Unrecognized hormonal condition may be contributing to high blood pressure

Young female healthcare worker uses blood pressure cuff to measure pressure in older man.ng

The hormone aldosterone may be a common and unrecognized contributor to high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, researchers are reporting. Their study points to a possible way to lower hypertension using existing medicines that block aldosterone and may lead to new screening approaches for the hormonal condition.

Primary aldosteronism is a condition where the adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone aldosterone. It causes the body to retain sodium and lose potassium, which contributes to a spike in blood pressure. Primary aldosteronism has traditionally been considered to be an uncommon cause of hypertension, but the findings of this study show that it is much more common than previously recognized.

Researchers studied 1,015 patients at four U.S. hospitals to determine the prevalence of excess aldosterone production and primary aldosteronism.  Some had normal blood pressure while others had varying degrees of hypertension. The researchers found that excess aldosterone production paralleled the severity of blood pressure. Among people with normal blood pressure, 11% had aldosteronism. For people with more severe hypertension, the rate was 22%. 

The study, funded in part by NHLBI, appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine.