Aldosterone overload: An overlooked cause of high blood pressure?

This hormone, which helps the body manage water and sodium, is a focus of growing interest among researchers.

High blood pressure — which has no symptoms or warning signs — can harm your blood vessels, heart, brain, eyes, and kidneys. An estimated 46% of adults in the United States have this stealth condition. A combination of unhealthy habits, such as smoking, a poor diet, and lack of exercise, can contribute to a rise in blood pressure. While kidney disease may cause high blood pressure, for most people the underlying cause is unknown.

However, for about one of every 15 people with high blood pressure, an imbalance of the hormone aldosterone may be to blame. This problem may be even more common among people with poorly controlled high blood pressure (also called resistant hypertension). "Among those people, up to one in five may have too much aldosterone," says Dr. Gail Adler, chief of cardiovascular endocrinology at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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