Why is Blood Pressure in Women More Sensitive to High Salt Diet?

MedicalResearch.comInterview with:

Eric J. BELIN de Chantemèle, D.Sc.
Associate Professor
Department of Medicine, Cardiology
Augusta University

Eric JBelin de Chantemèle, D.Sc.
Associate Professor
Department of Medicine, Cardiology
Vascular Biology Center
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University

Jessica L Faulkner, PhD
Post-doctoral Fellow
Vascular Biology Center
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University

MedicalResearch.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: It is generally accepted in the medical community that women are more salt sensitive than men. By “salt sensitive” we mean that blood pressure increases with increases in salt in the diet.

While we have known for a long time that women are more likely to experience problems with their blood pressure that are associated with the salt that they eat, the reasons why remain largely unknown and, therefore, the best way to treat it is also unknown. With the average American eating roughly twice the salt recommended by the American Heart Association guidelines, the effects of dietary salt on blood pressure are very important. Our latest publication in the journal American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension shows that female mice are more prone to high blood pressure when on a high salt diet than males.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our report begins to shed some light on why women may have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure due to eating too much salt. We recently found that a hormone, termed “aldosterone” is acting inappropriately in females in response to a lot of salt in the diet. In healthy individuals who are not salt sensitive, aldosterone is decreased by salt in the diet and is protective to the blood vessels. However, in female mice it is less likely that aldosterone will be decreased, and this lack of decrease of aldosterone leads to blood vessel damage and high blood pressure in our study.In contrast, our male mice in our study suppressed aldosterone when given a high salt diet, and did not develop blood vessel damage or high blood pressure.We believe this variation in aldosterone production in women may be a reason why they are clinically more likely to have a blood pressure response to high salt diets.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: These data indicate that controlling salt in the diet is of high importance to blood pressure control in women. We continue to study the reasons whereby females are not suppressing aldosterone in response to salt the way that males do, in particular we are currently looking at different cellular processes in the adrenal gland, the body organ that produces aldosterone. Furthermore, we believe that these findings prompt further study into how we may prevent aldosterone from damaging blood vessels and increasing blood pressure.

We believe this is important for two reasons

1. It is difficult to prescribe lifestyle changes such as a low salt diet and

2. Too little sodium in the diet may also be harmful as the body needs some salt but also as too little sodium stimulates the production of aldosterone by the body.

Fortunately, drugs that reduce the activity of aldosterone in the body are already FDA approved and available by prescription (Aldactone, CaroSpir, Inspra are some examples). The current goal is to establish if these drugs would be beneficial to women who have high blood pressure that is associated with high salt diet, a notion our data supports.

These studies are funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.

Citation:

Lack of Suppression of Aldosterone Production Leads to Salt-Sensitive Hypertension in Female but Not Male Balb/C Mice

Jessica L. Faulkner, Daisy Harwood, Lily Bender, Lenee Shrestha, Michael W. Brands, M. Jane Morwitzer, Simone Kennard, Galina Antonova, and Eric J. Belin de Chantemèle

1 Oct 2018 Hypertension. 2018;72:1397–1406

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.118.11303

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