The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that about 70 million American adults1 (29%) have high blood pressure. African Americans develop high blood pressure more often, and at an earlier age than whites and Hispanics do. Almost 1,000 Americans die of high blood pressure daily per the CDC.
You can make changes to your lifestyle that will help you control your blood pressure. Your doctor might prescribe medications that can help you. One of the most common drugs used to control high blood pressure is diuretics.
Diuretics2 help your body get rid of extra fluid. They are often called “water pills.” In medicine, diuretics are used to treat heart failure, liver cirrhosis3, hypertension, water poisoning4, and certain kidney diseases5.
There are many brands of diuretics. Some are taken one time a day. Others are taken twice a day. The three most common types according to the CDC are:
- Thiazides6: chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Hygroton), indapamide (Lozol), hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix, HydroDiuril), and metolazone (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
- Loop diuretics7: bumetanide (Bumex), furosemide (Lasix), and torsemide (Demadex)
- Potassium-sparing agents8: amiloride (Midamor), spironolactone (Aldactone), and triamterene (Dyrenium)
There are also diuretics that contain a combination of two of the drugs above.
When you are taking diuretics, you will need to have regular checkups so that your health care provider can check your potassium levels9 and monitor how your kidneys are working.
Diuretics make you urinate more often. Try not to take diuretics at night before you go to bed. Take them at the same time every day.
Water Pills: The Good
Diuretics play a major role in controlling many diseases that affect African-Americans. Diuretics are a preferred choice for hypertension according to the new JNC (Joint National Committee) 8 guidelines. Jay Harold has a post that addresses high blood pressure in African-Americans. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has information about heart failure diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.
Jay Harold knows the potential problems with diuretics since he has taken diuretics for years. Working with your doctor to find the best diuretic for you is important to minimize side effects. Learn more about side effects by reading an article from Jay Harold on this topic. You have a responsibility to yourself and your family to maintain good health. Do everything you can to achieve this goal.
Water Pills: The Bad
Jay Harold understands that taking a water pill every day is hard to do since he takes a diuretic himself. There are numerous adverse drug reactions (side effects) associated with diuretics. Many of the side effects can have a major impact on your life. You must weigh the benefits of high blood pressure reduction by diuretics or the preferred choice of lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes include a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Common side effects of diuretics are:
- Fatigue, muscle cramps, or weakness from low potassium levels
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Numbness or tingling
- Heart palpitations, or a “fluttery” heartbeat
- Urinary incontinence (not being able to hold your urine)
- Loss of sex drive (from potassium-sparing diuretics), or inability to have an erection
- Hair growth, menstrual changes, and a deepening voice in women (from potassium-sparing diuretics)
- Breast swelling in men or breast tenderness in women (from potassium-sparing diuretics)
- Allergic reactions — if you are allergic to sulfa drugs, you should not use thiazides.
Be sure to take your diuretic the way you have been told.
Weighing Yourself Regularly
You will get to know what weight is right for you. Weighing yourself will help you know if there is too much fluid in your body. You might also find that your clothes and shoes are feeling tighter than normal when there is too much fluid in your body.
Weigh yourself every morning on the same scale when you get up — before you eat and after you use the bathroom. Make sure you are wearing similar clothing each time you weigh yourself. Write down your weight every day on a chart so that you can keep track of it.
Call your doctor if your weight goes up by more than 2 to 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week. Also, call your doctor if you lose a lot of weight. Jay Harold has a post on AspireAssist, a device intended to treat obese patients.
The Ugly: When to Call the Doctor
Call your health care provider if:
- You are tired or weak.
- You feel short of breath when you are active or when you are at rest.
- You are wheezing and having trouble breathing.
- You have a cough that does not go away. It may be dry and hacking, or it may sound wet and bring up pink, foamy spit.
- You have swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs.
- You have to urinate a lot, especially at night.
- You have gained or lost weight.
- You have pain and tenderness in your belly.
- You have symptoms that you think might be from your medicines.
- Your pulse, or heartbeat, gets very slow or very fast, or it is not steady.
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