Hormone clue in blood pressure battle

Published: 9 April 2008

Understanding the role of the hormone aldosterone could provide hope of new treatments to millions of people who suffer from high blood pressure, University of Glasgow researchers have found

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

Researchers from the University of Glasgow have studied the way in which aldosterone affects blood pressure regulation.

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. 

Lead researcher Professor 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.”

Professor Connell, who leads the MRC Blood Pressure Unit at the University of Glasgow, is presenting the research today (Thursday April 10) at the annual Society for Endocrinology BES meeting in Harrogate. 

Aldosterone is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands and 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.

Aldosterone plays a key role in regulating blood pressure and can affect how susceptible you are to developing 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. 

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).

Notes for editors

For more information, or to speak to Professor Connell, please contact Ray McHugh in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 00 44 141 330 3535 or email r.mchugh@admin.glasgow.ac.uk

(1)    Connell, J.M.C., Davies, E. 2005. Journal of Endocrinology, 186, 1-20.

The paper will be presented at the Society for Endocrinology BES meeting at 08:55 on Thursday 10 April 2008. The abstract for this work is reproduced below: see http://www.endocrine-abstracts.org/ea/0015/ea0015S8.htm. Please note this presentation forms the Clinical Endocrinology Trust lecture and is supported by the Clinical Endocrinology Trust.

The Society for Endocrinology BES 2008 is Britain’s biggest scientific meeting on hormones, and is taking place at the Harrogate International Centre, Harrogate, from 7-10 April 2008. For the full programme, please see http://www.endocrinology.org/meetings/2008/BES2008/prog/prog.aspx.

The Society for Endocrinology is Britain’s national organisation promoting endocrinology and hormone awareness. For general information, please visit: http://www.endocrinology.org

First published: 9 April 2008

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