Risks of Using Diuretics to Control High Blood Pressure

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Filed Under: Blood Pressure, Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Risks of Using Diuretics to Control High Blood Pressure

This common high blood pressure treatment can lead to mineral deficiencies

Although there are many drugs available to control high blood pressure, the one most commonly prescribed is a diuretic. This is the first choice of many doctors for two reasons. They've been using them for 30 years and it's a habit; and secondly, diuretics are inexpensive when compared to other blood pressure medications.

How Diuretics Work

Diuretics, or "water pills," work by preventing the kidneys from reabsorbing salt (sodium) and water from the urine. Because the amount of sodium your body retains dictates how much water stays in your system, allowing sodium to pass in the urine also allows additional water to be released. This increase in urine helps lower high blood pressure because it reduces the amount of water in the blood and therefore, blood volume. However, losing too much sodium or other minerals (e.g., zinc, potassium and magnesium) in the urine can lead to serious new problems.

Side Effects of Diuretics

Some of the problems associated with diuretics include:

  • Loss of too much sodium. This causes problems like confusion, falls, fits, lightheadedness and fainting type spells when rising from a sitting or stooped position, and even temporary muscle weakness on one side of the body.
  • Loss of too much potassium. Low blood levels of potassium can cause extreme fatigue, irritability, inability to stay awake or concentrate and even worse, an abnormal heart beat, or even heart failure. Hopefully your doctor has warned you about this danger and told you to take potassium supplements. (By the way, eating a banana a day is not enough to make up for the potassium you lose.) Potassium gluconate is available in most health food stores and generally the recommended dosage is 500 mg to 1,000 mg daily.
  • Loss of too much magnesium. When magnesium (and calcium) levels are normal, your chance of having high blood pressure and heart disease are less. This partially explains why communities with hard water (rich in calcium and magnesium) often have few heart attack victims. Increasing magnesium can correct problems with irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) and often eliminate the symptoms associated with mitral valve prolapse.
  • Increase in uric acid. This is especially true in the elderly. (This is the waste product that comes from protein metabolism and causes gout problems!)

Diuretics also raise blood cholesterol levels, disrupt carbohydrate metabolism, and can lead to diabetes mellitus in elderly patients. They cause inflammation of the pancreas and gallbladder, deafness, and loss of bladder control. Some researchers fear they may even be linked to cancer of the kidney.

What to Do if You Must Take a Diuretic

If you're using my natural treatments for high blood pressure and your doctor still recommends a diuretic, make sure you take daily doses of minerals like zinc (15–30 mg), potassium (500–1,000 mg), and magnesium (250–750 mg) along with a good multivitamin/mineral supplement. And whatever you do, make sure your doctor regularly checks your electrolyte and mineral levels. It would be ridiculous to take diuretics to control life-threatening high blood pressure and at the same time create a potassium deficiency that could end up causing heart failure.

More Dr. Williams Advice on Blood Pressure

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