High Hormone Levels Put Young Black Males at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Medical News Today, December 12, 2012

Increased levels of the hormone c in young black males correlate with an unhealthy chain of events that starts with retaining too much salt and results in an enlarged heart muscle, researchers say.

The findings indicate physicians may want to reach for aldosterone inhibitors early in their effort to control blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular risk in young black males.

Their studies of a cohort of 191 healthy black and white 15- to 19-year-olds showed that only in the black males was higher aldosterone associated with impaired sodium excretion, increased blood pressure and enlargement of the left pumping chamber of the heart, said Dr. Gregory A. Harshfield, hypertension researcher at the Medical College of Georgia and Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Health Sciences University.

“It’s a clear pathway and is consistent with the idea that is the highest risk group for developing earlier and more severe cases of hypertension,” Harshfield said. {snip} Harshfield’s studies have shown that black males particularly have a problem with blood pressure returning to normal following stress because of an impaired ability to eliminate sodium.

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The steroid hormone aldosterone, produced by the adrenal gland, is part of a renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system that helps the body regulate blood pressure and sodium retention. Aldosterone acts on the kidneys, prompting them to hold onto sodium which increases blood pressure. While that can be an asset in some finite scenarios, such as having limited access to water over an extended period, it can become a major health liability in the everyday world where you can consume a day’s sodium requirement in single pack of crackers, Murro said.

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Interestingly, only 16 of the study participants were obese, and there was no significant correlation between obesity—a major contributor to hypertension and heart disease—and higher aldosterone.

Similar studies are needed in hypertensive youth or those with a family history of high blood pressure to see if their findings hold, the researchers said. One of the newer, more selective aldosterone blockers, eplerenone, has proven more effective than the angiotensin II receptor blocker losartan at treating hypertension in a predominantly black, adult male population. While angiotensin is a precursor for aldosterone, at least one study indicates it’s not very effective at directly suppressing aldosterone.

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