How blood pressure medication works
Diuretics, or fluid pills, decrease the fluid pumped by the heart and decrease the amount of fluid in the blood vessels. Based on Plumbing 101, this should lower the blood pressure. However, not all diuretics are good for over-the-road professionals. Some are very strong and can force drivers to stop every 30 minutes to urinate.
Some common names for diuretics include Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ), Lasix (Furosamide) and Diazide (HCTZ/Triampturine), just to name a few.
The urine flow problem will continue until you reach a dry weight, and that can take several weeks. In addition, these diuretics, with the exception of Diazide, can cause a serious loss of potassium. This electrolyte has a small margin of safety, meaning that small shifts up or down can cause problems. Thus, some diuretics require potassium supplementation.
Other common side effects of diuretics are cramping, pain over your parotid glands (located on the side of the jawbone below and in front of the ears) and dry mouth.
Having said this, HCTZ can be a great medication in low doses (not to exceed 25 milligrams). Over this dosage, there is little benefit and more side effects. The combinations of HCTZ with other hypertensive medications can control blood pressure and are excellent for truckers. We will talk about these combinations in a future column.
What does blood pressure mean? You’ve heard the numbers: 120/80, 140/90 and 160/100. The upper number reflects the pressure needed to force blood from the heart out into the great vessels going to the brain and other vital organs. The human brain is more sensitive to high systolic blood pressure. High systolic pressures are what cause strokes.
The lower number is called the diastolic pressure. This is the pressure that flows in a backward direction when the heart has finished contracting and the valves of the heart shut to prevent backward filling of the heart. When the flow hits the closed valves, the vessels that provide oxygen to the heart fill. This is how the heart gets its oxygen and other elements needed for the heart to survive.
This diastolic pressure needs to be lower to prevent damage to the heart vessels or coronary arteries.
This is why the phrase “know your numbers” is so vital to over-the-road professionals. We’ll talk more about blood pressure in the next issue. In the meantime, I ask you Kings of the Highways and Queens of the Interstate to stay safe. We need you out there, and we need you healthy.
Dr. John McElligott is the founder of
Professional Drivers Medical Depots (pd-md.com), a planned nationwide network of medical clinics located at truck stops and travel centers.