A recent study, which will be presented at the Behavioral Economics, Hypertension Session of the Psychogenic Cardiovascular Disease Conference in Prato, Italy, has revealed that around 30% of African Americans retain too much sodium, about the same amount we would consume from eating a small order of french fries.

Dr. Gregory Harshfield, a researcher of hypertension at the Institute of Publish and Preventive Health at Georgia Health Sciences University, commented: “This response pattern puts you under a greater blood pressure load over the course of the day and probably throughout the night as well, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.”

When African American individuals are stressed, they tend to keep about 160 milligrams of salt, and their normal top blood pressure number increases by about 7 points. Top blood pressure numbers represent the pressure inside blood vessels every time the heart beats.

During a full day, this reaction increases sodium loads, adding around 500 milligrams to diets that already contain a large amount of salt. 2,300 milligrams or less of daily sodium intake is recommended by The Institute of Medicine. They say the ideal amount would be under 1,500 milligrams per day, however, people usually consume around 3,700 milligrams per day.

Harshfield commented:

“Everybody knows stress is bad for you and everybody has the perception that a high-salt diet is bad for you, and both are particularly bad for these individuals. Every time they are stressed, they hold onto as much salt as you get eating a small order of French fries and this can occur many times over the course of even a good day.”

Harshfield explained that holding increased amounts of sodium probably results in high blood pressure during sleep, which should be when the body recovers from the day. Experts say that measuring blood pressure at night may give the most accurate reading because they would not be altered due to stress levels.

A small number of black adolescents who were characterized as sodium retainers were analyzed by the experts. Harshfield determined that risky amounts of sodium may be taken away by angiotensin receptor blockers, a well-known treatment for blood pressure. This type of medication is not usually used on African Americans if they do not have high levels of angiotensin, a powerful blood vessel constrictor which tends to raise blood pressue.

Nevertheless, the team believes that sodium retainers would undoubtedly receive beneficial outcomes, due to the fact that they have a type of the angiotensin receptor gene which aggravates sodium holding, but a low-salt diet would be the most beneficial.

Angiotensin raises blood pressure levels by telling the kidneys to retain salt, as well as raising the levels of the hormone aldosteron, another culprit guilty of directly the kidneys to hold salt.

The author explained that it is natural for the body to react to stress by increase blood vessel constriction for a short period of time, therefore raising sodium elimination.

The kidney has been the topic of Harshfield’s previous studies as well, and one of them discovered that around 30% of African Americans and 10% of Caucasians retain sodium for a longer amount of time when they are stressed. This is because the sympatheric nervous system is being activated in response to the stress, resulting in higher blood pressure.

A $10.6 million Program Project grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute funded the recent discovery. Another study was funded which involved 140 adolescent sodium retainers who were under instruction to take an angiotensin receptor blocker for around 7 days, and the rest of the people took a placebo. During the trial, Harshfield “un-blinded” a minor number of the individuals in order to gather data for a proposal asking for grant renewal.

Evan Mulloy, a first-year student at the Medical College of Georgia, is collaborating with Harshfield to continue their search for sodium retainers by taking urine samples from hypertension patients from GHS Children’s Medical Center aged between 7 and 21.

They are using the doctor’s appointments as the stressors and analyzing the sodium levels found in the patients’ urine before and after the visits.

Haidong Zhu is working with the experts to make a genetic profile which could eventually be utilized for screening.

According to the NHLBI, 1 in every 3 Americans suffers from high blood pressure.

Written by Christine Kearney