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Researchers clarify link between salt and hypertension

A review article by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) rejects the widely-believed concept that hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the result of excess salt causing an increased blood volume, exerting extra pressure on the arteries. The authors note that research has shown that the expansion of blood volume that comes about from other causes, such as the secretion of antidiuretic hormone or the excessive elevation of blood sugar, do not cause a rise in blood pressure because the extra fluid is accommodated by the highly flexible vascular system that allows capillaries and veins to distend.  New capillaries may even open up to allow for the increased blood volume. Published online in the Journal of Hypertensionopens in a new window, this study reviewed numerous research papers and demonstrated that excess salt stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to produce adrenalin, causing artery constriction and hypertension. The researchers, led by Irene Gavras, MD, and Haralambos Gavras, MD, also noted that “over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system – part of the autonomic nervous system that helps maintain the body’s homeostasis – has been recognized clinically as a characteristic of hypertension that accompanies renal failure, which is the most typical example of elevated blood pressure from excessive salt retention. Diuretics, which remove excess salt, are widely used to treat this type of hypertension. However, this study provides convincing evidence that the sympathetic nervous system should be the focus of further investigations into treatments for hypertension.”

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