It can now be precisely predicted when high blood pressure can be successfully treated by reducing the sodium content in the body. In particular, those affected who have a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure, which is triggered or exacerbated by a high-salt diet, can benefit.
A new study involving experts from the University of Newcastle examined the interaction between sodium-associated genetic scores, sodium levels and blood pressure. The results are published in the specialist journal “Circulation”.
Million deaths every year
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), several million people worldwide die every year as a result of elevated blood pressure. High blood pressure is therefore the most important risk factor for mortality that can be influenced.
“High blood pressure – or diseases associated with high blood pressure – kill up to 20 percent of people,” reports study author Professor Murray Cairns in a press release. At least 30 percent of adults suffer from high blood pressure and only 30 percent of those affected manage to get their high blood pressure under control, the expert adds.
Role of diet in the treatment of hypertension
High blood pressure increases the risk of serious cardiovascular events and is difficult to treat for many people. However, diet can offer an effective way to lower blood pressure.
However, nutritional interventions are not equally effective for all people suffering from high blood pressure and it has so far remained unclear which people can particularly benefit from a change in diet, explains the team.
When does reducing sodium help?
The researchers have now discovered how people’s individual genetics can be used to successfully treat high blood pressure. This makes it possible to determine in advance which people will respond to treatment to reduce sodium levels in the body.
“People react differently to medications. “We can measure a person’s genetic risk of developing high blood pressure in relation to the physiological systems responsible – including the kidneys, heart or smooth muscle – and then tailor medication accordingly,” explains Professor Cairns.
Many people have a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure, which is triggered or worsened by a high-salt diet. These individuals respond well to treatment to reduce sodium levels, the research team says.
In contrast, for other affected people, salt does not play a significant role, so they are more likely to benefit from treatments that target other biological aspects of their genetic risk, the researchers add.
The new method helps to reliably determine which people with high blood pressure benefit from medications to lower sodium levels and which people should be better treated with other medications. This could save the health system high costs and also save millions of lives. (as)