Researchers are reporting that some powerful diuretics which are used to control blood pressure can also leach calcium from the bones and cause significant bone loss in the men who are taking them. Apparently, older men who used the diuretic drugs the most in the group reviewed ended up with triple the bone loss over men who never used the diuretics, the researchers reported. The report appears in the journal, The Archives of Internal Medicine.
In their report, researchers state that they discovered a direct correlation between the use of these types of drugs and bone loss in men, putting the men at risk for developing osteoporosis, which can cause broken hips and other broken bones. And although osteoporosis is more common in women than in men, one in five Americans with bone-weakening osteoporosis is a man. As a matter-of-fact, as many as two million American men currently suffer from osteoporosis. According to Dr. Lionel Lim of Griffin Hospital in Derby, Connecticut, doctors should be aware of this problem and should keep an eye out for this problem in men taking the drugs. Dr. Lim led the study.
Diuretics are especially effective in the treatment of patients suffering from heart failure and are also quite effective in relieving the characteristic swollen ankles and breathlessness that comes with heart disease. One of the most common brand names in diuretics is Lasix; these so-called “loop” diuretics are also sold under the generic name furosemide. Diuretics work to lower blood pressure by removing water from the blood by ay of the kidneys. With less blood circulating, the blood does not have to pump so hard. Diuretics also cause the kidneys to filter out much more sodium, potassium and—now, it seems—calcium.
Lim studied nearly 3,300 men aged 65 and older, about eight percent of the men studied had taken the diuretics either regularly or from time to time. Lim’s team also measured the men’s hip bone density at the start and again roughly four and one-half years later. Bone loss over the course of the study averaged 0.78 percent annually among the 84 men who used loop diuretics regularly compared to 0.33 percent among non-users and 0.58 percent among the 181 intermittent users. Previous studies have associated diuretic use with a patient’s risk of breaking a hip or fracturing another bone. “However, there is uncertainty as to whether this increased fracture risk is attributable to negative effects on bone mineral density, fall-related mechanisms (such as dizziness and low blood pressure when standing up), or associated (illnesses),” Lim wrote in his report. The men taking diuretics in the study tended to be heavier, more sedentary, and more likely to suffer from other maladies including heart disease than non-users.
The human body filters nearly 200 quarts of blood through the kidneys and fluid passes through a complex system of tubes, called nephrons. Loop diuretics work in the nephron area called the “Loop of Henle” and interfere with the body’s re-absorption of chloride and keep sodium from re-entering the blood. Unfortunately, loop diuretics tend to eliminate calcium, magnesium, and potassium.