A study published in the journal Circulation found that calcium-channel blockers are linked to an increased risk of diverticulosis, a condition that causes small pouches or bulges to appear in the intestinal linings. Diverticulosis, which affects nearly 65 percent of people over the age of 85, can become a serious medical condition if these bulges become infected or burst.
“This is the first time that this class of blood pressure drug has been associated with diverticulosis,” said study co-author Dipender Gill. “We’re not sure of the underlying mechanism – although it may relate to effects on the function of intestine muscles, which perform contractions to transport food through the gut.”
The symptoms of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can be managed by modifying one's diet and adopting healthier lifestyle habits, although most hypertensive individuals take medication like calcium-channel blockers, beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors. However, while millions of people around the world use these drugs on a daily basis, it is difficult for scientists to investigate the side effects and their effectiveness in treating other forms of disease because of how much time and money it would take to perform clinical trials.
To overcome this problem, researchers from the Imperial College London School of Public Health and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich used genetic analysis to explore the effects of these drugs and investigated certain genes that mimic the effects of said drugs. This allowed them to test the effectiveness of the drugs, alongside their potential side effects.
The research team identified proteins that were targeted by the medication, as well as the ones that help lower blood pressure. Afterward, they analyzed the genetic data of around 750,000 people to identify the genetic codes of "variants" that influence the proteins.
The researchers observed that the genetic variants that code for proteins that help lower blood pressure were linked to a decreased risk of developing heart diseases and stroke. The researchers also looked into the risk of almost 900 different diseases using data from the UK Biobank study. They observed that a certain gene variant that mimics the effects of a particular type of calcium-channel blocker, known as the non-dihydropyridine class, increased the risk of developing diverticulosis.
The research team suggests that the association requires further investigation with larger trials, but warn that current prescription guidelines should not change at all. People with hypertension should still take any preventive measures to alleviate the symptoms of hypertension and should not stop any ongoing treatments unless they consult their health practitioner first. (Related: Eat right and exercise: 5 Natural ways to prevent high blood pressure.)
“The study of genetic variants that mimic the effect of drugs is evolving as a powerful concept to help prioritize clinical trials and design clinical trials more likely to be successful,” said study senior author Joanna Tzoulaki.
Hypertension is a dangerous condition, but there are things you can do to help lower your blood pressure naturally without the need for prescription medications. Here is a list of natural ways to fight off the effects of hypertension.
Learn about other ways of preventing hypertension at Prevention.news.