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Health - Severe Hypertension

New approach tested to treat hypertension

Tuesday, May 29 2012


???Maxed out on the medications,??? is how Bill Ezzell describes his struggle with blood pressure. It??™s dangerously high even though the North Carolina man swallows six different drugs a day.

Hypertension may be the nation??™s sneakiest epidemic, a time bomb that??™s a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure, and one that??™s growing worse as the population rapidly grows older.

Despite an arsenal of drugs, millions of people in the United States can??™t get their blood pressure down to safe levels.

Now, in a high-stakes experiment at dozens of hospitals, scientists are testing a dramatically different approach for the toughest to treat patients, by burning away some overactive nerves deep in the body that can fuel rising blood pressure.

To attempt an invasive treatment - a catheter is threaded through blood vessels in the groin up to the kidneys - reflects doctors??™ frustration with a disease that too often is underrated because people with it don??™t look or feel sick until a lot of damage has been done.

Pharmaceutical therapies have been the cornerstone of medicine for nearly a century, offering convenient, noninvasive treatment for countless diseases.

But when it comes to some of the most stubborn chronic conditions, including diabetes, obesity and hypertension, medications too often aren??™t enough.

Researchers increasingly are trying medical devices and minimally invasive surgeries to help, such as stomach-shrinking techniques that improve obesity-caused diabetes and the new hypertension experiment.

???I think we have to hit on all cylinders if we??™re going to take on these very important diseases,??? said Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of the Cleveland Clinic??™s department of cardiology.

Cardiologists??™ interest in the nerve-zapping procedure also reflects how severe it will become, with many middle-aged boomers already affected. ???People are living longer with hypertension, and the disease tends to get worse as you get older,??? said Dr. Suzanne Oparil.


Gerry Broome / Associated Press

Provided by Armina Hypertension Association

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