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What Are the Pros and Cons of Diuretics for Hypertension?

A.E. Freeman
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are pros and cons to taking diuretics for hypertension. Diuretics help remove excess water and salt from the body, which in some cases can bring down a person's blood pressure. The pills are usually the first type of medication prescribed to treat hypertension, because their side effects are milder than other hypertension medications. They are also usually much less expensive than other hypertension medications. Drawbacks include potential side effects such as dehydration, a feeling of dizziness, and the need to urinate frequently, especially right after taking the pills.

Thiazide diuretics are often prescribed for hypertension. While thiazide diuretics for hypertension can remove the sodium causing a person's high blood pressure, a side effect of this is that they also cause the body to lose potassium, which it needs to function properly. If a person doesn't get enough potassium, he can develop an irregular heartbeat. To counteract the loss of potassium, a person may need to make sure he eats plenty of foods that naturally contain high levels of the nutrient, such as bananas and orange juice.

A doctor may also prescribe an additional medication, known as a potassium-sparing diuretic, to prevent the loss of excess potassium. If such a pill is prescribed, then a person needs to make sure he doesn't consume too much potassium and may need to avoid it altogether. In extreme circumstances, potassium-sparing diuretics for hypertension can cause excess hair to grow on the body, irregular menstrual cycles, and enlargement of the breasts for both men and women.

On the positive side, diuretics are usually considered the best first-line treatment option over other high blood pressure medications such as ACE inhibitors and alpha blockers. In addition to lowering blood pressure, diuretics are also effective at protecting against the other conditions that usually result from hypertension, such as a stroke and heart problems. Diuretics remove water from the body, so they are also effective at reducing swelling, such as edema.

Diuretics for hypertension should not be prescribed to just anyone. The effects of diuretics on a fetus remains unknown, so pregnant women should not take them. It is also not a good idea for breastfeeding mothers to take a diuretic. The medication can be transferred to the baby through the milk and potentially cause dehydration in the infant. Older people may have more severe side effects when taking diuretics for hypertension and should only take the medication under close supervision.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
A.E. Freeman
By A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and retention. With a background in the arts, she combines her writing prowess with best practices to deliver compelling content across various domains and effectively connect with target audiences.
Discussion Comments
By anon322861 — On Mar 01, 2013

So if I drink water to be healthy, and then I take a diuretic for high blood pressure to get rid of the water in my blood, why not skip the water? Am I missing something here? How much water should I drink? I am 48 years old, 5'11 and weigh 208 pounds. I exercise, lift weights and drink protein shakes. Is the protein bad? Should I stop drinking water? How much should I have now that I'm taking 12.5 milligrams of medicine?

By anon305372 — On Nov 26, 2012

One side effect of diuretics is high uric acid and I ended up having gout attacks.

By julies — On Jan 09, 2012

High blood pressure and hypertension run in my family, so I was not surprised when my doctor wanted to start me on a diuretic.

I was also overweight and didn't have a very healthy diet. The thought of going on medication for this in my 40's was not something I wanted to do.

I decided it was time to get serious about my health and try to control my blood pressure without medication.

This has all been done by working closely with my doctor. He has monitored my progress and keeps close tabs on my blood pressure along the way.

I think each situation is different and many people need diuretics to keep their hypertension from getting out of control.

For me, I felt my hypertension was the result of poor choices I had made, and I wanted to try controlling it by diet and exercise before going on medication.

By myharley — On Jan 09, 2012

@bagley79 - I went through a similar process your mom is going through. When I first began taking the diuretic for my hypertension, I liked the fact that the swelling in my legs and ankles went down.

I didn't like the fact that I was running to the bathroom all the time. I also felt a little bit dizzy and light headed after a couple weeks.

In my experience I didn't find any natural high blood pressure remedies that worked for me. I am much more diligent about watching the types of food I eat. I also started a regular exercise program that has helped me in many ways besides my hypertension.

There are several choices of medications if you can't find a way to control this by diet and exercise.

