The silent killer…
My GP diagnosed me with high blood pressure, which is technically known as hypertension, and more sinisterly nicknamed ‘The Silent Killer’, twenty-seven years ago when I was forty. My doctor discovered it during a routine check up, which I often used to miss. (Therefore, I recommend that you make a point of checking your blood pressure regularly). I was prescribed Atenolol 50 and told to take one a day. My blood pressure dropped to 140/80 and stabilised. My doctor was happy with that a month later, and we never discussed the matter again.
Twenty-five years later, I was back in my home town from my travels in Asia, and started experiencing an unusual, quite severe, shortage of breath and swollen ankles, so I went to the doctor. She sent me to a cardiologist, and he asked who had prescribed me Atenolol. I told him the story, and asked why. His reply astounded me.
“How many alternative high blood pressure tablets did you try?” he asked.
“None,” said I, “why?”
“Cardiologists consider Atenolol to be the last resort in a doctor’s armoury in the battle against hypertension,” he explained, “because it has several unpleasant side-effects. It is akin to cracking a nut with a sledgehammer, although it rarely does not work on reducing hypertension”.
“It is the sign of an exasperated, or a lazy, doctor,” he said tutting. “You have a slow heart beat, called bradycardia, so Atenolol would have killed you soon. You are a very lucky man”.
I guess he was saying that my old GP had been a lazy doctor.
Apparently, my younger, healthy body could handle the rough Atenolol, but my ageing, frailer body could not.
Anyway, we tried three or four other high blood pressure tablets and settled on Ramapril 5mg. My swollen ankle problem and my shortage of breath slowly disappeared and are not a factor now, three years later.
High Blood Pressure Tablets
Over a few days following my visit to the cardiologist, I discussed the problem with some friends of my own age, and all of them knew of the Atenolol problem: “It’s well known round here!” they agreed.
Why am I telling you all this?
Well, yesterday, back in Asia, my wife was watching me take my blood pressure, and asked to have hers checked too (this is a very seldom occurrence, because she never wants to know if she is sick). Her readings were high, since these days many doctors, especially American ones, have set a target of 117/75 with a pulse of 60.
She went to the clinic today and her reading was still a little high.
They gave her… Atenolol 50, but told her to take a half tablet per day.
I hope that this was just an emergency measure to get her blood pressure down quickly, since she has to go back in thirty days for further assessment.
The morals, dear reader, are: check your blood pressure regularly, and request that your doctor reassesses your medication regularly too, because new, the pharmaceuticals release improved high blood pressure tablets from time to time!