At first, it was a medical mystery.
Odd lesions formed by the growth of “defective and nonfunctional” veins were found in the kidneys of laboratory mice
But that discovery was a lightbulb moment for a group of scientists from the University of Virginia School of Medicine — because the cause of those damaging lesions was a lack of renin, an enzyme produced by the kidneys.
And that’s an enzyme that some people might be lacking, too — that is, if they’re taking certain blood pressure-lowering meds that are designed to block those same renin-producing cells.
So, could treating hypertension with meds that inhibit renin do the same thing to people as what was observed in those lab mice?
Absolutely. And it’s a side effect that you won’t be hearing about from the FDA, Big Pharma, or even your own doctor.
The blood-pressure limbo
If you’ve been following blood pressure recommendations, you know that it’s kind of like trying to do the Limbo at a wedding reception.
How low can you go?
But too many doctors are still clinging to that outmoded notion that if you’re not at 120/80 or under, you’d better start aggressively treating your so-called “hypertension” with one or more drugs.
Of course, as an eAlert reader, you know that’s definitely not what the most current research is telling us. Artificially forcing your blood pressure to drop too low can lead you straight down the path to a whole host of health problems including dizziness, falls, and Alzheimer’s disease.
But now we know there’s something else those drugs can do: harm your kidneys.
Millions of prescriptions for drugs that lower your blood pressure by blocking renin are being handed out by doctors everywhere. One such med was approved by the FDA a decade ago and goes by the generic name of aliskiren. It’s also sold under several brand names, including Tekturna and Tekturna HCT.
As Dr. Maria Luisa Sequeria-Lopez, one of the researchers who participated in this study, said, the big issue is what these renin-producing cells do when you prevent them from doing their job (a.k.a. making renin).
“It was as though the renin cells were trying to build blood vessels (in the mice),” she said, but they ended up producing “obstructive” kidney lesions.
The researchers, of course, are planning to study this further. Like all scientists, they want to know the how and why of what exactly is going on with these drugs.
But we already know enough about these blood pressure meds to call them a recipe for disaster!
Along with kidney damage, there’s risk of heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s, life-threatening falls, and death from any cause, which can skyrocket if your diastolic (a.k.a. “bottom”) number is pushed below 60.
So, if you’re currently taking one of these risky hypertension meds, especially if it’s a renin inhibitor, it’s time to have a chat with your doctor.
First and foremost, find out if you really do have high blood pressure in the first place — because if you don’t, you very well may be putting your kidneys, and even your life, at risk for no good reason at all.
And if you do, one of the team members in the study advises that physicians should “have good judgment… and not overdo it.”
That’s advice that jibes with recommendations that have been issued about blood pressure numbers from some of the top experts in the field.
In fact, based on “high-quality evidence” from 20 controlled trials, there’s no reason to take any meds to lower your blood pressure if you’re over the age of 60 — as long as your systolic (a.k.a. “top”) number is no higher than 150.
The only caveat to that is if you’ve suffered a stroke or heart attack or are at an extremely high risk of one. But even in that case, your readings can go up to just below 140.
And if you’re under the age of 60, going as high as that 140 reading is said to be perfectly OK. No drugs required!
“Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?” University of Virginia Health System, July 18, 2017, ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com