The most important thing is keeping it under control. You can do more damage with consistently high blood pressure readings than from the side effects of the medication.

By bagley79 — On Jan 08, 2012

Has anybody used any natural remedies for high blood pressure that worked?

My mom has high blood pressure and does not like to take the diuretics her doctor prescribed because of the way they make her feel.

She has tried some natural remedies to control this, but I am afraid she is letting her blood pressure get out of control in the process.

I know she has used things like garlic and apple cider vinegar, but I don't think these are keeping her blood pressure under control.

I think there should be some kind of diuretic that would control her blood pressure without making her feel funny.

By Sara007 — On Jan 07, 2012

@popcorn - My doctor has gone over all sorts of high blood pressure treatment with me and his main suggestion to get off the medication was to lose weight and exercise. Even just losing 10 pounds if you are heavier can help drop your blood pressure a few points, and exercise naturally lowers blood pressure.

I also found that controlling my diet and taking sodium out has done wonders for my health. After about a year of dieting and exercising I was able to get off my blood pressure medication and I am hoping to stay off them. It feels horrible to have to rely on medication to live your everyday life.

By popcorn — On Jan 07, 2012

My family is always telling me about the dangers of high blood pressure because it runs in our family and I was unlucky enough to be faced with a series of high blood pressure readings that left me on medication. Right now I am on diuretics for high blood pressure and am hoping I can do some things to get me off the pills.

Does anyone have any tips of how to get off blood pressure medication and return to a somewhat more normal life?

It really bothers me that I have to worry about controlling high blood pressure at my age. I am not that old and I don't want more health issues.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 06, 2012

@Oceana – I told my doctor that I felt really tired and dizzy all the time while on a diuretic to treat my hypertension. The reason he gave me for why I was feeling this way surprised me.

He said that I most likely wasn't hydrated enough. I had been drinking so much that I felt nearly sick from it, yet he thought I should drink even more. I didn't think this was humanly possible.

However, I tried it, and he was right. I found that if I drank through a straw, it didn't seem like I was drinking as much, though I actually was drinking more. This mental trick allowed me to consume enough liquids to stay adequately hydrated.

By Oceana — On Jan 05, 2012

I knew the reason for my high blood pressure was stress at work, but I couldn't afford to quit my job. So, I started taking a diuretic instead.

I took the kind that can zap away potassium, so I made sure to eat a banana every morning and drink orange juice during lunch. I still felt kind of dizzy, and it was hard to keep up with my thirst. Let's just say I visited the water cooler more often than most people.

It just doesn't feel normal to be urinating that much. I almost feel like I might be hurting my body by taking this drug. Has anyone else felt this way while taking a diuretic?

By Perdido — On Jan 05, 2012

@cloudel – I know how hard it is to deal with the frequent urination and thirst. I had to take a diuretic for hypertension, because it was the only medication I could afford with no health insurance.

It was very frustrating to have to get up from my desk and go to the bathroom so often at work. I felt like I couldn't get anything done, but I knew the medicine was helping my body.

My doctor told me that after I had been taking the medicine long enough to flush out excess sodium, I would have the option of going on a low sodium diet and being able to quit the drug. I did this, and I haven't had hypertension since I started eating well.

By cloudel — On Jan 04, 2012

I have high blood pressure and a kidney disease, so my doctor thought a diuretic would be the obvious choice for me. The flushing out of toxins would benefit my kidneys, while the removal of sodium would help my heart.

However, I could not tolerate the medication. It made my heart beat too fast, and I had to urinate every 30 minutes.

Also, no matter how much I drank, I could not satiate my thirst. Every time I took a sip, it turned into a gulp, and I was as thirsty as I get from working outdoors in the heat.

So, my doctor gave me a beta-blocker instead. It has worked wonderfully, and I haven't had any bad side effects.

A.E. Freeman
A.E. Freeman
Amy Freeman, a freelance copywriter and content creator, makes engaging copy that drives customer acquisition and...
Learn more
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