Along our continuing efforts to make prevention a big part of our push to inform, we need to now address hypertension. High blood pressure is by far and away the most common condition experienced by the general population of the United States. Anti-hypertensive drugs are a multi-billion dollar business and for good reason. High blood pressure, especially under or untreated, can lead to heart disease, stroke, memory problems, headaches, kidney failure, liver disease, bowel troubles, blindness, and can contribute to other serious disease states. High blood pressure is a serious problem. If you have high blood pressure; surely you have been told to eat right, lose weight, control your stress, cut down on your salt intake, get in shape, and take your medication. With the right luck (genetically) and hard work, most people can reduce or eliminate their need for medication by following those lifestyle modifications. But, we are Americans. We don’t like being told what to do and most of us are too darn lazy to change our lifestyle and so instead, we take pills. That time is past. Prepping means doing everything you can to be ready to live a self-sufficient, independent life if there was a disaster of regional or national scale.
Sometimes, the best efforts lead to poor rewards here on Earth. After you have mastered yoga, maintained your diet and exercise program, and become a model blood pressure control experiment–sometimes you still need to be on medication due to your genetics. Stupid ancestors, left you hypertension and no trust fund. The nerve. There are major differences in medications for blood pressure control. The first being the most important from a planning standpoint: generic verses branded. Brand-named medications are very expensive, and most-often completely unnecessary. Generic hypertension medications include nearly all classes of medications and are usually very cheap. Atenolol, for example, is about 15 dollars a year. Brand-named Beta Blockers can run hundreds of dollars a month. The same applies to almost every category of blood pressure medications: ACE-inhibitors, Aldosterone Antagonists, ARBs, Antiadrenergic Agents, Beta-Blockers, Calcium-Channel Blockers, Diuretics (3 types), Nitrates, and “other”. There were only seven types when medical school started for me, now there’s nine. What will it be in another 15 years? Surely more types and lots more of these meds going generic.
One problem has popped up recently in regard to generics though: drug companies sometimes won’t make generics because they don’t make enough money on them. This is especially the case if the government is involved. Recently, this happened across the US with the generic medication Triamterene/HCTZ (Maxzide and Dyazide). Earlier this year many folks could not get this medication… sometimes for months, and had to switch to other medications altogether. There have been many articles rearing up over the last months about possible medication shortages here in the US, from antibiotics to hypertension meds.
For the sake of scenario discussion, what happens when you run out of blood pressure meds and your pressure goes up? The things that you would expect will happen: pressure in your head, eyes, and neck; possibly headaches and neck pain; often swelling of the feet/legs and hands. As blood pressures are high and stay high; the risk of stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure increases, as do eye problems from the hemorrhage risk. Often small bleeds inside the head can cause spotty vision, nausea, vomiting, and confusion before death. But, high blood pressure is labeled “the silent killer” for a reason; most of the time a person does not experience the symptoms of high blood pressure until it is too late.
So, what is a person with medication-controlled hypertension to do to prepare for TEOTWAWKI? Mexico? Canada? The pet store? Your doctor’s office? My Surviving Healthy site? Any, all, some is your answer. The pet store is not likely to be a help to you, but other sources can prepare you for an uncertain future. Make sure you do absolutely everything you can to adjust your lifestyle to drop your blood pressure, as mentioned above. After that, work with your doctor to get on only generic medications if at all possible. Then, if your doctor will not work with you to stockpile medications, you need to find another way. You will need to investigate costs, border issues, travel, and storage before you will be able to put meds up on your storage shelves. Stock bottles of 100 or 1000 will have a much longer expiration and will last longer on your shelves than standard 30-day prescriptions. Try to get stock bottles whenever possible, many pharmacies will provide 100 count stock bottles instead of a 90 day supply, if asked.
With or without medications WTSHTF, if you suffer from high blood pressure, avoid heavy upper-body straining as this has been shown to increase sudden intercranial hemorrhages. Avoid dead-lift type straining also as the same mechanism would apply. Leave the heavy lifting to the normal blood pressure folks. Control your stress and make your medications last as long as possible if facing a shortage by staggering doses over the timeperiod you expect to be unable to get your medication. If you have 90 days left and expect to not see any more for a year for example, stagger the pills every 3-4 days to get them to last as close to that year as possible. Being out for 6 months by taking them every other day will certainly be more dangerous than spacing them out over more time. Neither is a great option, it is much better for you to be able to have some medication on your shelves to plan for disasters–short or long.
JWR Adds: Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who prescribes antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is: SurvivingHealthy.com.