Bone health among positive side effects of beta blockers and thiazide diuretics

BOSTON — Medication side effects are typically irritating, harmful, or even life-threatening. Here's one that might be good for people taking some medications that combat high blood pressure: stronger bones. Thiazide diuretics, beta blockers, and ACE inhibitors also appear to protect bones from breaking, reports the March 2007 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Thinning bones are responsible for 1.5 million fractures each year among older Americans. The fractures can be disabling and deadly. Almost a quarter of people who break a hip can no longer live independently and end up in nursing homes; another quarter die within a year.

Thiazide diuretics help the kidneys hang on to calcium instead of releasing it into the urine. They also rev up osteoblasts, cells responsible for building bone. Beta blockers allow blood vessels to relax by jamming receptors for stress hormones. It turns out that these stress hormones also contribute to the slow but steady erosion of bone. ACE inhibitors block production of a substance called angiotensin II that stimulates the activity of cells that break down bone.

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