1. Blood pressure pills don't lower hypertension risks

    Blood pressure meds don't work

    Taking blood pressure meds? Then I have a study you just have to see -- because the pills you're taking every day might help keep your BP levels down... but you're still facing plenty of risks if you have even mildly elevated blood pressure.

    A new look at data on some 9,000 people who took part in one of four clinical trials on BP meds in the United States, Britain, and Australia finds that patients who took meds for their high blood pressure simply didn't have better outcomes than those who took placebos.

    And they didn't even have better outcomes than patients who received no treatment at all.

    All of the patients in the studies were very similar to the majority of people who now take blood pressure meds. They all had stage 1 hypertension -- or blood pressure that falls somewhere between 140/90 and 159/99.

    And after four or five years, there were only two real differences.

    First, patients who took drugs actually had a slightly higher risk of a heart attack -- although, to be fair, the increase in risk was so small it could have been due to chance.

    And second, the ones who took meds of course had a much higher risk of side effects. The side effects were severe enough that 9 percent had to stop taking their drugs.

    The new study, conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, is coming as quite shock to many people (especially the millions who currently take BP meds). But it's no surprise to me.

    The real problem with elevated blood pressure isn't the number itself -- it's the underlying cause. If you take a drug that just lowers the number without fixing that underlying cause, it's only natural that the risks will remain.

    That's why I recommend controlling blood pressure through a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes as well as some natural supplements.

    Your own holistic doctor can help find the approach that's best for you, but you can start with the vices: If you smoke, stop. If you're eating too much animal fat and salt, cut back (and increase your potassium intake while you're at it). If you're a couch potato, get more movement.

    And consider taking supplements such as hawthorn berry and gingko biloba as well as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and coenzyme Q10.

    Together, this approach won't just lower your blood pressure. It'll help make you healthier -- and that's what will really lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.

  2. The right way to beat gout

    I don't know what's worse: Gout, or the drugs prescribed to treat this painful condition.

    Some of these meds can actually make the gout worse before it gets any better -- assuming you even get better at all. And one common gout med comes with death as a possible side effect.

    (That's a heck of a price to pay for a little relief.)

    One of these meds was just at the heart of an $800 million Big Pharma acquisition, so you can expect to see some pretty aggressive marketing for it in the coming months.

    Don't fall for it.

    I've had great success curing this condition naturally, and the science backs up one of my favorite approaches: plain old vitamin C.

    You should be increasing your C intake anyway, since most people are badly deficient. And along with the vitamin's famous immune-boosting powers, it can also help protect you from gout.

    One study of 46,994 men tracked for up to 20 years finds that those who got at least 1,500 mg a day had a 45 percent lower risk of gout than those who took in 250 mg or less.

    Each 500 mg boost in C levels cut the risk of the condition by 17 percent, according to the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

    It works because vitamin C can keep levels of uric acid down -- and excess uric acid is what causes gout in the first place.

    But if C alone doesn't keep your gout at bay, try one of my favorite fruits -- the cherry.

    I still see doctors dismissing cherries for gout as a folk remedy, which only tells me they're not keeping up with the science on this -- because the studies show they work.

    The pigments that give cherries their red color are high in anthocyanins, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that dissolve uric acid crystals, helping them to be excreted by the kidneys. Cherries are also high in potassium, which helps the body maintain a slightly alkaline state -- and since uric acid is, as the name suggests, acidic, it has a harder time forming.

    I've found sour cherries work best, or cherry juice. But for pure convenience, I recommend cherry extract supplements, which have proven to be just as effective and are available in any health food store.

  3. One more reason to drink beer

    In fact, you can get just about all the benefits of wine and then some from plain old beer -- and the latest research confirms that a cold brew is every bit as good for your heart as a glass of red.
  4. Low salt comes with high risk

    Next time your doctor says "cut back on the salt, or else" ask him one question. Or else what?
  5. Always look on the bright side of life

    Your outlook could play a direct role in your stroke risk, with the most negative people facing the most negative outcomes.
  6. Seaweed for heart health

    But in Asia, this nuisance is on the menu -- and with good reason, too: Seaweed is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and a new review of the research finds it can boost your heart health like nothing else.
  7. Salt isn't the problem after all

    Salt has been called every name in the book and labeled Public Health Enemy Number One for its supposed role in heart disease and an early death.
  8. Go bananas to lower stroke risk

    A new study finds that potassium--a nutrient you don't often hear about, but probably don't get enough of--can slash your stroke risk and lower your risk of heart disease.

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