The answer, according to the latest scientific research, is… it depends.
It depends on WHICH blood pressure drug you’re taking, how long you’ve been taking it, your age and even whether you’ve had breast cancer before.
Here’s an eye-popping update on a very controversial topic. If you or a woman in your life is taking medications to control high blood pressure, please keep reading…
Nearly a decade ago we first told you about study results from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, that suggested long-term use of certain blood pressure drugs could increase the chance of developing breast cancer—especially in postmenopausal women.
A team of researchers led by epidemiologist Christopher Li, M.D., Ph.D., found a possible link between the class of drugs known as calcium-channel blockers and the two most common types of breast cancer:
- Invasive ductal carcinomas
- Invasive lobular carcinomas
How strong was the link? Pretty strong…
More than TWICE the risk of breast cancer
According to a press statement, a key finding was that women who have taken calcium-channel blockers for ten years or longer had more than twice the risk of developing both forms of cancer, compared to women who never used the drugs.
They also found that other classes of antihypertensive drugs, such as angiotensin-receptor blockers, beta blockers and diuretics, did not appear to increase the risk of breast cancer. This remained true even when women used these other classes of drugs long term.
The scientists reached their conclusions after interviewing 1,763 study participants. The women, aged 55 to 74, were all residents of the Puget Sound region. Of these study participants:
- 880 had invasive ductal cancer
- 1,027 had invasive lobular cancer
- 856 were cancer-free controls
At the time Dr. Li said that identifying this possible association “is an important clinical and public health issue, particularly with the increasing availability of alternative options to manage hypertension.”
Dr. Li also called for more research. Well, now that research is in…
Calcium channel blockers
Recently researchers performed a review of 57 studies that evaluated the association between the use of blood pressure drugs and the risk of breast cancer and, in those who got breast cancer, its prognosis. The studies included the following drugs: Renin-angiotensin system inhibitors, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics.
Researchers found that the use of beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or diuretics (both short-term and long-term) was associated with an increased breast cancer risk. Interestingly, in those that got breast cancer, researchers found that those who took diuretics may have died at a higher rate than those who didn’t take diuretics. On the other hand, the other medicines— beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers—were not associated with worse outcomes for breast cancer patients.
The silver lining in the research is that long-term use of renin-angiotensin system inhibitors significantly reduced the risk of breast cancer, when compared with non-users.
The review was published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology in May of 2021.
At this point, you might be wondering…
What’s the difference between these drugs?
Beta blockers—lower blood pressure by blocking certain nerve and hormone signals to the heart and blood vessel.
Calcium channel blockers—prevent calcium from entering heart and blood vessel muscle cells; this causes cells to relax, which lowers blood pressure.
Diuretics—also called water pills; these medications lower blood pressure by flushing excess water and sodium from your body. Doctors may try a diuretic alone before recommending other medications.
Renin inhibitors—slow down production of the enzyme renin, which your kidneys produce; renin jump-starts a series of chemical steps that increases blood pressure.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors—they prevent the angiotensin hormone from tightening blood vessels.
Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)—help blood vessels relax by blocking the action of angiotensin.
Doctors often suggest a combination of two medications from different classes to help lower pressure more quickly. In some cases, this also may help reduce side effects.
Is this the end of the debate on blood-pressure lowering drugs and cancer? Probably not. But cancer risk aside, the side effects of blood pressure-lowering drugs range from annoying to dreadful, and compliance is very low—that is, a great many patients disobey their doctors and stop taking them.
In my opinion, these drugs are simply not worth the risk. Especially when there are so many natural ways to control blood pressure.
Reduce your blood pressure NATURALLY
by eating well!
When you think about food and blood pressure, probably the first thing that comes to mind is that you must give up salt. This is one of the best-known pieces of advice in medicine. I remember hearing it even when I was a kid, decades before I had to worry about high blood pressure. Probably I heard elderly people talk about it—and talk they do, because totally giving up salt is a pain in the neck and few people can do it.
It happens to be a dubious piece of advice.
From the figures I’ve seen, only about ten percent of high blood pressure cases involve salt sensitivity. For nine out of ten people with high blood pressure, giving up salt entirely may do no good at all. Don’t get me wrong, no one should have excessive salt intake. That’s not healthy for any of us.
Anyway, rather than concentrating on what you can’t have a lot of… why not focus on what you can eat MORE of to help normalize your blood pressure?
Among Nature’s best blood pressure stabilizers
Potassium—a natural diuretic that helps your kidneys release more sodium while also relaxing blood vessels to help control blood pressure; avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, pistachios, and purple potatoes are all rich sources.
Magnesium—is essential to help potassium lower blood pressure; beans, nuts, oatmeal, and spinach can help you bulk up on this nutrient.
Calcium—helps regulate blood pressure by maintaining a proper mineral balance in your body; low-fat or no-fat yogurt, milk and cheese are some options for adding this nutrient if you aren’t lactose- or casein-sensitive.
Flavonoids and resveratrol—these heart-healthy antioxidants relax arteries and help reduce diabetes risk, a condition that can increase blood pressure; moderate use of red wine (and to a lesser extent purple grape juice) will provide this antioxidant protection, but the best option, in my opinion, is to supplement with resveratrol rather than drink large amounts of wine.
Nitric oxide—relaxes the walls of blood vessels and thereby reduces blood pressure. Red beets or red beet powder supplements boost nitric oxide levels. So do l-arginine supplements.
Lowering your blood pressure is
easier than you think
You might be pleasantly surprised to find that eating the right foods… reducing stress whenever possible… and including regular exercise in your routine may be just the right prescription for lowering your blood pressure and avoiding a cancer diagnosis!
- Woodward, K. Long-term use of some high blood pressure drugs associated with increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center press statement.
- Mayo Clinic. Choosing blood pressure medications. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure-medication/art-20046280