Blood Pressure Drugs

Carry Potassium Risk

Drugs used to treat high blood pressure and other conditions can cause a dangerous buildup of potassium, and patients taking them need to be watched closely, researchers cautioned yesterday.

The drugs, angiotensin-converting-enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers, can raise potassium levels in about 10 percent of patients, especially those with weak kidneys, said Biff Palmer of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

"Because a third to half of patients with congestive heart failure have kidney complications, a large proportion of patients being treated with ACE inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers are at increased risk for hyperkalemia [high potassium]," Palmer said in a statement.

Potassium, which is normally excreted by the kidneys, affects the way cell membranes work and governs the actions of the heart and the pathways between the brain and muscles.

High potassium levels can disrupt the heart's normal rhythm, Palmer wrote in a commentary for last week's New England Journal of Medicine.

L.A. Moves to Curb

West Nile Outbreak

Los Angeles approved an emergency measure yesterday to curb the spread of the nation's most deadly outbreak of West Nile virus by penalizing residents who allow standing water on their property.

California now leads the nation with four fatal cases of the mosquito-borne virus this year, according to state health officials.

The bulk of the state's 116 West Nile infections have occurred in southern counties, including Los Angeles and neighboring San Bernardino and Riverside.

Only Arizona has reported more human West Nile infections, but its 274 cases have resulted in two deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council ordered the city attorney to draft an emergency ordinance to cite those with stagnant swimming pools or fountains, and to pay for a West Nile prevention campaign.

The measure is expected to receive final approval by the end of the month.

-- From News Services