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Inflammatory Genes Linked to Salt-Sensitive Hypertension

nclude a low-salt diet, physical activity and maybe anti-inflammatory drugs, says Dr. Zhu. Nearly one in three Americans is hypertensive and more than half have salt-sensitive hypertension, she notes.

“Cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, are complex diseases with a lot of gene-environment interaction, and stress is now a part of people’s daily lives,” she says.

“We have found hypertension associated with inflammation and we have found stress associated with hypertension. There is evidence suggesting that in salt-sensitive hypertension there are increased levels of inflammation factors such as interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein,” Dr. Zhu says. “Even high-normal blood pressure is associated with a pro-inflammatory condition.”

Additionally, animal studies have shown salt-sensitive hypertension induced by the powerful blood-vessel constrictor angiotensin 2 can be prevented by drugs that suppress the immune response and consequent inflammation.

“There are many pieces of evidence and we are trying to link them together,” says Dr. Zhu.

Her research team is looking at genetic variations of four inflammatory genes in 500 15- to19-year-olds with normal blood pressure. The teens, already enrolled in studies at MCG’s Georgia Prevention Institute measuring the effects of stress on the cardiovascular system, were put on a diet for four days to regulate sodium intake, then came to the GPI where they rested for an hour, played a three-dimensional, racing video game for an hour, then rested for an hour. Blood and urine samples were taken throughout the period. For this study, researchers will also collect DNA material from the mouths of as many parents as possible to confirm their findings in the children.

Pilot data indicate that black teens with normal blood pressure and a certain variation of the interleukin 6 gene have significantly reduced sodium excretion in the urine following stress.
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