The number of people who develop long-term health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure and kidney disease increases every year. Because these chronic conditions affect so many, it is important to better understand what causes them.
International scientists who study the kidneys, heart, blood vessels and other organs recently gathered to discuss the relationship between a hormone (aldosterone), a protein (mineralocorticoid, or MR) and a cell membrane pathway (epithelial sodium channel, or ENaC) that work together to regulate the body’s balance of salt and water.
When one or more of these factors is out of balance, it can affect your health in a number of ways. Many of the new findings presented could affect how doctors treat disorders like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. Researchers also discussed how men and women may need slightly different treatments because they react differently.
Probiotics—such as the “good” bacteria found in yogurt—help keep your digestive system healthy. Ukrainian researchers found that probiotics can also improve symptoms of gout, a form of arthritis that occurs when too much uric acid builds up around your joints. Your body makes uric acid when it breaks down substances called “purines” that are in many foods, including red meat, shellfish, liver and other organ meats, asparagus, beer and even oatmeal. People with gout are also more likely to be overweight and have chronic inflammation, which increase the risk of diabetes and heart and kidney disease. Volunteers with gout took probiotics—tailored for them based on their symptoms—for 10 days. The treatment reduced symptoms of gout and kidney disease, lowered their blood pressure and helped them lose weight.
MR—the protein that helps balance salt and fluid levels—is found all over the body, including in the kidney, blood vessels, heart and digestive tract. Medications that block MR from working are often used to treat heart failure. To learn more about MR’s role in the development of age-related heart disease, researchers from Tufts Medical Center in Boston looked at disease markers in mice that did not have MR in their smooth muscle tissues. The researchers learned that the male mice developed more signs of heart disease earlier than the females. Studies like these may help scientists develop treatments geared specifically to men or women that will help people with heart disease have a better quality of life.
Researchers also discussed:
- how blocking immune cell action may reduce heart disease risk in some people,
- how biological sex makes a difference in high blood pressure treatment, and
- why a new combination of medications may offer hope to people with heart failure, diabetes and kidney disease.
Read more highlights from the Aldosterone and ENaC in Health and Disease: The Kidney and Beyond Conference on the APS website.