Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Paying attention to potassium in heart failure

Heart Beat

Paying attention to potassium in heart failure

Heart failure poses a balancing problem for potassium, an essential mineral found in many foods. Too much potassium in the bloodstream, which can happen with the use of potassium-sparing diuretics (water pills), can cause potentially deadly heart rhythms. Too little, which can happen with the use of loop or thiazide diuretics, poses problems, too.

Diuretics fight the fluid buildup that often accompanies heart failure. Loop or thiazide diuretics cause the kidneys to flush out needed potassium along with excess water and sodium. A report in the June 1, 2007 European Heart Journal suggests that in people with mild to moderate heart failure, the resulting scarcity of potassium increases the chances of dying from progressive heart failure, a heart attack, or cardiac arrest.

Commonly used diuretics

Thiazide diuretics

chlorothiazide

Diuril

chlorthalidone

Hygroton, Thalitone

hydrochlorothiazide

Hydro-D, Esidrix

Loop diuretics

bumetanide

Bumex

furosemide

Lasix

torsemide

Demadex

Potassium-sparing diuretics

amiloride

Midamor

spironolactone

Aldactone

triamterene

Dyrenium

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