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Aldosterone – the key to curing high blood pressure?

Understanding the role of the hormone aldosterone could provide hope of new therapeutic treatments to millions of people who suffer from high blood pressure.

That’s the conclusion of a large body of research being presented today at the annual Society for Endocrinology BES meeting in Harrogate. Aldosterone plays a key role in regulating blood pressure and can affect how susceptible you are to developing hypertension later in life.

Researchers at the Medical Research Council Blood Pressure Unit at the University of Glasgow, led by Prof John Connell, have studied the way in which aldosterone affects blood pressure regulation. Aldosterone is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands. It acts on the kidneys to make sure that salt levels in the blood are kept at a safe level. However, it also has important actions to alter heart and blood vessel function. Too much aldosterone increases the risk of stroke and heart failure.

The group found that in older people, higher levels of aldosterone in the bloodstream are associated with high blood pressure, while in young adults, high aldosterone levels indicate you are more likely to subsequently develop hypertension later in life. Individual aldosterone levels are determined by a number of factors. People born with a low birth weight tend to have higher aldosterone levels when they are older. Another important influence is genetics - some people have variants of a gene that controls aldosterone that works more efficiently than others. This means that throughout life, certain individuals will have higher aldosterone levels and are more prone to developing high blood pressure. This also suggests that in the future, we may be able to predict from an early age which individuals are more likely to develop hypertension. Lifestyle modification and new drug treatments might then be targeted specifically at this group of people.

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Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK have hypertension. The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of suffering from a heart attack or a stroke. Evidence suggests that aldosterone may be a causal factor in 10% of patients with high blood pressure(1).

Researcher Prof John Connell said:
“Aldosterone is a key cardiovascular hormone. The higher the level of aldosterone in your blood, the more likely it is that you will suffer from high blood pressure, which will increase your risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke.

Through our research, we have discovered some of the factors that predispose you to having higher aldosterone levels. We now need to build up a better understanding of how production of aldosterone throughout life is controlled. This could help us to discover how to prevent blood pressure rising with age and also allow us to target new drug treatments for high blood pressure.”

Jennie Evans | alfa
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