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High Blood Pressure patients - many have abnormal Sodium and Potassium

January 11th, 2006

High Blood Pressure patients - many have abnormal Sodium and Potassium


A study published in this month’s issue of British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that one in five patients taking prescription diuretics have abnormal blood serum levels of sodium and potassium.

Despite the number of patients that is affected by this only one third of these patients taking the diuretics will get blood tests to measure the electrolyte levels.  With medications causing variations of electrolyte levels serious health problems can happen. 


The researchers from Queen’s Medical Centre in the UK, investigated over 32,000 medical records and found 12 percent of the patients who were prescribed thiazide diuretics from 1990 through 2002, only 32 percent of these patients had records of blood tests for sodium and potassium levels.  The most prescribed blood pressure medicine in these UK patients was bendroflumethiazide (bendrofluazide).

What is shocking is that 21 percent of those 32 percent of the patients tested had levels that were below a normal range.  The untested patients could have an electrolyte imbalance and not even be aware of it.

"In a small number of patients reduced sodium and potassium levels – often referred to as electrolyte levels - can be severe enough to require hospital admission, especially if they are elderly" reported the lead author Dr Jennifer Clayton.

Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance in a mild case would be a general feeling of weakness and tiredness and in some cases an abnormal rhythm of the heart.  If the sodium levels drop too low the patient may feel dizzy and confused.  Lower potassium levels can cause more side effects of other drugs that they are taking for heart condition.


Not all blood pressure lowering medication will lose the potassium.  Some medications can actually save the potassium and you can end up with high potassium levels.  Regardless of the medication that your doctor has prescribed, it is extremely important to get a blood test to check the electrolyte levels.

More of the patients taking thiazide diuretics suffered from low sodium levels more so than lowered potassium.  Very few patients had both lowered sodium and potassium.  Of the 196 patients that had blood tests, 9 percent had severe electrolyte imbalances.  The records showed that 10 of these patients were taken off the medication, but 7 patients remained on the same regimen.  Not only did the patients with severe electrolyte imbalances had this condition it was anywhere from 3 to 90 months before any blood test was done.

If you are taking blood pressure lowering medication, you should never stop taking without first talking with your doctor.  Some medications cannot just be stopped it could pose a health risk.  It is extremely important to let your doctor know how you feel when taking a medication and ask your doctor for an electrolyte blood test if you are taking any blood pressure medication.  Make sure to follow up with your doctor on the results of the blood test to confirm that everything is ok.  If you need to change medication or dosage amounts this will help the doctor in making these decisions.


Not all blood pressure medication lowers potassium levels and everyone may have a different response to each type of medication.  Don’t assume that because you are taking a blood pressure lowering medication that you will have low potassium, best to measure it with a blood test and check in with your doctor.

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By Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer


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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:48 PM