Diuretics decrease risk of heart failure

Diuretics commonly used to treat high blood pressure cut the risk of heart failure among people age 60 and older, says a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study randomly assigned 4,376 participants of the Systolic Hypertension in the Elderly Program to either the diuretic chlorthalidone or a placebo. The risk of heart failure among those given the placebo was twice that of those given the diuretic. Fatal or non-fatal heart failure occurred in 2.3 % of those given the diuretic and 4.4% of those given the placebo. The benefit may actually be underestimated because many of those taking the placebo also crossed over to more active therapy.

Researchers said the diuretics may affect the risk of heart failure by lowering systolic blood pressure.

[See: Kostis JB, Davis BR, Cutler J, et al. Prevention of heart failure by antihypertensive drug treatment in older persons with isolated systolic hypertension. JAMA 1997; 278(3):212-216.]