Caution for Those Being Treated for High Blood Pressure

September 18, 2008 6:29 AM CT

Since many who have atrial fibrillation also have high blood pressure, this interesting new study out of Vanderbilt University Medical Center may be of value to know about.

The current U.S. guidelines for treating hypertension (high blood pressure) call for treatment with a thiazide diuretic.

While thiazide diuretics reduce blood pressure, they also deplete potassium. Studies of heart attacks in animal models have shown that low potassium levels from the thiazide diuretics can cause the abnormal heart rhythms that lead to sudden cardiac death.

The failure of treatment with thiazide diuretics alone to reduce heart attack deaths prompted the Vanderbilt study, which determined that combining a thiazide diuretic with a “potassium-sparing” drug reduces sudden cardiac death and coronary mortality by a staggering 40 per cent.

So, until the current U.S. practice guidelines are revised in 2009, millions may be at risk. Don’t be one of them. If you’re in this category, please check with your doctor.