Hypertension: How a hormone called aldosterone may have been the cause of your high blood pressure
If the adrenal glands produce too much aldosterone, it can cause the body to retain sodium and lose potassium which can lead to high blood pressure.
High blood pressure or hypertension is a lifestyle disease with a growing prevalence around the world, and patients use everything from diet changes to medication to treat it. However, there are times when high blood pressure patients seem to be doing everything right and following a proper medication protocol, and yet their blood pressure does not get controlled. A recent study published on 26 May 2020 in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that the hormone aldosterone might be to blame in such cases.
How aldosterone affects blood pressure
Aldosterone is a type of steroid hormone produced by the outer sections of the adrenal glands and acts on the kidney to balance the sodium and potassium levels in the body to maintain blood pressure levels. If the adrenal glands produce too much aldosterone, it can cause the body to retain sodium and lose potassium which, in turn, can lead to water retention and high blood pressure. This overproduction of aldosterone is known as primary aldosterone, and people with this condition find it more difficult to control their hypertension through conventional methods.
The new study — which was funded by the US National Institutes of Health — observed 1,015 patients at four hospitals across the US, and included people with normal blood pressure as well as those with varying degrees of high blood pressure. About 22% of the patients with resistant hypertension (a type of high blood pressure that does not respond to medications) and stage 2 (or severe) hypertension also suffered from primary aldosteronism.
Of the patients with mild or stage 1 hypertension, 16% had primary aldosteronism. What’s worse, even 11% of patients with normal blood pressure were found to be suffering from this condition, indicating the likelihood of these subjects suffering from hypertension later in life. The study ultimately shows that better screening for primary aldosterone can help patients identify and treat high blood pressure better.
Can primary aldosteronism be treated?
Doctors have known about primary aldosteronism for a while now, and this condition is thought to be quite rare. The above-mentioned study, however, proves otherwise. This means that medical practitioners need to reevaluate how they screen the aldosterone levels of patients who have high blood pressure.
Currently, the levels of this hormone are tested by the analysis of a single draw of blood in the morning, even though its levels — like that of all hormones — can fluctuate throughout the day. Researchers in the above study used a more rigorous method, which was the collection of urine samples at different times over 24 hours.
While such rigorous testing can be difficult in a regular diagnostics scenario, it is vital because of the far-reaching role aldosterone plays in your high blood pressure levels. The best part is, once diagnosed, primary aldosterone can be easily treated by taking aldosterone-blocking medications like spironolactone and eplerenone. So, if you have hypertension and aren’t benefiting from a diet and medications, consult your doctor about getting your aldosterone levels checked.
For more information, read our article on High blood pressure: Symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention.
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