Aldosterone Receptor Antagonists: Diuretics for Heart Failure
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How It Works
Aldosterone receptor antagonists are medicines that help the body get rid of extra water (diuretics). They also have other properties that can prevent heart failure from becoming worse, along with improving symptoms of heart failure.
These medicines cause the kidneys to get rid of extra water and they help hold on to (retain) potassium by inhibiting the action of the hormone aldosterone. Because of this, they are called potassium-sparing diuretics.
Why It Is Used
Aldosterone receptor antagonist medicines may be a good option for people with severe heart failure who are already taking other medicines (such as angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitors, other diuretics, digoxin, and beta-blockers).1
How Well It Works
Aldosterone receptor antagonists are the only diuretics that improve survival for people with heart failure. They lower the risk of death and hospitalization and improve symptoms of heart failure.2
More research is needed to confirm the usefulness of this medicine in treating less severe forms of heart failure.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
- Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
- Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
- If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
- Trouble breathing.
- Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Numbness or tingling in your hands, feet, or lips.
Call your doctor if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Stomach cramps.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
You may feel more tired or need to urinate more often when you start taking this medicine. These effects typically occur less after you have taken the medicine for a while. If the increase in urine interferes with your sleep or daily activities, ask your doctor to help you plan a schedule for taking the medicine.
Your doctor may monitor the potassium in your blood with regular blood tests. Your doctor will let you know when you need to have the tests.
This diuretic does not make you lose potassium from your body like some other diuretics do. So you do not need to get extra potassium in your diet. Talk with your doctor or a dietitian before eating salt substitutes, because some salt substitutes contain potassium.
For information on other types of diuretics for heart failure, see Diuretics for Heart Failure.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
For tips on taking medicine for heart failure, see:
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
- Hunt SA, et al. (2009). 2009 focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2005 guidelines for the diagnosis and management of heart failure in adults. A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 119(14): e391–e479.
- Drugs for treatment of chronic heart failure (2009). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 7(83): 53–56.
Last Revised: April 26, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Margaret Hetherington, PHM, BsC - Pharmacy
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