

Because hypertension (high blood pressure) is a multifactorial problem,3 effective management is rarely achieved by taking one drug. In fact, optimal management often requires a broad-based approach that includes both pharmaceuticals and nutritional components, along with regular self-monitoring of blood pressure. Compelling evidence indicates that many conditions that lead to and sustain high blood pressure can be corrected through an integrative approach emphasizing lifestyle modification, pharmaceutical agents, and nutritional support.4-18

Perils of Inadequate Blood Pressure Control

Clinical studies now show that an alarming number of adults under medical care for hypertension are unable to achieve optimal blood pressure control.

According to physicians at the Baylor College of Medicine, only 27% of Americans with hypertension have their blood pressure effectively controlled to levels below 140/90 mmHg.1 Elderly women are at the greatest risk. A study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that in an astonishing 77% of women over the age of 80, hypertension was not sufficiently controlled by the treatment plans designed by their doctors.19 Since optimal blood pressure is now considered to be less than 120/80 mm Hg,20 the number of Americans whose blood pressure is controlled to optimal levels is far lower than these disturbing official statistics suggest.1,19

Inadequately controlled blood pressure exerts a tremendous health burden, invariably contributing to stroke, heart attacks, and kidney disease.2 There are likely numerous contributors to this epidemic of uncontrolled blood pressure. An alarming study from 2002 revealed that many doctors do not recommend treatment to their patients unless blood pressure values exceed 160/90 mmHg . . . a level proven to increase disease risk!1

Another possible contributor to inadequate blood pressure control is that physicians are reluctant to treat older patients aggressively, even though elderly patients are at greatest risk of suffering from hypertension. Clinicians’ reluctance to implement comprehensive treatment plans in their older patients may stem from a perception of lower benefits or greater risk of side effects in this population.21

Furthermore, blood pressure is controlled by a complex interplay of factors that include diet, genetics, response to stress, medications, and other underlying health conditions.3 Thus, enlightened health care practitioners and their patients are discovering that inadequately controlled blood pressure requires a multifactorial strategy. An optimal strategy employs a combination of nutritional and pharmaceutical options to offer a comprehensive approach for normalizing blood pressure.

Hypertension and Endothelial Dysfunction: A Deadly, Dual Threat to Vascular Health

Blood vessel contraction (vasoconstriction) and dilation (vasodilation) are controlled by numerous interacting physiological pathways that utilize biochemical messengers such as peptides, hormones, and enzymes. These pathways are the targets of many pharmaceutical drugs used to treat hypertension. Stress, nutritional factors, drugs, and various disease processes can also influence blood pressure levels through their effects on biochemical messengers that affect blood vessel tone.22

The endothelial cells lining the inside walls of blood vessels play a crucial role in regulating blood flow and blood pressure by releasing factors that contribute to the contraction and relaxation of vascular smooth muscle. In healthy people, there is a balance between the release of factors that contract the blood vessel lining and those that relax it, thus resulting in healthy blood flow. This balance, however, can be altered by conditions such as hypertension, which contributes to the progression of vascular disease.23

Moreover, hypertension goes hand in hand with a lethal condition called endothelial dysfunction. This occurs when the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels are unable to respond to demands for increased blood flow by dilating. Endothelial dysfunction is a key factor in the development of atherosclerosis. Thus, strategies to improve endothelial dysfunction may be crucial for decreasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death associated with high blood pressure.23 Similarly, regularly monitoring blood pressure and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels are absolutely essential to ensuring endothelial health.

Limits to Standard Treatment for Hypertension

Standard treatment for hypertension includes lifestyle modifications such as avoiding dietary salt intake and losing weight, as well as the use of various prescription drugs such as diuretics, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and angiotensin II receptor antagonist drugs.3 One of the most widely used classes of antihypertensive drugs are those that interfere with the actions of the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE). Drugs that inhibit or block the actions of angiotensin converting enzyme (such as ACE inhibitors) work by decreasing the activity of a potent vasoconstrictor, thus helping to maintain healthy blood flow and optimal blood pressure.20

Despite implementing lifestyle changes and taking one or more prescription drugs to manage high blood pressure, many adults have inadequately controlled hypertension.1,19 Clearly, better tools are needed to manage the dangers of inadequately controlled hypertension. New findings suggest that natural agents may help to fill the void left by conventional hypertension medicines.

According to Dr. Raymond Townsend of the University of Pennsylvania, a leading hypertension researcher, a natural agent derived from milk protein known as the C12 peptide can be safely combined with prescription medications that are used to treat high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol. When asked in a recent interview whether the C12 peptide can be used concomitantly with prescription medications, Dr. Townsend responded, “As far as we know, the answer is yes. No drug interactions are known, but it is still early in the scientific development of the C12 peptide, so it is recommended that persons taking other medications should consult with their physician first.”24 The C12 peptide can help aging adults integrate nutritional agents with other conventional medical options to best support and maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Novel Casein Peptide: A Natural ACE Inhibitor

While searching for a natural agent to help optimize blood pressure, researchers hydrolyzed (or split) the milk protein known as casein, and isolated the C12 peptide. Clinical studies have since shown that the C12 peptide is a natural ACE inhibitor with specific blood pressure-lowering effects.5

A small study conducted in the United States demonstrated the C12 peptide’s effectiveness in helping to normalize high blood pressure. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study examined 10 men and women who averaged 50 years of age, had an average blood pressure of 152/98 mmHg, and were not taking antihypertensive medications. Each subject took a placebo for six days and then a single dose of either 200 mg or 400 mg of C12 peptide. Blood pressure was monitored via a small blood pressure unit that each subject wore throughout the day. In the 200-mg and 400-mg treatment groups, systolic pressure declined significantly, by an average of 2.4 mmHg and 4.5 mmHg, respectively, while diastolic pressure dropped by an average of 4.4 mmHg and 6.5 mmHg, respectively.6 The study results demonstrate that the C12 peptide has a notable impact on blood pressure after only a single dose.

A Japanese study sought to evaluate the longer-term benefits of supplementing with the C12 peptide. Eighteen mildly hypertensive subjects, with a mean blood pressure of 141/99 mmHg, received 200 mg of the C12 peptide daily for four weeks. The researchers recorded significant reductions of 4.6 mmHg in systolic blood pressure and 6.6 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure. Blood pressure declined gradually over the four-week study period, indicative of a healthy decline, as opposed to a dramatic drop that could cause dizziness or fainting. When treatment was halted, the subjects’ blood pressure began to return to the baseline levels recorded prior to treatment. The researchers also observed that the C12 peptide appears to have long-lasting effects: even two weeks after treatment ended, diastolic blood pressure levels were still significantly lower than baseline levels.7 No unfavorable side effects were reported.

Because of these positive clinical findings, the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare has approved a health-enhancing beverage containing the C12 peptide for sale throughout Japan.8 (The C12 peptide is not recommended for people who are allergic to dairy products, and like other ACE inhibitors, the C12 peptide should not taken by women during pregnancy.)

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