Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin Scientists seem to have stumbled upon an astonishing discovery in patients diagnosed with hypertension. Investigators from the UT Southwestern Medical Center claim that the hormone elevating blood pressure by prompting the kidneys to retain salt is a major stimulator of the brain centers known for regulating vascular system and blood pressure. The hormone aldosterone produced by the adrenal glands, control electrolytes in the body and may re-absorb sodium along with water into the bloodstream for managing potassium.

When aldosterone is present in higher levels it possibly increases high blood pressure, muscle cramps and weakness. Throughout the study, scientists examined patients with overproduced aldosterone for ascertaining whether the hormone creates an impact on sympathetic nerve activity raising blood pressure. 14 hypertensive patients suffering from a condition known as primary aldosteronism were compared to 20 hypertensive patients and 18 patients with normal blood pressure.

“Between 10 percent and 20 percent of patients with high blood pressure who are resistant to treatment have elevated aldosterone hormones. Previous studies in animals showed that this hormone can affect many parts of the brain that control the cardiovascular system. We wanted to understand whether aldosterone also increases the nerve activity that causes constriction of blood vessels, which elevates blood pressure in humans. Since aldosterone can cause high blood pressure by affecting multiple systems and not just the kidneys, this study sheds light on why blood pressure is so difficult to control in patients with high aldosterone levels,” said Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study.

The outcome was that aldosterone supposedly heightened activity in a part of the nervous system that increases blood pressure. This elevation in activity probably contributes to the onset of hypertension. The nerve activity of patients who had adrenal surgery to remove tumors producing this hormone was calculated. After surgery a substantial decline in both nerve activity and blood pressure appeared. Experts suggest that in order to treat hypertension, not only the kidneys should be treated, but also the sympathetic nervous system regulating blood pressure. Additional investigations can be undertaken for analyzing ways to avoid effects of aldosterone on the brain.

The study was published in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.