A recent study by the Medical College of Georgia found that medications to block the hormone aldosterone may greatly benefit hypertensive women.
What is Aldosterone?
Aldosterone is a hormone more abundant in women than men, however, high levels of aldosterone can cause damage to the cardiovascular system. However, obesity and diabetes can make levels of aldosterone skyrocket and can be a major driver of hypertension.
Aldosterone is a hormone produced in the outer section (cortex) of the adrenal glands, which sit above the kidneys. It plays a central role in the regulation of blood pressure mainly by acting on organs such as the kidney and the colon to increase the amount of salt (sodium) reabsorbed into the bloodstream and the amount of another salt called potassium removed in the urine. Aldosterone also causes water to be reabsorbed along with sodium; this increases blood volume and therefore blood pressure. Thus, it indirectly regulates blood levels of electrolytes (sodium, potassium and hydrogen) and helps to maintain the blood pH.
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What does it do?
Aldosterone is part of a group of linked hormones, which form the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system. Activation of this system occurs when there is decrease in blood flow to the kidneys following loss of blood volume or a drop in blood pressure (e.g. due to a hemorrhage) or decrease in plasma sodium concentration.
Renin is an enzyme that leads to a series of chemical reactions resulting in the production of angiotensin II, which in turn stimulate aldosterone release. Aldosterone causes an increase in salt and water re-absorption into the bloodstream from the kidney thereby increasing the blood volume, restoring salt levels and blood pressure. Once salt levels and blood pressure are corrected and the body becomes re-hydrated, the level of renin in the bloodstream falls and therefore the amount of aldosterone in the blood also falls, meaning more water is excreted in the urine.
The most common cause of high aldosterone levels is excess production. The symptoms include high blood pressure, low blood levels of potassium, an abnormal increase in blood volume and sometimes the blood becomes alkaline indirectly as a consequence of the action of aldosterone in promoting acid secretion. When women are hypertensive their physicians should consider measuring their level of aldosterone, a hormone that at high levels damages the cardiovascular system, scientists say.
If aldosterone levels are high, they should consider prescribing drugs that directly target the hormone’s receptor, says Dr. Eric Belin de Chantemele, physiologist in the Vascular Biology Center and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.
“We are finding more evidence that higher aldosterone levels in women translate to higher blood pressure and that the most effective way to treat hypertensive women likely is to target this hormone and its receptor,” Belin de Chantemele said, referencing what appears to be another clear distinction emerging between men and women.”
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Belin de Chantemele notes that clinical studies already have provided some evidence that mineralocorticoid receptor blockers, like the old hypertensive agent Aldactone, work better at reducing blood pressure and cardiovascular risk in women than men.
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Written by Eli Ben-Yehuda Eli is a licensed Registered Nurse with 17 years experience. Eli graduated with a major in nursing and a minor in psychology. His postgraduate training was in trauma, oncology, and cardiology.
With a passion for health advocacy Eli researches and writes many articles concerning improving the lives of people diagnosed with high blood pressure and the complication they experience. He believes educating people is the best way to improve their overall health.
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