Howard Pratt, M.D., and his colleagues studied two compounds -- amiloride and spironolactone -- in a group of African-American patients with high blood pressure. African-Americans are disproportionately affected by high blood pressure, and tend to retain more sodium in their bodies, which is linked to high blood pressure. Amiloride and spironolactone are diuretics, or "water pills," that have been available for many years but no longer get much attention from prescribing physicians.
In the study of 98 patients, some were given one of the two drugs, some were given both, some were given a placebo. All of the patients continued to take their standard blood pressure medication. On average, blood pressures of the patients taking either amiloride or spironolactone individually, or both drugs, dropped significantly. There were no side effects. The study was published in the September issue of the journal Hypertension.
Uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to serious complications including heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. According to some estimates, nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure.
The two drugs tested work by limiting the amount of sodium the kidneys reabsorb or take back into the body during the process of producing urine.
"The kidneys do an incredible job of holding on to sodium, which was important to the survival of our early ancestors who lived in a salt-poor world, but today there's so much salt in the food we eat that the kidneys end up holding onto too much sodium," said Dr. Pratt. The result, he said, can be high blood pressure also known as hypertension.